This is a topic that I only decided to write about yesterday (24/08/21). I find it bothersome yet interesting just how many people feel uncomfortable by the emergence of anything beyond the binary, and this topic covers way more than just gender. The term binary is defined as “relating to, composed of, or involving two things”; hence the term ‘non-binary’ meaning the rejection of the traditional binary that is gender (male and female). But so many things in life are now seen in binaries: Rich or poor, smart or dumb, gay or straight, thin or fat. I wanted to take the time in this article to really explore the way in which our society has created a form of binary for everything.
Let’s take gay or straight for example. Whilst there are still some who reject the idea of gay as being a valid sexuality, for the purpose of this argument let’s assume everyone recognises it. There is still an exceptionally large stigma towards those who identify as bisexual. There are those who simply label them as confused, some call them greedy, others say they’re in denial. There is still shame, both within and outside of the queer community, whereby people seek to invalidate the bisexual orientation. For some reason, there are many who still see ‘gay or straight’ and that’s it. I don’t know why some people can’t seem to process more than 2 of something. The moment (took out second as a little confusing) a third sexuality is mentioned, people seem to lose their shit and just reject it.
Now, let’s take the example of fat or thin. There seems to be a lack of acknowledgement for anything in-between. These two descriptions are taught to us when we’re young: People are described as either fat or thin and there isn’t much else, you have to fit into one of these categories. The damage of this is that it can create serious body dysmorphia if you do not fall into either. Firstly, I just want to point this out; people with average bodies are not suppressed. The suppression of those who are plus-size is something that people are tirelessly working against, and with time we can see things are gradually starting to improve. The point I am making in this paragraph is that when someone has an average body, it can be a double edged sword (space for article link). Someone with an average body can be labelled as fat by anyone who is thinner than them, and skinny by anyone who is larger than them. With no representation of an average body, well, anywhere, and very little recognition for anything between fat or thin, it can leave one feeling confused about what we are and what we should be. “Am I too fat or am I too thin?” is a question I often found myself asking. There are some people who still seem to reject the idea of kind of middle ground.
Then we have gender, which is where we experience the most friction. Whilst we are gradually learning as a society to be more open minded, the initial journey always seems to be painful as some individuals are reluctant to accept the existence of anything beyond the traditional binary they’ve been fed their whole lives. The acknowledgement and understanding of those identifying as non-binary has been seen as a mere joke to the less progressive individual, with a lack of empathy towards people who don’t fit into the societal brackets that they’re moulded to. Further than this, there is little if any representation of intersex people, whereby there’s a“discrepancy between the external genitals and the internal genitals” of an individual. As an intersex individual does not distinctly fall into male or female, they appear to be rejected by traditional society.
So why is it that people are so afraid of opening their minds to change, and seeing that there are more than two possibilities for every scenario? Personally (and this is my opinion so feel free to disagree) I feel that this binary perception of existence stems back to a need for hierarchy. It’s an attempt to feel superior to or to be more than or less than another. The descriptions of male and female, thin and fat, gay and straight, are all finite, they’re restrictive. They all imply a set boundary on an identity, and so when they’re used to describe someone else, it implies an element of certainty onto their identity. When referring to someone simply smaller or larger, they’re subjectively labelled as fat or thin, implying that that is what said person is. When in reality, they mean that the individual is bigger or smaller. We just don’t seem to have the vocabulary or culture to accommodate this as of yet.
It’s damaging when people view someone subjectively and relative to their own identity, and label them purely based on that. It’s easy to see the world as more or less, and this binary view of the world has led to a hierarchy of identities fighting to be the best. In reality, no two people are the same. No two bodies are the same, no two intellects are the same, and sexuality is a fluid journey to be explored, not to be restricted to this or that.
Diversity isn’t just having a thin and a fat person stood next to each other, diversity isn’t just having a man and a woman stood next to each-other, diversity isn’t just having a white and a black person stood next to each-other: diversity is including the whole spectrum of identities. The sooner more of us start to realise that the world is full of a whole multidimension of identities without limiting them to a mere binary description, the sooner more people will start to feel included and represented.
Let’s stop labelling others through a projection of our own subjective self-judgements, and start to see people as unique and beautiful individuals.
Anyway, that was a kind of rant/sociology essay lol, I hope you found it interesting.