Advertisement

In Transit: Being Non-Binary in a World of Dichotomies

Anderson openly shares their journey … eventually declaring, “I ... am non-binary. I am not a woman, as society already thinks, but I am also not a man. I am a Not, and I am happy there.”

Dianna E. Anderson
Broadleaf Books, 178 pages | Published July 12, 2022

If ever a book’s title aptly described its content, In Transit: Being Non-Binary in a World of Dichotomies is Exhibit A. In fewer than 200 pages Dianna Anderson uses their own experience to trace the history and theory of non-binary identity vis-à-vis that of other gender-nonconforming individuals. (Note the use of their as a third-person singular pronoun — it may sound jarring at first, but using they, them and their in this way is increasingly common.)

Anderson openly shares their journey, first as an AFAB (Assigned Female at Birth), then embracing a juvenile tomboy identity, growing into young womanhood within an evangelical Christian community and eventually declaring, “I . . . am non-binary. I am not a woman, as society already thinks, but I am also not a man. I am a Not, and I am happy there.”

These experiences are impacted by the tyranny of language, which they portray as “deciding whether to abide by the rules as constructed by language or reject them.” Using postmodern writers like Derrida and Foucault, they urge readers to “learn new patterns of thinking” about existing labels used to describe gender. They further reference contemporary writers like gender theorists Judith Butler and Susan Stryker, academic scholars who identify as trans and have enriched queer scholarship by challenging conventional notions of gender.

While the testimony of Anderson’s personal struggle helped this cisgender reviewer grasp the emerging literature on gender diffusion, it did not allow them to completely fulfill their stated undertaking, which was to answer questions such as: “[H]ow do we define and discuss gender apart from and connected to the binary? Who is trans? Who is non-binary?” These are simply too broad to address fully.

However, they did achieve the major purpose stated in their introduction: “My hope is that you will take from this book an exploration of what it means to be non-binary, what it means to be trans, and learn to find the vocabulary for yourself.” Anderson encourages readers who are new to this discussion to open their minds and hearts when they encounter those whose gender identities are outside the “norm.” This is not an academic exercise; we can choose to receive trans and non-binary people with kindness and respect, fulfilling Jesus’ command to “Treat people in the same way that you want them to treat you” (Luke 6:31, CEB).

This book is an excellent discussion vehicle for teachers, youth workers, pastors and other leaders concerned with diversity, equity and inclusion. While it does presuppose a degree of familiarity with postmodernism, social theory and gender-affirming medicine, it also provides a basic vocabulary for discussing sexual orientation and the gender spectrum. I suspect that many conservative Christians will be less interested in Anderson’s discussion, yet Christian educators can learn from the author’s personal experiences of growing up in an evangelical household. And, as the title suggests, folks comfortable in a world of dichotomies will find this volume distinctly uncomfortable.

Presbyterian Outlook supports local bookstores. Join us! Click on the link below to purchase In Transit: Being Non-Binary in a World of Dichotomies from BookShop, an online bookstore with a mission to financially support local, independent bookstores. As an affiliate, Outlook will also earn a commission from your purchase. 

Want to join our monthly newsletter for book lovers? Sign up here.

LATEST STORIES

Advertisement