Beyond binary

What does the BBC have to say about genderqueer or gender-fluid folk? Here is Analysis:

-I am neither a man or a woman.
-Whoah, we can hear you thinking- what’s going on?

Not me, of course. I am thinking, Testify!

People who identify as non-binary feel they fall outside those male/female categories. They also might identify as transgender…. this is a movement with traction, especially in the West, among the young. The concept of non-binary challenges pretty much everyone’s thinking. Prepare to throw some of your assumptions about gender out of the window. I paraphrase throughout.

Tamsin, AMAB, considered transitioning to female, but it did not seem quite right, until they saw the term “non-binary” on line, which immediately made sense. It meant freedom from expectation.

You’ll have to get used to pronouns. Often people with a non-binary identity prefer something gender-neutral. Grammarians might disapprove of using “they” as singular, but please take a deep breath and go with us on this journey.

Linda Pressly, presenter, understands and sympathises, but imagines none of the audience will, which irks me.

Tamsin is taking female hormones, so their features have softened and they have the beginnings of a bust line.

It is a choice. Intensely personal details are passed on. The advantage is that some in the audience might sympathise more with a person than the abstract “some people take hormones”- but others might hear a freak show. Is that my own transphobia speaking- “They will see us as freaks!”? I am still uncomfortable.

People still read Tamsin as male, female, or a trans woman, not as non-binary.

Kate Bornstein wrote “Gender Outlaw” in the early 1990s. I always thought of KB as a trans woman, indeed that most non-binary people were AFAB. Linda corrects me, then reveals their surgical status. Kate: I was spending time with transsexuals, and was accepted as neither.

Linda: A legitimacy of sorts has come for those who transition from one gender to another. There is still violent prejudice but gender affirmation surgery [better on the words than I am!] has become more common, and trans women and trans men are far more visible.

Kate: Miley Cyrus says she is not man, not woman.

Many find the identity on line. Tumblr is an influential site: Jen-Jack, a researcher, uses the pronouns he and she. Everyone under 30 has been on Tumblr, affected by surgery pictures. People try out levels of masculinity and femininity.

I was a tomboy. I had a male persona called Tom when I was two or three. I don’t want to be what’s known as a girl. Finn is 16. Their mum feared how the world would react, but now celebrates that Finn can be themself.

The Tavistock Clinic for under-18s. Linda: They may be prescribed hormone-blockers giving them a space to explore their gender. They may take cross-gender hormones. Some may want surgery.

I object. Linda does not state how rare this is. The number of referrals has increased ten-fold. 1400 were seen last year. Girls outnumbered boys two to one. She means “AFAB outnumbered AMAB”. Polly Carmichael, the director, says, The non-binary group are challenging assumptions. Transition is a well-developed pathway in the UK health system, but non-binary challenges pre-conceived ideas. Some want hormones but not surgery. There is a developing language- we are all learning along the way. It is not a matter of needing to prove anything.

Many seek no medical intervention, but bind their breasts.

Linda: If Finn was your child, how would you feel about them taking testosterone or having chest surgery? Finn’s mother when she heard “cried and cried and cried” but six months on finds herself in a different place. Finn: No parent wants surgery for their child, but as with any surgery there is an issue that needs to be fixed. I can feel comfortable in my body, first binding and then knowing that within five years I won’t have breasts.

Alok: We experience discrimination at work, physical and verbal harassment, housing insecurity and poverty, and misgendering. Linda: Alok, an activist, wants gender to cease to be a criterion for the way we organise society. Alok gambles with their personal security every time they get dressed.

Brave or foolish? You decide! Every time they go out in a skirt or a dress or make-up they are harassed- because they are not seeking to pass, perhaps. They wear “men’s clothing” not seeing it as men’s, but as safety. Women challenge them in the women’s loos.

Alok: These conservatives are only concerned with women’s safety when it has to do with trans people. YES!! Let’s end street harassment of women!

Pips Bunce, the global head of Fixed Income & Derivatives IT engineering at Credit Suisse, identifies as gender-fluid, or gender-variant, and half the time expresses female at work, “a beacon of immaculate corporate femininity”. It was wonderful having the support of the company: they have to look professional. They is more engaged, integrated, happy and content as an employee.

Linda: When you’re Pippa are you still your kids’ Dad?

Yes, says Pippa. I don’t like that question: it could be seeking information, but it sounds like a challenge to me. Speaking to the audience, Linda challenges prejudice- I would prefer the programme to explain who people are, rather than bully listeners into denying what we are not. Why assume discomfort?

I suppose Linda is speaking for that non-accepting audience member, so that Pippa can answer: It’s much more accepted than when I was at school. Children see it all the time.

We felt the wrath of non-binary activists during our research. Well, yes. Do you need to make an issue of it? Can you not just accept us?

People who transition feel their own journeys and identities may be invalidated by these gender-queer upstarts. I like what she says here, how we are prickly because of societal transphobia. I can accept others if I can accept myself.

21:17: Then, there are feminists. No, TERFs, a subset of feminists. We put the objections to our youngest and oldest contributors. This enables Linda to says things like lots of women and girls are gender non-conforming.

Finn: I didn’t identify with women… When I wear dresses I want to look like a boy in a dress, that’s the kind of non-binaryness that I want to see myself having.

Linda: To be non-binary, you have to believe in the binary.

Kate: I want future without gender to be fabulous, anything you want it to be.

I want fun with gender. I want to provoke, and be looked at. I want to challenge. And I want to fit in: I am exploring, just as they are. Oh, let us not fight!

Linda: Some would say there are male bodies, and there are female bodies. Alec was born intersex, neither male nor female. They was attacked on the street presenting as a butch lesbian, so started to present male as they could not deal with the vilification.

That’s the point. While there is vilification, let us be gentle with anyone’s way of expressing non-conformity.

Linda ends, “The future is looking a lot less binary”. That means freedom for everyone.

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