Difficult People’s Shakina Nayfack ‘claims non-binary’ as part of her identity


Shakina Nayfack arrives for the HBO’s Official Golden Globes After Party on 5 January 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images)

Difficult People star Shakina Nayfack has announced that she has ‘claimed’ non-binary as part of her identity in a moving post on social media.

Nayfack wrote on social media that her pronouns “are still she/her” before adding “they works too if that’s what the discourse requires”. The actor, who played Lola on the Hulu series Difficult People, wrote said she “always felt” like non-binary was “implicit” in her gender identity. But she said she felt “defensive” about the label until recently.

Nayfack explained that she “personally understood the prefix ‘trans’” to mean “‘beyond’ more than ‘from one to another’”. She added that she “claimed the term ‘gender non-conforming’” from the outset of their gender identity journey which began “more than 20 years ago” – “before non-binary was common language”.

“For a long time, I felt defensive about the non-binary label, because in my mind, choosing to identify with that terminology meant I was stating that the inverse was also true, that a binary exists and I’m just setting myself apart from it,” Shakina Nayfack said.

She added that the “refusal of a gender binary” and “any assumptions” of such a binary has “always been core” to her beliefs and her “practice of gender as a social construction”.

Nayfack then clarified that this wasn’t her “coming out” as non-binary. Instead, she said: “I am now choosing to claim non-binary as part of my identity because, as a gender non-conforming trans woman, I feel responsible to include myself in the discourse which – unintentionally or not – has a tendency to assign meaning to my identity without my consent otherwise.”

Shakina Nayfack made history last year when she became the first trans person to have a starring role on an American network comedy after appearing in NBC’s short-lived series Connecting… The sitcom focused on a group of friends who try to stay connected during COVID-19. Nayfack played Ellis, who is openly trans in the show.

In an interview with ET Online last October, Nayfack revealed that Ellis wasn’t originally intended to be trans, but the show’s writers ‘hoped’ that she would be after Nayfack was cast for the role.

But Nayfack explained that Ellis’ “transness is just one part of who she is” as a character. She added that she wanted to “show Ellis’ strength and wholeness, the light at the end of the tunnel”.

“We’ve seen enough of the darkness,” she said.


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