Good morning from Notting Hill’s Café Nero. I’ve just been to mass at the Carmelites and have entrusted my day to Jesus.

Last week Toni let me know that it was ‘non binary awareness week’. He drew this special drawing for it. Did you know? Perhaps not and so here goes my attempt at raising awareness.

The more I write about delicate topics for which my own knowledge is limited the more I pray and feel a great mercy for bishops who must find themselves constantly writing and dealing with situations where there own experience or knowledge is limited. That said I hope people will have more mercy on me than they do for bishops even if experience has proved the contrary!

Ok so here goes:

A non binary person doesn’t identify as either a man or a woman. To you or me we might physical see a what we identify as a man or a woman but the non binary person doesn’t see themselves this way.

Now this is very different to transgender because the transgender person does identify as a man or a as woman just that their body is the opposite.

And then most of us are called ‘cisgender’ meaning that our bodies correspond with the gender with which we identify. So one could be a cisgender heterosexual or a cisgender homosexual…

Confused? Don’t be, these are all just big words with quite simple meanings.

So moving on, here is the non binary flag:

If you are not familiar with all this then at this stage you might be annoyed in the same way as people who don’t understand transgender people get annoyed.

I can imagine my grandad from my mum’s side of the family who wasn’t known for writing poetry shouting ‘f..k that sh*t, it’s a man”. Probably just as well he died before I came out as gay as he had certain terms to describe gays that were not flattering!!

But you see to the non binary person it is not clear what they are and they must suffer incredibly to find themselves in this no mans land. It’s certainly not something that someone would choose which is why we need to do our best to understand so we can be as sensitive and loving as possible.

Now the most tricky thing which I find in these situations is what to call people and there is always the risk of making a mistake.

I’ve met a number of transgender people who are in the process of changing and at times in my head I forget if they are changing from man to a woman or a woman to a man and so whether I call them ‘he’ or ‘she’.

It can be very confusing, especially after a glass of wine because at times we have natural reflexes that associate a deep voice to men and before we know it we say the wrong thing.

However our discomfort must be considered as nothing in comparison to the discomfort of these people who must feel like objects being examined at times.

Has he/she got an adam’s apple? Has he/ she got boobs? And what about downstairs?….not to mention all the sneaky peeks at the chest and crotch when people think that nobody is looking!

Now the trickier issue for the non binary person is that because they neither identify as a man or a woman you can’t call them either ‘he’ or ‘she’.

Instead they ask us to be sensitive and to use gender neutral terms such as ‘they’ and ‘them’.

Confused? Let’s take an example!

This is John and he is non binary. WRONG!!

Try again!!

This is John and John is non binary! Bravo!!

Or (and this is the part that confuses me).

This is John and they are non binary!

The pronoun ‘they’ in english is gender neutral in the sense that it could be referring to either men or women or to a mixture of both but that said, usually ‘they’ is plural rather than singular and so refers to a group of people rather than just one!

Again I hear my grandad shout ‘f .k that sh*t’ and not because he was a bad man but because he liked things to be clear and hated confusion.

Yet we must put ourselves in the place of the non binary person and somehow try to adapt. Our english language and indeed most if not all other languages only have the pronouns ‘he’ and ‘she’ when it comes to the third person singular and so it’s neither our fault that our language isn’t really equipped for non binary people nor is it non binary people’s fault for being non binary!!

All that said, to date I have only met one person who identified as non binary and THEY were very kind and understanding and didn’t make a big deal out of it if I accidentally said ‘he’ or ‘him’.

And ideally that is what’s needed: a lot of patience, understanding, mercy and room for error on both sides and yet a sincere effort to do one’s best and to learn what to say and what not to say in order to avoid hurting people unnecessarily.

And so that’s it from me for today! I hope I haven’t put my foot in it too much (Toni will tell me!!).

Let’s keep all these people in our prayers and be open to learning and adapting too so that they can find a place of love and acceptance in our church and in our community!

Blessings to all!

Michael