Leo is 10 years old. For most of his life he’s lived as a girl, but this summer he began to speak openly about his sense that this didn’t feel quite right. With research help for his parents, he’s decided he is non-binary – in his case, both masculine and feminine – though for the moment he dresses as a boy and has taken a male name. This is Leo’s story in his own words.
I’m not a boy.
I thought I was a boy, because I’m not entirely a girl. We tried that for a bit, and I thought: “No, this is not right.”
Then we did some research and we found the word is gender non-binary… and it really works, it’s just me.
I don’t know what age I was when I identified that I wasn’t feeling right.
Actually I told my teacher first. I got really frustrated because I asked why none of the girls got boys’ parts in a play that we were doing. It wasn’t right.
I pulled her over and said: “I’m not a girl.”
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Hear Leo’s story on the iPM programme, broadcast at 05:45 and 17:30 BST on Radio 4 – catch up on BBC iPlayer Radio
She didn’t think I was lying. But because it’s not very common at all, I don’t think she entirely thought that was how I was feeling.
I brought up the conversation with mum. I knew that mum would be totally supportive, but because I didn’t know if this was actually how I was feeling, it felt like I should wait until I was sure. But then I didn’t think that would do any good either.
I was quite nervous.
Mum was completely on board. Totally interested.
“What would be your name if you were a boy? You’ve always been more attracted to boys, would you be gay man or a straight man?”
In some families, they’re just going to laugh, they’re not going to believe. Or they don’t know how to react, so they don’t react. I don’t how I would cope.
So I’m really lucky. It’s so great that I have these two wonderful parents.
At school everyone was absolutely great. My teacher told the class, and all my friends were like: “Oh wow. That’s really interesting.”
Because we’re 10 and nine, it just doesn’t affect anything.
We just play, we don’t actually talk a lot about personal stuff.
Me and one of my friends – who’s a girl – were playing in the sandpit.
She was like: “So are you a boy?”
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Non-binary people are those who don’t feel male or female. They may feel like both or like something in between. They may have a gender that changes over time or they may not relate to gender at all.
“No, I’m not a boy or a girl. I’m non-binary, so I’m in the middle.”
She said: “So you’re neither?”
I actually don’t think I’m neither. I’m both.
I really want to use the boys’ loos because it’s more right than using the girls. I’m not allowed to and I think I should be able to.
I can understand because there are lots of older boys using the loos who might be a bit worried about someone (being there) who doesn’t have what they have.
I still feel that “he” doesn’t feel particularly right. I feel more right as “ze” or “they”, but they draw attention to me and my gender when we’re trying to have a conversation about trousers.
When I’m older, I’m going to make that decision again, instead of just sticking with “he”.
There isn’t a body of the two genders. I just wish there was some way in the middle.
When I grow up it’s going to be harder for me to say I’m not a girl.
At the moment, I do wear a bra. But if I wear a sports shirt I can kind of get away with it.
Breasts are the main thing people notice. I do correct people when people use the word “boy” and “she”.
I say: “I’m sorry, I’m not a boy or a girl.” And leave it at that.
If they ask questions, I answer, but it doesn’t have to be the centre of attention.
It’s not even the most interesting thing about me.
I really like the idea of having a beard. I really like the idea.
You can put hair from your head into your chin, and it grows like a beard.
People with girls’ bodies use it. My friend’s dad told me that it works. Maybe he made a mistake.
If there was a way of doing that without getting hormone blockers and male hormones… but then again people would say: “Look at that MAN’S beard.”
I don’t want people to associate me with one gender or another.
But I know they will, I don’t think there is any way of escaping that.
I’m feeling a lot happier than before. I’m feeling a lot more relaxed and I’m feeling able to talk about it without being all shy.
I don’t need people to understand.
I just need people not to be rude.