Breaking Through the Binary

July 14th was International Non-Binary People’s Day, chosen as it sits precisely between International Men’s Day and International Women’s Day.

Australia is one of the few countries that recognises non-binary as a legal gender. Yet even here, in most places non-binary people are still faced with having to choose “man/male” or “woman/female” on an almost daily basis to navigate social and working life. Gender is not the only place that binary thinking is restrictive – for example, when we talk about “mental health”, there is an unspoken implication for many that any nonconformity from the “majority experience” must be “ill health” and even if this may be sometimes true – does it follow that it appropriate to assume it is ALWAYS true?

What has been deemed an “unhealthy belief” has changed over time and differs between societies. The current expectations surrounding pronoun sharing seen online and in mainstream media is an example of a current shift in the ways we negotiate our understanding and acceptance of the relationship between gender identity and a person’s “sex assigned at birth” in countries like Australia and the USA.

In today’s hangout, we looked at the Genderbread Person, using the worksheet as a launchpad for a discussion about the differences between gender identity, gender expression, sex-assigned-at-birth, intersex/male/female sex characteristics, and types of attraction.

The Gender Unicorn was developed because the Genderbread Person includes a field called “anatomical sex” and labels that part of the diagram as simply “sex” – which are contestable terms due to they ways they have been used in the decades long debates that are disconnected from current science and that are linked to transphobia.

Only two (common) types of attraction are included in either tool – the asexual umbrella is larger than most people realize and another reason why binary thinking will limit your ability to be an effective ally!

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