Gender acceptance

By and

We live in a world dominated by gender binary. This has, over time, become deeply embedded within capitalist society. “Masculine” traits, which enable men to “get the job done”, whilst remaining emotional constricted, have been held in the utmost esteem. Many people, who are non-binary, feel that the worst discrimination they receive is based primarily on their gender identity, and not their sexuality.

All you have to do is turn on your computer to see some idiot you went to school with saying something to the effect of “I identify as a spatula”, to know how socially acceptable this abhorrent form of discrimination appears to be. There is immense hostility to any sort of gender expression which deviates from the norm. Feminine attributes within people who are assigned male at birth are ridiculed and lambasted as inferior, weak and soppy. Masculine attributes within those assigned female at birth are seen as deeply threatening to the ruling, male-dominated, class structure. Discrimination against non-binary people is prevalent, and it is rooted in an animosity to those whose gender does not fit easily into these two categories.

Furthermore, many appear to hold on to this belief that “non-binary” is a western, “political correctness gone mad”, invention. This is fundamentally untrue, and non-binary people have long existed, and been accepted, across the world and throughout history. Whether that be in Native American populations, or amongst historical Indonesian and Indian communities, non-binary people have always been here.

However, over time, even these previously forward-thinking geographical locations have succumbed to the perils of capitalist obsession with binaries, as traditional aspects of spirituality and tolerance have been diluted. The increasing role of fundamentalist monotheistic religion both in and outside the West has also been defined as part of the problem, similarly deifying the masculine and enforcing binary opposition. For instance Trump’s appeasement of the evangelists in America has been heralded as a major cause of transphobia. In the east, this can be evidenced by the increase in abuse received by the Hijras of Bangladesh, commonly believed to be one of the world’s oldest trans communities. This issue has been explored in detail in Joe Wallen’s Telegraph article on the Hijra.

People do not walk into this discrimination on purpose. According to Stonewall, three in ten non-binary people have experienced a hate crime or incident because of their gender identity in the last 12 months in the UK. They face a multitude of forms of discrimination across society, and suicide rates amongst the community are incredibly high.

In order to make substantive change, we must readdress the way we view gender in this country and the attachment we have to the superiority of masculinity. This would not only help with preventing the “erasure-culture” that the non-binary community experience today, but also advance the causes of feminism, and encourage better mental health for young men.

This issue is also central to our university environment. More than a third of trans university students across the UK have been abused by staff over the last year. The only way to change these attitudes is to understand where they come from and dismantle them at their source. Gender binaries are an obsession within capitalist society, as they help to sustain a rigid, religiously inspired, class system, dominated by the “masculine”. Fundamentally, this reality needs to change. Religion can even be part of the solution, with its core message of love, tolerance, and salvation. However in order to help, monotheistic religion needs to revise its attitudes towards sex, sexuality, and gender from the top down.

Three in ten non-binary people have experienced a hate crime or incident because of their gender identity in the last 12 months in the UK.

Non-binary people can teach us so much about the role of gender: it links closely to the arbitrary way we value ourselves and judge our success in society. Men are constantly interrogated about their earnings and their careers; women over 30 are asked why they don’t have kids. That archaic way of viewing things is of no benefit to anybody’s mental health, and it is really important that we liberate ourselves of that mentality.

We must celebrate diversity and difference and challenge hate wherever we see it. Regardless of sex at birth, people can choose to be emotionally open, or driven and powerful, or both. Until people stop being so threatened by those with different gender identities, we cannot mark ourselves as a progressive society in any meaningful way.

Image: Cory Doctorow via Flickr

One thought on “Gender acceptance

  • To equate “being a man” with “being masculine”, and to say that if you are biologically male but do not have “masculine traits” you are “not a man”, is to perpetrate sexism of a kind we should have left behind long ago. The premise of “non-binary” is fundamentally conservative. This isn’t gender acceptance, this is radical gender conformity and sex denialism.

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