The Gender Binary
Updated: Nov 12
Some of you may think that we're suddenly going off on one, talking about maths and the like..... No, I'm not all of a sudden going to be typing in binary code.
I can assure you, this isn't the binary we're referencing. Today we're going to be talking about the gender binary, what it is and what it means to the queer community.
Personally, I hadn't heard about non-binary folx. My only experience growing up was being told about the 'trans people', in a very narrow-minded and uneducated way. It was only a few months ago that I made the effort to educate myself about the trans community as a cis ally. This being said, the term 'non-binary' kept popping up both on my feed and in real life. The inevitable question I found myself asking was, okay they are non-binary people, so what is the binary? Well, the binary is the belief/system where there are only 2 genders, male and female. This may seem obvious to some of you, but to many cis-gendered people and allies, it's not so obvious.
Before I go on, cis-gendered is a term for people whose gender identity matches their sex assigned at birth (e.g assigned female at birth and identifies as a woman).
I think an area where the confusion begins is due to the fact that people use the terms 'gender' and 'sex' quite interchangeably, and whilst they are similar they aren't the same thing. We assign sex to a baby and then assume the child's gender. (They're clearly a going to be boy or girl, duh). Again, not so obvious. For some, there is no cause for doubt during their lives because their gender aligns with the expressions associated with their sex - men are masculine and women are feminine. However, for others, their relationship with gender can be far more complicated than that, and unfortunately, this concept is very deep-rooted and prevalent in our society, so to break from these gender norms can be often (but not always) a confusing and tumultuous time.
When we meet someone for the first time there are automatic cues that we look at to determine their gender - long or short hair, make-up or clean-faced, dress or suit, then all these things determine whether we view someone as male or female. Simple right? I find that gender expression is both defined and confined by society's gender norms i.e the expectations of how a woman or man is supposed to act, dress and behave. How they are presented. It is a common and deeply integrated concept in our society. In simple terms, this is the gender binary.
I wanted to write this so that the next time you come across someone who shares with you that they do not fit in the binary, you may have that understanding in the back of your mind that regardless of how they present themselves, in a 'masculine' or 'feminine' way. The binary is not what their gender aligns with, and this makes their gender no less valid than the cis people around them.
What do you think?