Happy Nonbinary Day of Visibility!

Deconstructing gender myths

Nonbinary youths

Many people assume that everyone is born either male or female and that their gender is fixed, distinct, and unchanging. This is largely a culturally inherited idea based on the fact that most (though not all) people are born with anatomically male or female genitalia and are arbitrarily assigned a corresponding gender identity from birth. They are subsequently brought up to be This is of course an oversimplification, with many individuals being born intersex, possessing both male and female genes, tissues, and in many cases being born hermaphroditic, with both male and female genitals, which surgeons ‘correct’ at birth, assigning the newborn infant a gender, often in part to help them fit into society. Intersex people aside, the more general and much more widespread challenge has emerged that anatomical gender has little or nothing to do with a person’s sense of internal gender. Many people who are born anatomically male and assigned a male gender at birth identify as female, and vice-versa. These ‘trans’ individuals may or may not seek gender-affirming surgery later in life, to alter their bodies to match the gender they identify with. Still others are born without a clear or fixed male or female gender identity.

Nonbinary folk

Nonbinary youth

Non-binary Day of Visibility is observed each year on 14 July and is aimed at raising awareness and organising around the issues faced by non-binary people around the world. It is this diverse mix of individuals who do not identify exclusively with either a male or female gender identity that we recognise today. Some nonbinary people feel more strongly than most that they have a masculine and feminine side that are balanced and see no need to identify or express their gender identity in one way or the other. Others identify with a neutral gender identity, some with a gender identity that they feel is specific but that they do not identify as being either masculine or feminine. Some find their gender identity to be fluid and changeable over time, while others again doubt that gender identity is anything more than something we are taught as we grow up, with some even questioning whether maintaining the notion of gender is useful or necessary. Since we can easily provide gender-neutral toilets and other non-gendered spaces, do we really benefit from continuing to insist on gender as a fundamental division in society?

Afterword – gender and sexuality

Two women sat drinking tea

I feel it is important to point out that gender identity is entirely separate from sexual orientation. Some nonbinary people are exclusively attracted to people of the opposite anatomical sex, others to people of the same anatomical sex, and others are attracted to the inner person regardless of their anatomy. And that’s before we start to get into discussing whether we should separate out sexual attraction to trans people as something separate again. With all that said, if a person has no clearly defined or constant gender identity, it begs the question of whether they can have a clearly defined or constant sexual identity.

You can read more about gender diversity and nonbinary gender identities here.

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Assistant Librarian (Promotions) at the University Library. An enthusiastic advocate of libraries, diversity, inclusion, equity, and social justice for all, inside and outside the workplace.

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