What if the world told you that you don’t exist?
Award-winning filmmaker Lauren Lubin posed this question in their 2018 documentary “We Exist: Beyond the Binary.” As someone who didn’t know how to gender identify themselves for years and saw a need to start that conversation, Lubin decided to answer this question on film.
Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support and Naval Supply Systems Weapons System Support’s Equal Employment Office Advisory Committees invited Lubin to be the guest speaker at the annual LGBTQ Pride event, held virtually June 9.
“I saw film as the perfect medium to confront head-on invisibility and silence,” Lubin said. “Here’s a face, here’s a story, and hopefully for people like myself who had an opportunity to watch the film, they felt like I knew that they existed, and it would give them a moment to feel like they were understood and could be.”
In a number of milestones reached for the LGBTQ community, this year marks the 11th anniversary of repealing “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.”
“Throughout our history, brave LGBTQ soldiers, sailors, airmen, coast guardsmen, and Marines have served and fought for our nation,” said Navy Capt. Daniel Norton, director for international programs with NAVSUP WSS. “As we celebrate LGBTQ Pride Month, let us take pride in all who serve.”
During the event, Lubin spoke about their own experiences being a nonbinary person, helping others on their own journeys, and continuing to break down barriers for everyone in the LGBTQ community.
“The visibility of nonbinary folks and trans folks historically has been next to nothing,” Lubin said. “I put together information for myself and said, ‘oh my gosh,’ there are [nonbinary] people who have always existed all over the world. This is not something that’s new.”
Lubin, who uses they/them pronouns, defines nonbinary as people who either identify completely outside the gender binary (male or female) or feel like they possess both and male and female traits.
“It’s an umbrella terms for so many different identities that that can fall under it, from gender queer, to agender,” they said.
While they easily identified as an athlete, playing Division 1 basketball in college, gender identity was something that didn’t come quite as easily, Lubin said.
“My gender identity was something, being assigned female at birth, that never felt cohesive to me,” they said. “It was a long journey for me to get where I even understood that there could be another option for me. But when I did get there, I did recognize…how come nobody is talking about this? I realized at that moment that there needed to be a change.”
Getting informed is the best weapon against transphobia and homophobia and breaking down barriers, Lubin said. They encouraged people to research existing resources such as the Human Rights Campaign Lambda Legal, and Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays for more information.
“Invest in that education because when you know better, you do better,” they said.
Lubin also believes accountability is the best way to work toward change.
“People who have the ability to make changes have to be held accountable, they have to hold themselves accountable and others to make changes that will better protect and support the LGBTQ+ community,” Lubin said. “It’s not up to us to protect ourselves always. That’s where the ally-ship really has to come into play.”
Anti-LGBTQ jokes or slurs should not be tolerated and are, “not appropriate, and you never know who is closeted around you and how hurtful that could be,” they said.
Lubin said to ask someone their gender pronouns because it is a sign of respect, and simply apologize if you use the wrong pronouns and move on.
They also stressed the need to provide a “safe space” for children and others who are either coming out or going through their own journey.
“Just listen to them and let them talk,” they said. “This is their time for exploration. Give them the space and freedom they need. Be as supportive as possible and check in with them.”
Lubin is working to make sure nonbinary people are being represented in more areas, including sports. They were the first-ever openly nonbinary runner to compete in the New York City Marathon in November 2016 and the Boston Marathon in 2019.
This fall, Lubin will participate in the Philadelphia Distance Run, the first race in the country to have a nonbinary division in its elite level of competition.
“This feels like a very vindicating moment and hopefully the start of others,” said Lubin, who also founded the “We Run” campaign to advocate for equal space and recognition for nonbinary athletes.
Lubin said progress is being made for the LGBTQ community, from same sex marriage to repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in the military, but there is still work to be done.
“We can point to so many bench markers, even the most recent [White House] administration stepping up and saying ‘we support trans individuals and the queer community,’” Lubin said. “There’s still a ton of work we still need to do. I don’t want to say that it’s always going to be that way. Everything continues to always evolve. We just have to continually show up and do that work to support each other and keep the progress moving forward.”