Challenging the Gender Binary

The phrase “you don’t need to be a boy or a girl” was obviously something that jumped out to me while researching my topic. Already being familiar with poet and activist Alok Vaid-Menon and their video for Refinery 29 assisted in my choice of social media post.

In this video, they describe their experiences with being non-binary and presenting the way that they do. As someone who is on the gender non-conforming spectrum myself, choosing this topic was rather easy. In the video, they dabble into conversation about femininity and how as humans were are often categorized, regardless of the fact that many people don’t fit into this specific box.

For my research, I tried to stick to informative articles/pamphlets about gender and the transgender community, some focusing on non-binary folks. Non-binary people, along with other transgender people, are often overlooked in the media and treated as specimens rather than human beings who have genuine and valid identities.

“Western culture has come to view gender as a binary concept, with two rigidly fixed options: male or female, both grounded in a person’s physical anatomy. When a child is born, a quick glance between the legs determines the gender label that the child will carry for life. But even if gender is to be restricted to basic biology, a binary concept still fails to capture the rich variation that exists. Rather than just two distinct boxes, biological gender occurs across a continuum of possibilities. This spectrum of anatomical variations by itself should be enough to disregard the simplistic notions of a binary gender system.

But beyond anatomy, there are multiple domains defining gender. In turn, these domains can be independently characterized across a range of possibilities. Instead of the static, binary model produced through a solely physical understanding of gender, a far richer tapestry of biology, gender expression, and gender identity intersect in a multidimensional array of possibilities. Quite simply, the gender spectrum represents a more nuanced, and ultimately truly authentic model of human gender.” – Understanding Gender

In addition, I also made sure to gather a few articles about violence against trans people, which comes hand in hand with awareness of the community. One poignant example I included in my list of sources was a joint statement released by the LGBTQ Task Force on the death of Kayden Clarke, an autistic transgender man. Kayden Clarke was murdered on February 4th, 2016 by police after seeking help for a mental health crisis.

“These tragedies are sadly all too common and demonstrate the need for serious policy change. We owe it to Kayden, and to all transgender people and people experiencing mental health crises, to stop these preventable deaths.” – National LGBTQ Task Force

Another article I included was this Dazed article which provides a list of artists who are gender non-conforming, and are outspoken through their art or through other means about their own gender identity and LGBTQ rights as a whole. One example of this is artist Carlos Motta, who explores gender in his film, We Who Feel Differently.

The remainder of the articles I used for reference on this project can be found here.