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.
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.