Labels are For Jars and Cans Not People

My name is Toni Bonner (she/they), and I am a wedding, funeral and specialised handfasting celebrant in Glasgow. I identify as a non-binary person, and like so many other non-binary people, I believe the need for gender isn’t important. There are as many ways to be human as there are human beings, still we seem to have an undeniable need to labels ourselves and others. Labels are for jars and cans not people.

Non-Binary Wedding and Funeral Celebrant

As a celebrant I write and perform ceremonies for weddings, funerals, and life celebrations. I specialise in handfasting ceremonies, and all my ceremonies are written because of love. Love doesn’t have a gender; gender is irrelevant to love.

Many of the ceremonies I create are for people who are nerds, geeks, cosplayers and into comics, Sci-Fi, films and tv programmes about these subjects. In these worlds, gender isn’t as relevant as it is in ours. Why is gender conformity such a big deal?

I always knew that I did not conform to the gender binary. As it was the 1970s I was given the label ‘’tomboy’’ or sometimes ‘’weirdo”. I was fortunate that I grew up with a family who did not force me into any stereotypical behaviour. We all had enough to deal with being mixed race without making gender a problem as well.

My sense of self has never been wrapped up in my appearance. I went to a primary school that did not have a uniform. High school was more difficult, but my mother fought for my right to not have to wear a skirt. She would argue with shopkeepers who did not deem it proper for me to choose “boys” clothes. I didn’t see why I should only have part of the merchandise to choose from. I still don’t. It has only been in recent years that gender has become such a hot button issue.

‘Some people don’t fit the ‘gender binary’, get over it!’

Why do we have to see gender before we see the person? Why do we categorise by gender? If we see a field with horses in it we may say we have seen horses in a field. We do not try to group how many horses are male, how many are female to add this to what we have seen. A field with horses not a field with five female horses, four males. It is irrelevant so why do we do it with people?

Historically binary gender was not the norm for many indigenous people around the world. In many cultures it was the supplementary genders who were the caregivers and teachers of the children, people considered to have special powers, treated with respect, and valued. Unfortunately colonisation did it’s best to put a stop to this. The Abrahamic religions of the colonial forces had no room for anything that was symbolic of the indigenous cultures that they were so keen to suppress and dehumanise. We see something similar happening today with desperate politicians scapegoating gender non-conforming people and using gender to strip people of their body autonomy.

This is probably one of the reasons that I fell in love with science fiction. I can read book and comics and watch films and tv shows where there are civilisations with many genders or none. In many of the imagined futures the planet Earth has come together as one, all our petty concerns over our differences forgotten. Wouldn’t that be nice.

Toni Bonner Nerd and Handfasting Celebrant

Labels are For Jars and Cans Not People

Being a nerd and a Trekkie (Deep Space Nine is my favoured series), has drawn those who are also interested in these things to my celebrant services.  I recently created a handfasting ceremony for two people with a shared love of Deep Space Nine. For these two people, gender isn’t important as it isn’t for the two characters they encapsulated into their ceremony.

The result was a celebration of their relationship in front of their invited guests. No mention of traditional wedding titles, just two people wanting to be bound together in a handfasting ceremony.

Being fluent in Scottish Gaelic and having an interest and enthusiasm for languages, I like to degender my language as much as possible. It really isn’t as difficult as some would have you believe. It has been discovered that in the Southwest of the USA there was a tribe, the Timucua, whose language does not contain pronouns [see The Allusionist podcast, episode 183]. Modern scholars find it difficult to translate as they cannot switch off their need for binary language.

Such a fuss is made about the use of singular ‘they’ but the first citation for it in the Oxford English Dictionary is for the year 1375. It is not something invented by Gen-Z to upset people. Yes, labels can be easy and useful sometimes, but would it not be more interesting to see people by the choices they make rather than how they happen to be born? You can’t tell much by looking at someone apart from how they choose to be seen.

Gender Doesn’t Matter, People Do

As independent celebrants we want to give our clients active choices not force them into boxes. That is why Choice Celebrant Community is a perfect name. Our choices are what make us who we are. Asking people how they would like to be addressed including their choice of pronouns doesn’t take much effort, but it means such a lot. It shows respect for them as a person rather than a sometimes incorrect assumption of their gender.

We do not need to question peoples choices; we do not need to understand them. All we need to do is accept them and respect them as a person, not as a gender.

Trying to put people into boxes isn’t seeing them as people. It is herding them into gender groups, and we won’t see their many talents, their personality, their uniqueness and all which makes them an individual.