For those unfamiliar with the term "gender binary," it describes our current belief system that gender exists as only male or female. There are, in fact, many more genders, and this article highlights the five areas that are most challenging to those who identify outside of the gender binary.
Academia is in need of radical reform because the curriculum taught about gender is antiquated and exclusionary. Aside from niche (and often higher educational) studies, almost all of academia continues to teach the notion that gender exists exclusively as a linear, concrete, binary system: either male or female. However, historical and cultural relativism proves that gender is actually a multidimensional, fluid spectrum. For example, where is the Native American Two-Spirit or Hawaii's nonbinary culture in today's high-school curriculum? Most of the books and materials provided within the curriculum use exclusively binary language and history. This not only falsely teaches us from a young age that gender is exclusively male or female, but subsequently excludes the learning of any and all other gender types that exist beyond the gender binary throughout history and different cultures.
Modern-day English language (including dictionaries) are in need of a serious revamp to include both no-binary gender identities, as well as nonbinary pronouns. For individuals who do not identify as male or female, and for transgender individuals who may be in transition between certain genders, it is simply not acceptable to use gendered language that does not accurately represent the person. It is no different than continually referring to a tree as a fish, while also knowing very well that a tree is not a fish. The current lack of options provided within our language not only leads to a lack of options when referring to ourselves and others, but also forces us to awkwardly use make-shift references about ourselves and others as well. Sweden is an excellent example of a country who recently expanded its language to include gender neutral pronouns. It is time to start reintroducing, re-familiarizing, and reeducating ourselves about our vast gender diversity so we can learn to expand our language to reflect the knowledge that we know.
3. Public Facilities: Bathrooms and Changing Rooms
Segregated public facilities are not just a racial issue of the past, but also a gender issue of the present. Most bathrooms and changing rooms only accommodate those who identify as either male or female. However, there are more than just these two types of people, as Facebook pointed out earlier this month. Public facilities must change to include gender-neutral options that accommodate transgender and non-binary individuals. Until then, nonbinary people will continue to be harassed and verbally or physically abused while trying to use existing facilities. Change is already occurring around the country and certain schools, businesses, and organizations have already begun to provide more inclusive public facilities. Refuge Restroom is also a great resource to help individuals find gender neutral bathrooms as well.
2. Health Care (Medicine)
Health care in America is a hot topic for just about anyone, no matter who you are or how you identify. Nonbinary and transgender individuals have long struggled to receive proper health care, and health insurance. Such individuals have long faced discrimination caused by the medical field's classification of transgender as being a mental illness. However, progress and reform is happening, starting with the mental health field declassifying gender "variance" from being a mental illness. Furthermore, more health care opportunities are being provided, particularly by a number of progressive schools and universities.
1. Proper Identification
Perhaps the most pressing issue that nonbinary people face is not having access to government-issued identification that accurately states their gender, such as driver's licenses and passports. This makes every day life nearly impossible (if not deadly) for some, but actually creates the very dehumanization and difficulties we must face everyday.