Being non-binary, bisexual and an ambulatory wheelchair user all have one thing in common; if you were to put each characteristic on a sliding scale, I would be in the middle. I’m neither man nor woman, straight nor gay, able to walk all the time nor completely wheelchair dependent, and in each case I experience the same type of exclusion from each community.
While many cis-gendered people are open-minded and accepting, I am not cis and do not fit in with groups of cis people. I may not even be safe around certain cis people, as many choose to spew hatred towards people like me simply because of who we are. Unfortunately, my safety around binary trans people is not guaranteed either. Recently, I’ve seen a big increase in the number of people spouting how non-binary people are not trans, despite Stonewall, Gendered Intelligence and Mermaids all saying otherwise, and sadly this is not limited to cis people only. We’ve been accused of co-opting trans culture for attention, making it harder for binary trans people to access gender-affirming healthcare, and increasing the already staggering amount of hatred the trans community receives. The sheer amount of people that think being non-binary simply means changing your title and pronouns is staggering, given that the vast majority of us struggle with gender dysphoria and some seek hormonal or surgical intervention to address it. I’m not cis but I’m also not deemed to be trans enough, leaving me stuck in the middle.
This experience is very similar to the more widely-known situation many bisexual and pansexual people find themselves in; not necessarily being safe around straight people, but facing accusations of being queer for clout by a handful of lesbians and gay men. We’re often accused of just having a phase, exploiting homosexuals as some kind of experiment, or having “straight-passing privilege” if our partner is of another gender. While being assumed to be straight does reduce the risk (although it doesn’t eliminate should someone find out) the risk of homophobic violence, the fact that it also leads many bisexuals to feel unsafe, unwelcome, or at risk of violence in queer spaces is disregarded. It truly is a marvel not to be able to guarantee your safety while expressing same-sex attraction in both straight and queer spaces. I’m not straight but I’m also not deemed to be queer enough, leaving me stuck in the middle.
Last but by no means least is the fact that as a wheelchair user, I can stand and walk a little. This frequently leads to accusations of faking a disability for clout and money, because as we all know, disabled people who claim related benefits are among the richest in our society. While the vast majority of these accusations do come from able-bodied individuals, there are a small number of disabled people who take this as an indication that people like myself are making it harder for them to claim benefits and access resources, which should sound very familiar to you at this point. I’m not able-bodied but I’m also not deemed to be disabled enough, leaving me stuck in the middle.
I happen to know that this problem is not limited to the characteristics described above either. Plenty of mixed-race people face similar problems due to not being deemed neither white nor Black enough, leaving them stuck in the middle too.
What this all highlights is that as a culture, we have an obsession with neat little categories, often binary ones. You’re either This or That, and anyone who claims to be somewhere in-between is a liar and a traitor, or just plain in denial. Anyone who has the misfortune of not fitting neatly into one of those boxes must contend with the additional challenges of not belonging, which for pack animals like humans has a significant impact on wellbeing. This is the unfortunate truth of being stuck in the middle.