The Gender Binary

This is the first in a (hopefully) fortnightly series of posts discussing gender as a whole, and identities within. If there are any specific aspects of gender you would like me to discuss, hit me up on twitter (@captwordbeard) or through the contact form on here and I’ll see what I can do. 

May as well start as we mean to go on:

The gender binary is bullshit

The gender binary is exactly as it sounds: it splits gender into two, distinct categories of male and female. It makes for no allowances in between, no variations between the two, and most annoyingly of all is how gender is still largely viewed in Western Society.

(Other societies around the world have long had different views, but I’ll touch on that more in a later post).

So why is this a problem? Let’s list the ways:

  1. It gives a very narrow definition of gender. By forcing everyone into one of two boxes we show a very basic understanding of gender, and a lot of the time put people in the wrong box. It also leads to harmful stereotypes, which we will touch on in a bit.
  2. It denies the existence of a large part of the population. There will never be a truly accurate record of the number of trans and non-binary people in Britain, as many can’t safely be out (see this post on passing and this post on being stealth), but by refusing to see gender as more than a binary, we cause the dangerous situations for these people. Without proper understanding, we encourage bigotry.
  3. It refuses customs and ideologies of other cultures. As I said above, other societies have long since held different views on gender, and by insisting on viewing gender as a binary we dismiss a lot of these cultures. Why is this important? Britain is a great melting pot of different peoples, and we should be respectful of everyone.
  4. It is very outdated. As with most aspects of human knowledge and understanding, we learn more and evolve our thinking over time. As more time has been put into gender studies we have a greater understanding of gender as a whole, and we know now that not everyone fits into the binary. And yet it is still the “standard” model and the model still taught to our kids. Not discussing gender properly until kids are older gives time for the built-in prejudices older generations have to be passed on, and makes it so much harder to encourage openness and acceptance.
  5. It is incredibly simplistic. Again, we have a greater understanding of so many things: mathematics, sciences as a whole, language, it seems frankly ridiculous that we can’t move past such a simplistic view to create a more inclusive world.
  6. It feeds into harmful stereotypes. The ideas of what it means to be masculine or feminine can be incredibly damaging: we tell our girls they can’t work in STEM jobs, and we tell our boys it is wrong for them to cry. We miss out on great minds and cause deep emotional damage because we refuse to see gender as anything other than black and white. It needs to stop.

I’ll say it again:

The gender binary is bullshit

Gender is not a straight line with two distinct, hard and fast set of traits at either end. It is a spectrum full of wonderful, diverse folx, and that’s what we’ll explore in the next post.


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