Is it a boy or girl?
The first question that excited parents-to-be are asked.
Because if we know, we can buy blue for a boy or pink for a girl.
“Awww, look at her. She is a beautiful little thing!”
From being a teeny tiny baby you hear yourself referred to based on the sex you were assigned at birth. And that, is decided from your genitalia.
“How is he doing? Is there anything else I can get for him?”
There is a presumption that you are going to identify with the associated gender you were assigned at birth.
As parents, knowing if you have a boy or a girl you can apply the rules assigned to that gender. For instance through the clothes they wear, the bathroom they should use and what role they will go on to play in society. You have gender norms that can be enforced and ‘guidelines’ to follow on how to socialise your child in society.
Unless you as parents intervene, your child’s gender identity is decided for them based on societal norms and the people surrounding them. Collectively, we tell the child what they are and how they should be.
I wonder how that impacts on us as we get older.
Does it limit our ability to experiment with gender expression and identity?
I would say so.
From an early age, I remember not being totally comfortable with being labelled a girl. I rejected the dolls, pink was a DEFINITE no go and dresses? Oh my word. You have no idea what a struggle that was.
I preferred playing outside with my brothers. Going out on bikes, playing in the stream at the bottom of the garden and playing hide and seek, dressed as a tomboy.
Yet, there was always this pressure when I was in the public eye or at social engagements to have my hair a certain way, to present myself as a femme young adult and to tone down my mannerisms and natural movements. To conform to the societal expectations of being ‘a girl.’
It may seem that being non-binary is a new concept, a phase, a gimmick or a fad. Non-binary has hit the mainstream media in recent years and people seem to think this is a recent phenomenon.
Let me set you straight.
Non-binary is a real identity that has existed for thousands of years.
First, we need to understand gender and the gender binary.
Gender is often referred to as a binary – meaning two. The term binary may take you back to your maths days at school. 1s and 0s… Don’t worry… Maths lesson over.
This is a concept or belief that there are only 2 genders (boy and girl) and that your sex assigned at birth will align with traditional social constructs of masculine and feminine identity, expression and sexuality.
This is an internal sense of being male, female, neither of these, both of these or other gender(s).
This is the physical manifestation of someone’s gender identity. It is about individual preferences, how you look, how you wear your hair and your clothes. It is about your demeanour, your voice and the way you speak. It is about your mannerisms and movements.
It is an innate feeling from deep inside about who you are.
Non-binary people do not identify with traditionally understood gender binary. In other words, they don’t identify as a boy or a girl.
My experience of gender binary highlights the inability for individual gender expression or fluidity.
Being non-binary to ME means expressing the fullness of who you are. Being authentic and real. It is about not feeling the need to fit into preconceived ideas of ‘who and what I am’ and the sense of freedom and liberation that comes from that.
Being non-binary isn’t a choice. It is a deeply ingrained personal identity.
Other common terms you will hear to describe non-binary are genderqueer, genderfluid, gender neutral, agender, bigender and androgyne.
Non-binary is considered to fall under the Transgender umbrella. SOME, not all, non-binary people will also identify as trans.
This is the world most people of my generation and older generations have grown up within…
Boy or girl.
Conditioning from a very young age of only two genders – male and female. Everything we have experienced up to today has been based on knowing only these two genders.
Our beliefs were formed with the basis of there are only two genders.
Our life has been experienced through the eyes of either male or female.
Blue for boy, pink for girl. You get the idea…
Over the years we have learnt to gender based on how people present themselves and how people have been socialised over the years. It is an ingrained response, subconsciously embedded within us from years of experience, observations and conditioning. Male and female pronouns are heavily ingrained in us to describe an individual.
We weren’t taught about being gay. We didn’t have lessons about what it means to be a lesbian, bisexual or what it means to be transgender. We most certainly didn’t explore being intersex, non-binary or anything outside of being cis-gendered and heterosexual. I can still remember the embarrassment oozing out of my Sex Ed teachers talking to us about heterosexual relationships.
Conversations about gender, sexual preferences and identity were not heard in the playground, the lunch halls or even in our friend’s bedrooms as we relaxed in the evenings.
You need to know.
It isn’t that we are being rude.
It isn’t that we are being obstructive or hurtful or unkind.
It isn’t that we are being judgemental, transphobic or resistant in any way towards you.
It IS that we don’t understand. Because we haven’t experienced it personally. We have no reference within us for what it is to be non-binary.
Rest assured though, we WANT to understand and see YOU living the fullest expression of yourself.
And we will do whatever we can to support you.
Gender binary is so ingrained in our culture, language and expression that it can be incredibly difficult to challenge the status quo.
I don’t know many people that would like to stick their head above the parapet and challenge the status quo…
If you are cis-gendered, being non-binary may feel different to you. It may set your mind racing and bring up lots of questions you want answering. But I am guessing (if you are heterosexual) it would feel the same for you to imagine yourself as a lesbian. Or being transgender. Or being from a different race or from a different culture.
Remember, gender is a spectrum.
How different would the world be if we all stepped outside of what we have been taught and conditioned to believe and opened our mind to other possibilities and ways of being?
We are all one.
We are all connected.
We are all human.
And we all want the same thing.
To be loved. To be accepted. To be true to ourselves.
Specialising in Transgender & Non-Binary in the Workplace and LGBT+ Inclusion Strategy, Gina is called upon, worldwide to deliver her insights and coaching, by leading global organisations working with senior leaders, HR and Diversity and Inclusion teams, as well as with individuals.
Previous clients include Yorkshire Water, AstraZeneca, Coop, Barclays, BBC, Lloyds Banking Group.
Gina is available to speak and deliver bespoke training and workshops on Trans, Non-Binary and LGBT+ issues in your workplace.
Examples of previous workshops delivered:
Choose from 2 hours, a half day or full day training.
For more information about the work Gina does around Trans, Non-Binary and LGBT+ Issues visit http://ginabattye.com/lgbt-consultancy.