Beyond the Binary: Question Five

June 12, 2013 § 3 Comments

Panel bios here.


As we’re a UK-based group, it would be great if people in other locations could leave their recommendations – thanks!


Question Five

Do you know of any social spaces where people aren’t instantly assumed to be men or women?



Hel: I don’t know of any persistent spaces, but there are various events that are probably better at not automatically gendering people – I wouldn’t like to guarantee anything, because I’m not sure that’s possible when we live in such a cissexist society. But my Cutlery Drawer events, CN’s Transpose series, Lashings of Ginger Beer Time gigs, and anything run by Ruth Pearce (Killer Queen, Revolt) all try to foster an environment where gender isn’t assumed.

Bar Wotever is supposed to be quite good for this. I’ve not been very many times, though, so I can’t vouch for it as such. NUS LGBT Conference has a policy that attendees should not use gendered language about any other attendees, but as it’s a yearly event for elected student reps, it’s probably not of much use. Oh, and there’s TransGenderqueer London – which I’ve never been to so can’t comment on, but it’s an informal monthly meet-up that (from the site) “welcome[s] everyone from across the spectrum: those who identify as either gender, neither or both.”



GrrlAlex: Social media spaces and the internet offer that potential.  In direct human interaction I’d say its trickier since the notions of male/female boy/girl are words learnt right at the start of our acquisition of language – perhaps in the first ten words.  At an animal level we might consider how primal instincts make the reading of apparent biology expedient.




Nat: My local trans* group Recreation Nottingham, most UK bi community events and CN’s Transpose events all fit this description, in my experience. Those are spaces in which I’m asked my pronoun and not assumed to fit into the gender binary, although it’s still not universal. Some of my binary trans friends have actually commented that they find BiCon oddly uncomfortable post-transition because it’s one of the few spaces where (some) people won’t assume their gender from their appearance, which is something they’ve become accustomed to elsewhere.



Jennie: I find that the bisexual community is actually pretty good for this. The goth and punk scenes used to be; these days they’ve lost something of that but I find that they remain spaces where, once I make my identity clar, it is generally respected and is better understod than in mainstream society. Science fiction circles can be very binary-centric but, again, usually offer understanding and respect once the situation has been explained. Feminist circles vary a lot but young feminists tend to get it. In artistic circles it has been accepted for a long time, though one does sometimes have to be fierce to get the message across.



CN: I would echo Hel and Nat’s recommendations, and second Jennie’s assertion that feminist circles are mixed, but those on the younger side are more likely not to assume. I think that’s something that I’ve found in general – I’ve met many LGBTQI/feminist people younger than myself who don’t assume as a general principle – I think that’s heartening. The Gendered Intelligence group (for those under the age of 25) seems very open-minded. Sandra Alland (@san_alland) organises amazing events where I’ve never felt judged as a man/woman. There are always various nights popping up – joining a genderqueer/NB group on facebook is a good way of finding out about them.


I would also add that I think that this is a vital function for friendship groups, and something we should be aiming to provide for each other as a matter of course. I know that might sound ridiculously obvious, but it’s something that’s essential for my wellbeing – being able to have my home as a safe space (very lucky there) and being able to open it up to others and create social events where we can all breathe a little and not worry about being judged/assumptions being made. Genderqueer kaffeeklatsch?

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