Life as neither male nor female – Nel Schneider embraces non-binary identity

by JANELLE DE SOUZA

In the same way cisgender people are simply aware that they are girls or boys, 32-year-old Nel Schneider knows that they are neither.

According to the Oxford dictionary, a cisgender person is one whose sense of personal identity and gender is the same as their birth sex.

If they have to be labelled, Schneider considers themselves to be non-binary which, according to the Cambridge dictionary, means a person experiences their gender as both male and female, or neither male nor female.

Instead of he/him or she/her, the pronouns used are they/them.

Schneider was biologically born a female. And while it is true they never liked dresses and preferred activities society attaches to males, that had no bearing on their gender identity. It was just their first indication that they were “different.”

“It’s about identity. It’s not about the clothes you wear, it’s not about sports, or anyone liking singing or dancing. My identity is not biologically a woman, neither is it biologically a man. And I really wish I could put on paper a checklist as to what criteria one meets to exist within a space that isn’t defined as male or female but I can’t. What I can tell you is that I know myself and I know what I certainly am and what I certainly am not.”

They view gender as a spectrum and believe people can fall anywhere between male and female. People do not have to meet a specific set of societal standards of what is male or female.

“For me, the definition rests in the rejecting of a male or female gender, feeling as though you exist perhaps, somewhere in between or along the spectrum.

“Growing up it didn’t fit – being a girl. It didn’t work for me. It wasn’t in my heart. All of the different things that defined girls were not fitting for me. I never really felt very much like a girl, but never really felt very much like a boy. In our society I was never exposed to anyone or anything that showed me it was okay to embrace not feeing like either binary gender.”

From as early as age five they remembered having more masculine traits than the traditional definition of a girl. Growing up, people often called them a “tomboy” but they did not feel as if they were a girl or a boy and they did not know they could identify differently.

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