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My life as a non-binary artist

Rachel Maria Cox is a pop singer-songwriter from Newcastle, Australia, who has been performing on the Australian festival circuit following the release of their debut album Untidy Lines in 2017. Their latest single, “Prosecco” has just been released.

I would like to preface this by saying that I am only one non-binary person, and I can only speak to my lived experiences and observations. I am not an expert in gender and sexuality, and the lived experiences of other non-binary or transgender people might be markedly different to my own. I hope that this article helps people who aren’t otherwise acquainted with gender minorities to learn a bit about it, but I also recommend if you are interested in or confused by any of this that you read many of the other articles online and try and find as many different trans and gender non-conforming peoples’ voices on the issues as possible.

My name is Rachel Maria Cox, and I’m non-binary. You probably wouldn’t know that to look at me; my favourite colour is pink and I take an Elle Woods-influenced approach to incorporating pink into my life, I rarely bind my chest, I often get my nails done, I mostly wear ‘womens’ clothes. But why do any of these things mean that someone you are looking at is female? Why do we put so much meaning into the way someone presents and their gender or sexuality?

My newest single, “Prosecco”, has maybe one of the ‘girliest’ aesthetics of anything I’ve ever done. For a long time after coming out I really struggled with what I felt was pressure to present in an androgynous fashion, as though that would somehow validate that my gender was, in fact, real. I had the belief that if I looked very androgynous then people would ‘take me seriously’ as non-binary, and that I would somehow avoid being misgendered. After all, if I was going to present the same way I did when I thought I was a girl, what’s to say I wasn’t still a girl?

A couple of things have happened to me over the years. The first and most important thing I realised was that no matter how I looked, people would misgender me. The second thing was that there was no point in me living a life that was ‘acceptable’ to other people if I was still uncomfortable in the way I was expressing my gender.

I now fairly consistently present somewhere between feminine and masculine. I love pink, I never wear make up. I found strength training and building larger upper body muscles to be affirming, but still wear lots of ‘womens’ clothing. The film clip to “Prosecco” is a celebration of gender expression and sexuality. It’s hyper feminine, but assertive and strong. It celebrates different body types, and the strength and sensuality of those bodies. It is playful and doesn’t take itself too seriously. All of these are reflections of how I feel in myself, in my gender and sexuality.

I want to ask a couple of things of the people who watch the clip, and particularly those who are cis and straight. First of all, challenge the idea that you know someone’s gender and pronouns based on how they look. Try and mentally refer to people with gender neutral terms until you know for sure their gender and pronouns. Apply this to your life, if you are out with friends and see someone in public, make an effort to challenge your assumptions about gender and how someone presents, and try and use gender neutral terms. Remind yourself that you don’t know someone’s gender until you know. Maybe if you are feeling particularly bold, you could ask them their pronouns, or introduce yourself with your pronouns and then ask theirs.

The second thing I want to ask is that you challenge ideas of what is masculine and feminine. I find Instagram is a great way to do this as you are able to curate your own feed. Try and follow transgender and gender non-conforming people on Instagram to expose yourself to people who challenge your preconceived beliefs about gender expression and identity. This is true of any belief system you are trying to challenge; try and follow people of different races, sizes, abilities and sexualities to you. Instagram can be just as dangerous as other media if you allow your feed to become homogenous, but you have the power to challenge that by actively following people you don’t normally see represented in other media.

Finally, realise that most LGBTQIA people don’t want to make your life hard, we don’t want you to suddenly start wearing dresses if you don’t want to, or turn your kids gay, or make you live in fear that you will constantly offend someone. If you are coming from a place of genuine willingness to learn, all we really want is to be able to live and exist and have fun. Listen to us when we ask for your help, do some googling, but honestly just treat us like people and stop sharing those fucking “did you just assume my gender?” memes.