My life as a non-binary and pansexual person in Worthing

Kai Murphy-Dunn, 20, from Tarring
Kai Murphy-Dunn, 20, from Tarring

With Worthing Pride around the corner, people from our LGBT+ community have come forward to tell their stories.

One of them is Kai Murphy-Dunn from Tarring. The 20-year-old identifies as non-binary, which means they do not identify as either male or female on the gender spectrum, and pansexual, which Kai defined as an attraction to people who identify as male, female and everything in between.

Born male, they said they had never fully conformed to the gender roles society expected of them – such as playing with their sister’s dolls as a child – and felt physically sick when people described them as a man, a symptom of gender dysmorphia.

When Kai was 10, they remembered a friend’s mother saying to their parents: ‘you shouldn’t let him play with that, he could turn gay’.

They said: “It’s just baffling to me. It is a bit of plastic and people have forced gender onto it.”

Through online forums, the then-Year 10 pupil discovered what non-binary was – and after moving to Steyning Grammar School for sixth form, they came out and later changed their name to Kai, a gender-neutral name which has different meanings in 132 different languages.

For many years, Kai identified as bisexual – but when they came out as non-binary, being pansexual felt a more comfortable label.

They said: “If I think someone is good looking, I see them as good looking, not good looking for a man.

“It would be a bit weird to exist outside of the gender binary, but not in your sexuality.”

Kai said their parents, including their 70-year-old father, had supported their name change and coming out. They said: “He has never had to think this stuff through before, but he is doing fine. He goes out of his way to try to learn, and I think that is the greatest kindness you can do to someone: to understand them.”

Even customers at The Thomas A Beckett pub in Rectory Road, where Kai works with the Pride co-organiser Josie Kelly, had been accepting – but many people still struggled with using ‘they’ or ‘their’ instead of ‘he’ or ‘his’.

As long as their intentions were good, Kai said they did not mind.

To people who are confused about non-binary, or question whether it is a real thing, Kai had this to say: “In an ideal world, there wouldn’t be any labels, but we live in a society where labels are the basis of how we talk about each other.

“It’s just a way of referring to very complex emotions, and as more and more people question these emotions, the labels increase.

“People say there are too many labels, but they are there as a way for us to try to explain to society how we feel.”

Regarding Worthing Pride, Kai said they were proud of how Josie had done. They said: “She really wants to make this the most respectful pride event she can do; she is desperate for everyone to feel safe, happy, comfortable and proud.”

Click here for a comprehensive guide to Worthing Pride.

To read about Scott from Lancing’s experience of being transgender, click here.

The owners of the Brooksteed Alehouse were also one of the first gay couples to get married in Sussex. Click here to read about how they met.