- By Jenny Morrison of the The Sunday Mail
DREW O’Donnell can live with a different gender each day and wants to raise awareness of leading a non-binary life.
DREW O’DONNELL prefers to be referred to as “they” and not as “he” or “she” because when they wake up in the morning, they never know whether they will feel male, female or gender-neutral.
Born male, Drew grew up wrongly believing they were what they describe as a “very camp gay man”.
At the age of 22, Drew was empowered to realise they were neither male nor female – but belonged to a group of people who describe themselves as non-binary.
Drew’s family and friends have come to accept that one day they may live as a man, while the next day they may feel much more like a woman and choose to wear make-up, dress in more feminine clothes and even speak with a much more feminine voice.
While Drew says being classed as non-binary falls under the transgender umbrella, they don’t feel trapped in the wrong body and don’t cross-dress.
And while Drew says they know many people may find their ever-changing gender difficult to understand, they say people need to learn to be more understanding.
Drew, 23, of Paisley, said: “I’ve been told there are 37 different types of gender – a lot more than simply male and female.
“Even I can’t remember them all but when people ask me about it, I try to explain to them that sex and gender are two different things.
“The singer Cher has a transgender son who said, ‘Gender is between your ears, not between your legs’ and for me that describes it well. Gender is what you feel – and sometimes I might feel two thirds male and only one third female while the next day, I might feel two thirds female and only one third male.
“Some days I feel absolutely gender neutral – neither more male nor more female and that is totally fine too. I have three genders – the more feminine me, the more masculine me and the gender neutral me – but I am still the same one person.
“When I am feeling more feminine I will wear more feminine clothes – not skirts or dresses but clothes that have a more feminine than masculine look to them.
“I will wear make-up – I like eye shadow, eye liner and nail polish. And I have even coached my voice to sound more feminine.
“On days where I feel more masculine, my clothes are much more boyish and I won’t wear make-up. On gender neutral days, I’m somewhere in the middle.”
Drew doesn’t consciously decide what their gender will be on any given day – their body decides for them.
Drew said: “I believe I have a hormone imbalance that affects how I feel gender- wise. I’ve been considering going to the doctor to have my hormones investigated, as I suffer from hot flushes which most males don’t experience – but women going through hormonal changes do.”
Drew says they first realised they were gay around the age of 14. But they didn’t tell anyone how they felt until they had left school and started college.
Drew, who is the transgender representative for Scotland’s National Union of Students, said: “When I was growing up, I was always very feminine – I played with girls rather than boys and I preferred girls’ toys. Up until about 13, I did have girlfriends but by 14, I knew I was more attracted to boys. I finally told my mum and friends I was gay when I was 18 and none of them were surprised. They all told me they had known I was gay for a long time.”
From age 18, Drew dated a number of gay men but admits they are attracted to both males and females. It was another four years before they discovered what it meant to have non-binary gender.
Drew said: “Two friends were talking about being gender neutral or non-binary themselves. As they explained there were more than two genders out there, I started to realise that was me. I realised it was ok for me to accept when my body is telling me I’m female and when it’s telling me I’m male.
“You don’t have to choose one gender. Identifying as non-binary is easier for me.”
Drew, whose dad died several years ago, said their mum Fiona was deeply supportive of their decision.
Drew said: “She’s been great. When people ask her about her son, she explains I am not her son any more but I’m non-binary”
Drew, who is looking for work, says when applying for jobs they prefer to leave blank the box asking their sex.
Drew, who was chosen as a baton bearer in the Commonwealth Games for being a volunteer with several local charities, said: “There are times when I have ticked the male box or the female box – but usually I try to leave it blank.”
Drew accepts they have to use male changing rooms and toilets but wants to see more gender-neutral facilities.
Drew said: “The best way to deal with transphobia is through education. The top tip I would give is don’t just jump to conclusions about whether someone is male of female. Don’t ask them what their gender is – ask them politely what pronoun they are. This shows you respect who they are as a person.”
Drew is currently organising the National Union of Students first Scottish trans-gathering, for all students who identify as transgender, being held in Edinburgh in February.
Drew is also supporting the Scottish Government’s “One Scotland’ Campaign, which aims to promote equality and celebrate diversity in Scotland.