non-binary

Today’s word is ‘non-binary’, an adjective which describes a person or a gender.

Society enforces the idea that gender is binary: we are either women or men. But there are many other ways to experience gender, and we call this ‘non-binary’.

When we say that someone’s gender is ‘non-binary’, it means that the person does not identify solely as male or female. The person might identify as both a woman and a man, as neither gender, as a bit of both genders, as a completely different gender, as no gender at all (agender)… there are an infinite number of ways to experience gender, and all are valid.

Non-binary people are often erased by society; they are treated as if they don’t exist, and as if their gender is invalid. Consider how non-binary people aren’t represented in the media. Non-binary people are also erased by language which enforces a binary. For example, when people say ‘ladies and gentlemen’, ‘women and men’, ‘boys and girls’, when they mean to refer to all people, they erase other genders.

Another way non-binary people are erased is through administrative forms. When filling out forms for administrative tasks, applications, taxes, etc., non-binary people are often forced to tick ‘female’ or ‘male’ when having to describe their gender.

At universities like Rhodes, non-binary people are erased by the fact that their are only men-only and women-only residences. Since some students identify as neither solely men nor women, they might feel uncomfortable having to attend a residence which misrepresents their gender.

Image by Michelle Avenant

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