The very idea of gender is being challenged. As unconventional gender behaviours gain momentum, more people are welcomed by society. But with this growing acceptance, there is inevitably a corresponding backlash.
These new discussions beg the question – are sex categories needed anymore?
Do humans naturally belong to either binary (female or male)? Would it just be easier to get rid of gender altogether?
We spoke to Rowan, the voice behind @_im_neither_, to get their views as a non-binary person.
Why is respecting pronouns important?
When you meet somebody, you ask their name. So it should be easy to ask for their pronouns, too! Asking about pronouns helps others feel listened to and lets you understand someone’s gender identity.
Respecting someone’s pronoun choice is really important. There’s no doubt about it. This goes for everybody regardless of sex, gender, or views. When you ignore or disregard someone’s pronouns, you could make them feel worthless, isolated or even unseen.
The correct pronoun usage can help ease gender dysphoria and discrimination, and in the long run, help prevent the risk of mental health issues and suicidal thoughts.
Trans youths have a suicide rate of 41%.
Imagine how much better you might help someone feel just by asking for pronouns.
What do you say to those who believe that there are only two genders?
The best way to deal with this question is to define what sex is. The sex of a person is their anatomy and genes. Gender, however, is more about someone’s identity.
Even if someone says that there are two sexes, they would be wrong. According to scientists, there are several sex variations, generally known as ‘intersex’. And, even though intersex is totally natural, the west has demonised it.
There definitely aren’t only two genders, nor two sexes. In fact, only since the 19th century did the binary some so solidified.
My pronouns are attack and helicopter.
“Your pronouns are attack/helicopter? Okay, let me practise: ‘attack walked home with me today. I’m good friends with helicopter.’ .Oh sorry, those aren’t actually your pronouns? You were just trying to make a joke out of a minority that you know nothing about? I see…”.
In all seriousness, don’t mock people who are just trying to get on with their lives. Peoples insecurities are nothing to do with trans and non-binary people or their preferred pronouns and everything to do with them. It is as simple as respect.
Should binary terms be abolished either fully or partially?
“I believe, and so do a lot of progressives and/or gender diverse individuals, that the gender binary should be abolished/deconstructed.
Let me explain.
The gender binary is the expectations placed upon somebody based on their genitals and the gender at birth (boy or girl). All of us are affected by the gender binary. Men and boys suffer mental illness and suicide as a leading cause of death, often due to the toxic-masculine idea that men must ‘act like men’.
Women and girls are severely impacted by misogynistic and patriarchal discrimination. Rape culture, domestic violence, access to education, pay gap etc., have been excused as a normal part of womanhood.
Gender non-conforming people are targeted and abused in these binary expectations. Scapegoating, persecution and outing are harmful to everyone who is gender diverse. This system is damaging. We should aim to deconstruct it for the better.”
Binary language, however, isn’t necessarily harmful on its own. Many people find that masculine and feminine allow them to embrace a part of their identity really well. That’s great! But the issue arises when people are forced to express certain expectations based on their genitals. What’s between your legs isn’t the be-all and end-all.
Are there any downsides to pronouns and their evolution?
Some people think that the more pronouns there are, the more damaged language will become. Concepts like gender will begin to mean nothing, and all of society’s views will go down the gutter.
Language isn’t as simple as English class may make it seem. Vocabulary is ever-changing, and that change is unavoidable. History has proven that all attempts to control language eventually fail.
Like the rest of the language, English pronouns are subject to change and have never caused problems. Even Shakespeare used they/them as a singular.
And just like Shakespeare, we can create new pronouns or ‘neopronouns’. And using pronouns like xe/xem and ze/zim should be treated with as much respect as she/her and he/him. Although they might not be mainstream pronouns, these aren’t actually harmful.
So, no, I don’t think there are downsides, not in the way that people usually do.
What are your pronouns?
“Since my coming out, my pronouns have changed a lot. Cisgender people (not trans people) might think it’s ridiculous or a ploy for attention. For me though, it was a process to discover what pronouns worked best.
Currently, my pronouns are they/she/he. I’m happy to be called by any of these pronouns, but I certainly like they/them the best.
If someone is rude enough to ignore my pronouns, it says more about them than me.”.
Do you have any understanding of those who have different views?
“Of course, I do. I’ve changed my views many times. There once was a time where I agreed with those with whom I would now disagree. Toxic opinions can turn into hatred. “I won’t tolerate abuse, hate or bigotry under the label of ‘free speech’.”. Everyone is free to have their own opinion, but not if that opinion dehumanises others. ‘’
If this is all confusing to you, that’s okay. It’s okay to have questions, feel unsure or even disagree (respectfully, of course). However, we challenge you to take these questions and find answers from gender diverse people, academics and researchers in gender studies/trans healthcare, and your gender-diverse peers. It might help you get into the topic a bit more. Tag also wants anyone questioning their gender identity to know that you don’t have to stay stuck in this gender binary. You’re valid no matter what, and you are seen.