This is the first chapter in Jimmy Hollis i Dickson’s work in progress about a 10-year-old non-binary, Charlie, and their friend, Alex (the narrator). Feedback would be appreciated, especially from (but not limited to) readers of that age (more or less), non-binary readers of any age, and writers.

Jimmy can be followed on Twitter: @JimmyHiD1 and on Bluesky:

My Friend Charlie


Charlie is my best friend. They’re very smart, very funny, and very, very brave.

I know, I know: I had trouble with this at first. Why am I saying “they are” when I’m talking about just one person?

It’s because Charlie is “non-binary” and they’ve decided not to use “he” nor “she”. They’ve decided that they’re not a “he” nor a “she”: they’re a person. That’s just one of the ways in which Charlie is brave, because they’re always getting teased by other kids… and even the teachers have problems with Charlie’s new identity. I could never be that brave!

Charlie has been my best friend since Year Two, and now we’re in Year Five. It was during the last summer holidays that Charlie decided to “define as non-binary”. That’s how they talk. Charlie uses bigger words than I do, partly because they’re so smart, and partly because of their parents.

I used to have to look up all the strange words (I was a bit shy of knowing so little), but now I just ask Charlie or their parents and they’re all really nice about explaining them.

Take Ms. Parker, Charlie’s mum. Although she’s married to Mr. Brown (Charlie’s dad), she didn’t change her name to Mrs. Brown. Because, she said (I wrote this bit down), “I refuse to be defined by a patriarchal society!” She said that it’s nobody else’ business whether she’s married or not (so she doesn’t use Miss or Mrs.) and also “how are my old friends going to find me, if they’re looking for Liz Parker, and here I’d be Liz Brown?”

She told me that LOTS of women lose contact with old friends because of changing their surnames to their husbands’.

“And some even lost their FIRST names, because they started calling themselves Mrs. John Wilson, or names like that! Silly newts!” (Charlie’s mum uses some funny insults.) “I’m not Mrs. Lawrence Brown: I’m Ms. Liz Parker. Even Larry doesn’t call himself Lawrence Brown, so why should I?” And then she made a funny, cross-eyed face and stuck out her tongue, tipping her head to one side, exactly like that emoji!

And you know what else? They, I mean Charlie’s mum and dad, always liked the name Charlie, but when Charlie was born, they decided that they, I mean Charlie, shouldn’t have to grow up as either Charlie Brown or Charlie Parker, but they found out that it’s possible to give your kid a DIFFERENT surname from yours! So they’re Charlie Donnelly. (I knew who Charlie Brown was, but I had to look up Charlie Parker on the internet.)

Of course, since I’ve been best friends with Charlie for over three years, I know whether their name used to be Charlotte Donnelly or Charles Donnelly, but…


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