REVIEW #73 | NON-BINARY LIVES by Jos Twist, Ben Vincent, Meg-John Barker, & Kat Gupta

Title: Non-Binary Lives: An Anthology of Intersecting Identities

Editors: Jos Twist, Ben Vincent, Meg-John Barker, & Kat Gupta

Pub. Date: 21 April 2020


What does it mean to be non-binary in the 21st Century?

Our gender identity is impacted by our personal histories; the cultures, communities and countries we are born into; and the places we go and the people we meet. But the representation of contemporary non-binary identities has been limited, until now.

Pushing the narrative around non-binary identities further than ever before, this powerful collection of essays represents the breadth of non-binary lives, across the boundaries of race, class, age, sexuality, faith and more.

Leading non-binary people share stories of their intersecting lives; how it feels to be non-binary and neurodiverse, the challenges of being a non-binary pregnant person, what it means to be non-binary within the Quaker community, the joy of reaching gender euphoria.

This thought-provoking anthology shows that there is no right or wrong way to be non-binary.

Trigger/Content warnings:

  • misgendering
  • ableism
  • transphobia


  • an anthology that explores being non-binary and how it interacts with other parts of the authors’ identities (religion, ethnicity, race, disability, etc.)

5/5 stars

*I received an eARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

I have been staring at my screen trying to figure out how to put my feelings into words, and. I don’t think I can do them justice. But I’ll try my best.

Non-Binary Lives is a collection of essays from various non-binary folks from mostly the UK, but other parts of the world as well. In these essays, they describe their experiences with being non-binary, especially with how it interacts with other parts of their identity and culture. While there could be some overlap between themes, each essay had a distinct feel to it as each author discussed their own lived experiences.

I truly do not know where to start with this essay collection. This book made me feel seen in a way no other book has. There were so many authors whose experiences did not match up perfectly to mine (basically all of them, let’s be honest), but they still felt and thought things about their non-binary gender that I have, and I have such a softness in my heart right now. For transparency’s sake, I just finished the book an hour ago, and I’m trying to write the review now because if I don’t, I don’t think I ever will. If I can’t write anything down now, I don’t think there will ever be an opportunity for me to write about how this book settled into my heart, into my being, like very few books have before.

And that’s what Non-Binary Lives has done: taken up space in my heart and settled in for the long haul. To read an entire anthology about people who share an identity with you is incredibly freeing and validating, and reading it made me incredibly soft. Just thinking about buying a physical copy (…whilst on a spending ban, lmao) is making me tear up.

If that weren’t enough, I just learned so much about different things? There was an essay with two twins who were born and raised in Malta, and I learned a little bit about the country and its politics. I learned about being a Quaker from another essay, whose author is a Quaker. I learned from a number of the contributors about how, in different ways, their counseling practice is affected by their gender.

That last point — about counseling? — yeah, I want to expand on that. Not only do I feel validated because of my gender, but I also feel validated because of the surprisingly large number of counselors that contributed to the anthology. For those of you that don’t know, I am a graduate student studying clinical mental health counseling. I want to become a counselor, and I eventually want to work with the LGBTQ+ community specifically. However, before this, I wasn’t really sure what I would do or how I would go about doing it to begin with. I was worried it was too niche, and that I would have to “settle” on doing something else that would still be fulfilling, just not as much.

Those counselors that spoke about their practices? They helped with that. Even though they work in England, I felt validated and that there is space in the mental health profession for my passion and work. It has motivated me to reach out to a faculty member at my school that does similar work and ask about resources and tips. And at the end of the day? It made me feel seen as a genderqueer future counselor. It has given me hope about what my future will bring.

I literally have nothing else of substance to add to this review unless y’all want incoherent screaming, so to end this, I want to give you a few quotes that have struck a cord with me.

What does it mean to “pass”? To “pass” places the burden of intelligibility on the person who seeks to “pass”: if we are not interpreted correctly, it is because we have failed to make our meaning clear. I reject that. I reject that there is one meaning that we can make of our bodies. I reject that we have such a degree of control over the ways in which people interpret us. I reject the implication that failure to be read — failure to be seen — is our fault. Instead, all we can offer is ourselves.

Non-Binary Lives

It is both terrifying and exciting, like plunging into a swirling galaxy of other lives, an array of lives not your own but which you temporarily inhabit. Like trying on new clothes, like acting a part, like conducting some kind of grand social experiment in perception. Which “I” am I today? It is both freedom and recklessness and danger and love, love, love for every life you could have led.

Non-Binary Lives

We cannot think of gender as a linear concept with masculinity and femininity as opposing poles. Instead, I think we can conceive of gender as a galaxy, with each person determining their own location at any given time. This galaxy is home to planets and comets and shuttles and stations. Some of us will never leave our home planets, some of us will never be home, and some of us will take off and go into orbit for a while and then land again.

Non-Binary Lives

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5 thoughts on “REVIEW #73 | NON-BINARY LIVES by Jos Twist, Ben Vincent, Meg-John Barker, & Kat Gupta

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