John C Adams Reviews 'Life Isn't Binary'

Updated: Aug 12

Life Isn't Binary by Meg-John Barker and Alex Iantaffi

Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2019

'Life Isn't Binary' is a work of nonfiction designed to help nonbinary folk adjust to or embrace their identity while simultaneously helping friends, families and colleagues of nonbinary people understand a little about what it means to be neither male nor female, but somewhere in between.

I wouldn't say that I was confused before I read this book, because when I'd previously found out about the concept of being nonbinary it was somewhat of a lightbulb moment just to know it existed. It was great to know that there was a label for the way I'd always felt. I already knew, by the time I bought this book, that I wasn't the first, not even the hundredth or the thousandth, to feel that I was neither male nor female, but somewhere in between, somewhere approximately in the middle. But it was wonderful to stand in Waterstones off Goodge Street and see the book on the shelf in front of me.

What 'Life Isn't Binary' gave me, and it promised exactly this in the foreword, was a sense of validation. When I read the words 'validation lies ahead', my eyes filled with tears of relief! We all need validation in life, and sometimes it isn't very easy to come by.

Being nonbinary isn't a new concept exactly, far from it, but it's still new to alot of people, and that's another reason I found this book helpful. Not just for accepting me for who I am, but for giving support and guidance, and for celebrating the ways in which 'nonbinary' as a concept represents a blended compromise, valid as a way of thinking about more than just identity.

Is this a book that a binary reader could enjoy? Would such a reader find it profitable to read it? This is quite a tricky question. Undeniably one element of the target readership is people who are, or suspect they might be, nonbinary. However, if you have a friend, colleague or relative who is nonbinary then this book is invaluable in understanding their identity. The book is very balanced and objective in discussing the benefits of looking at anything in a way that is more flexible than 'either/or'. In that sense, we can all benefit from thinking in a more fluid way.

Iantaffi and Barker gave of themselves freely in this book by sharing their own experiences. This helped me in so many ways, but perhaps none more so than when I shared my thoughts on openly claiming the nonbinary label for my own life, and what it might mean for each of them, with my children. I'm probably replicating the experience of many, many readers when I say that my children were completely open minded, supportive and encouraging, engaging with an exciting new process and accepting me absolutely for who I am. I'm so lucky!

See you for my next post on Friday for 'Weekend Watchers'. In the meantime, the comments section is open!

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