Question Twenty-One: Is there a nonbinary manifesto?

April 23, 2013 § 5 Comments

The last question of the series! I’ll be putting together a master blog post later today – and see below for further developments along the same theme. Panel bios here – and an enormous thanks to them all – drinks are owed. And thank you to everyone who left a comment – the more viewpoints are presented the more helpful it is.

 

 

Question Twenty-One

This a question about the importance of using language that doesn’t erase nonbinary people. The idea that orientation labels like straight, gay and (especially) bi are problematic in this regard comes up in queer conversation a lot. (It’s probably important to note here that these conversations often erase the existence of nonbinary straights, gays and bis.) What do nonbinary people want from their allies on this topic? Is there a nonbinary manifesto?


 

 

Natacha: As someone who basically identifies within the binary, it is difficult for me to say, but there is a lot of erasing of binary identities by our very language as you have shown. IMO it would be better if we started the words “Gynephillic”, “Androphillic” and “Biphillic”, which described the sexual preference rather than the gender of the individual, thus straight men and lesbian women would both be described as “gynephillic”.

 

 

Roz: Too many flavours of non-binary for this question to be answerable, I fear. Again, context…Accept there is a problem and we probably all get it a bit wrong. Humility is a good idea.

 

 

CN: I must admit that I’m rather tickled by this question – being someone who many would count as ‘non-binary’ when I have real problems with that word, and the demarcation it connotes. I do find the words ‘straight’, ‘gay’, ‘bi’ rather confusing when it comes to acknowledging more than two sexes and genders – if I’m gay then am I only attracted to people who have the same gender as me? But if I acknowledge that all genders are unique then…? I know that some people specifically use the word ‘pansexual’ as opposed to ‘bisexual’ to make sure that all genders/sexes are included – and other people include all sexes/genders in the word ‘bisexual’, because it’s used so often that it’s a useful term to expand upon. As always, I think it starts with asking people which terms they feel are most correct and comfortable and going from there. I’m afraid that the older I get, the more I like to give facetious answers to the ‘so how would you describe your sexuality’ question – ‘dusty from neglect’ and ‘picky’ are the current favourites.

As to a ‘nonbinary manifesto’? For me, part of dismantling the notion that there are only two fixed options for gender and sex also means challenging the notion that there are only a few fixed options for attraction and desire – I don’t believe that sexual orientation and gender identity are distant categories that don’t inform each other. But there are plenty of people who would disagree.

On a slightly more helpful note – as this series seems to have gone down well, and following some requests – I’ll be doing the same kind of thing with a panel of thoughtful, knowledgable people answering questions on genderqueer/androgynous/neutrois/bigender/beyond the binary style issues. Updates to follow – watch this space.

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§ 5 Responses to Question Twenty-One: Is there a nonbinary manifesto?

  • sharon says:

    I think I identify as some sort of outside-the-perceived-gender-binary thing – I definitely identify as genderqueer – and I also identify as bisexual, because I’m attracted to people with a similar gender to mine and people with a different gender from mine, but mostly because it’s a word that lots of people know, so by using the label I’m easy for people to find if they’re just coming out and want to find people like them and haven’t thought of the other label options yet.
    (Very big run-on sentence; sorry.)
    It does bug me when people who identify as lesbian, gay or heterosexual have a go at bisexuals for ‘enforcing the binary’, as if the other popular sexual-orientation categories don’t. It bugs me less when queer-identified people do so (but it still bugs me a bit, largely because I know so many non-binary-identified people in the bi community).
    I also strongly identify as queer.
    I often perceive my relationships as more-homosexual or more-heterosexual on the basis of similarities or differences in our genders, regardless of the labels we apply to our genders and regardless of body configuration.

  • Jonathan says:

    @ Natacha: thus straight men and lesbian women would both be described as “gynephillic”

    Yes, that has some validity – though personally I don’t find descriptions of sexual orientation based on target morphology to be all that meaningful any more. For instance, I might describe my own (main) area of attraction as lying in the intersection between femaleness and masculinity, but even then it’s not so easily contained. Why can’t we just do sex on a case-by-case basis? i.e. either “I fancy you” or “I don’t” 😉

    @ CN: I’ll be doing the same kind of thing with a panel of thoughtful, knowledgable people answering questions on genderqueer/androgynous/neutrois/bigender/beyond the binary style issues

    Ooo, looking forward to that already 🙂 . And yes, it’s been a great series. I’ll probably blog about it myself in due course.

  • Dragon says:

    Awesome series, CN! Thanks 🙂

  • […] « Question Twenty-One: Is there a nonbinary manifesto? […]

  • womandrogyne says:

    “…challenging the notion that there are only a few fixed options for attraction and desire…”
    This.
    I tend to think labels don’t really work properly without an accompanying personal definition, because each person seems to mean something at least a bit different from the next. I’ve taken to describing myself as asexual but polysensual – in that I’m attracted to people gender-regardless, but my attraction is for intimacy/touch that isn’t sexual. And then there’s romantic attraction, aesthetic attraction, the list goes on… but when people say “I’m this”, I always want to know what “this” means to them. Because you just can’t assume.
    As for “non-binary”, we’re stuck with that for as long as we’re stuck with binary, and I definitely feel like non-binary describes me (I’m an archipelago of different gender traits) – but there’s no one manifesto. I think I just want people to accept (as I’m trying to accept) that we have very different experiences of things – gender, sexuality, attraction, etc. – and that you don’t have to be able to imagine it to accept someone else’s experience.

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