This non-binary eight-year-old understands identity and acceptance better than most adults

non-binary child

A non-binary second grader at an elementary school in Pennsylvania has explained her thoughts on identity and acceptance, and she’s more insightful than most adults.

The eight-year-old, referred to as “R” in an interview with PublicSource to protect her identity, uses she/her pronouns and wants to be a meteorologist when she grows up.

R came out as non-binary last year, shortly before her eighth birthday, and said: “I’m not a girl, not a boy. I’m just me.”

The first person she told at school was another child in the playground who asked her if she was a boy or a girl. She responded by saying: “I’m non-binary!”

R said the feeling of excitement at being open about her identity was “like you were telling someone about a really cool comic that you like”.

She added: “I feel like… in the gender section of my heart, there is nothing.”

But at eight, R is already learning that other people see her as different. When she came home with district forms that required her mother to tick either a “male” or “female” box, R asked her mother to draw a third box that said “other”.

“It made me feel angry that people don’t include people who are both or neither,” R said.

She is able to understand that when other children are mean to her at school, it comes from a place of misunderstanding, insecurity or fear.

She said: “I get called a lot of harsh things just because people don’t understand. They just don’t know what to call me, so they call me something mean.

“I wish that kids who were non-binary got all the same things as kids who are male or female.

“I wish that everybody could know what it means so that they don’t call kids mean names just because they’re non-binary.”

Her mother said that she began discussing the topic of identity, for example around race or gender, with her child when R was four years old.

She said of R coming out: “The fact that she even had the language to use, we were pretty proud of her. We need to have these conversations early and often.”

According to a Trevor Project survey, 78 per cent of transgender and non-binary youth reported being the subject of discrimination and three in 10 have attempted suicide. 

But, consistently using the correct name and pronouns for trans people can reduce their rates of anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts to almost the same levels as their cisgender counterparts.