With the current state of gender dichotomies in the world, a third gender identity has gained increased popularity, that of something “in between” – or, to use the current terminology, nonbinary. This label is used
With the current state of gender dichotomies in the world, a third gender identity has gained increased popularity, that of something “in between” – or, to use the current terminology, nonbinary. This label is used to describe a person who does not necessarily identify as either male or female. While nonbinary conversations have been around for centuries, recent cultural acceptance appears to be growing.
The nonbinary term covers an incredibly wide spectrum of gender and sexuality, from those who identify completely outside of the binary genders to those who feel they fall somewhere on the spectrum. It is important to note that being nonbinary is not inextricably linked to sexual orientation.
Nonbinary identities can manifest in many ways but usually involve rejecting traditional understanding of gender roles and blur any labels associated with them. For example, someone may prefer a gender-neutral pronoun such as they/them instead of he/him or she/her. Nonbinary people also often find ways to express themselves through clothing, make-up, hairstyle and voice that don’t necessarily match with their assigned sex. However, it is important to note that these expressions of self do not define nonbinary identity; it’s purely personal preference that often accompanies it.
There is no standardized way for people to become legally recognised as nonbinary or with any other non-binary gender identity- in fact, there are huge regional variations in both law and attitudes towards nonbinary identities. In some states, it is possible for citizens to obtain ID cards or change the gender listed on their birth certificates; however some countries still do not recognize any other gender than male or female and many lack any legal recognition for non binary people.
The advance towards greater acceptance of nonbinary identities is making progress only slowly- especially when it comes to education and outreach. In much of this world there is still a miseducation on what it means to be truly gender neutral or queer as most people are stuck in binary dominant framework which demands them to make an either/or decision when defining their gender identity. It can be particularly difficult for young people who might not understand why they don’t feel comfortable defining themselves within set parameters or why they have difficulty fitting into predetermined social categories.
It is up to us all – both individuals and society at large – to continue moving forward towards greater understanding and acceptance of diversity within human gender expression despite social stigma and systematic oppression. We must create space for all types of gender identities so that everyone can live freely and authentically without fear of discrimination.
We can all remember the days when being “in between” was associated with a lack of identity—when a young woman wasn’t quite feminine enough, when a young man wasn’t quite masculine enough —and the concept was something to be avoided. But times have changed. Now, those in between the binaries of gender, sexuality, identity and culture are proudly claiming space and visibility.
The phenomenon of “in betweenness” is now widely accepted and celebrated in many walks of life. From Tilda Swinton’s gender-fluid roles to Caitlyn Jenner’s courageous transition, individuals that break free from restrictive gendered roles are seen as inspirational figures. Innovative media initiatives such as Cassius and Go Magazine explore the identities and stories of those who tend to lurk between the socially constructed heterosexual and cis gender boxes. And gender-bending fashion brands such as Kai-aakmann are seeing major success and have even become street style staples.
Today’s society is embracing those that are in between, celebrating them as individuals who have refused to conform and recognize they hold their own special beauty in their uniqueness and complexity. And if that isn’t equality, I don’t know what is.