To Be Seen: A Nonbinary Struggle for Validity / by Dr. Natalia P Zhikhareva


Our society, despite an ongoing gender revolution and largely due to our own ignorance, tends to recognize just two genders, male and female.  This stems, in my view, from the social construction of gender - a notion that society and culture create gender roles and these roles are prescribed as the ideal and appropriate behavior for people of each specific sex.  This notion driven by political, social, religious and economic institutions tends to narrow and marginalize the truth of gender variance.

The reality is that we truly know very little about gender expression, gender identity, and the inner Self relationship to gender.  For a gender binary society, the reality of gender variant spectrum can be threatening.

Most people, including some transgender people, identify as either male or female. However, many others, such a nonbinary, dont fit into the binary categories of a “man” or a “woman.”  A person is nonbinary if their gender identity is not exclusively a man or a woman.  Someone who is nonbinary might feel like a mix of genders or like they have no gender at all.

While nonbinary gender identity is nothing new, being a nonbinary in a gender binary society can be an invisible handicap.  Consider passibility.  Something cis-gendered people take for granted on a daily basis.  For a nonbinary individual, it is almost impossible to pass as their gender identity because there is no slot in the public conscious for a “nonbinary person.”  As a result, a nonbinary person gets filed into a binary category and that can and does trigger dysphoria (yes, not only transgender individuals feel dysphoric).

Each time a nonbinary person gets gendered as a “man” or a “woman,” their inner Self identity takes a blow again and again.  To validate and reaffirm their identity, a nonbinary person has to clarify their gender identity practically to everyone they meet!  This struggle for validation as a nonbinary person takes a huge toll on one’s mental health and can lead to depression.  

“I feel pretty socially anxious in situations where people use gendered terms to describe me without asking my pronouns,” Mel says in the referenced article, “and I battle with dysphoria and frustration with myself for being so sensitive when people are completely unaware and don’t know how hurtful that kind of language can be.  I can’t expect people to mind-read and know how I identify, but being called ‘miss’ or ‘ma’am’ can shake me up depending on what kind of day I’m having.” (We Need to Talk About How Non-Binary Invisibility Affects Mental Health

Ironically, we as human beings, while smart enough to land robots on Mars, seem to be incapable of genderless dialogue.  Imagine a society where gender terms such as “sir” and “ma’am” or “her” and “him” didn’t exist, a society where we could simply call each other by our names.

Until the day comes where society recognizes the inherent gender diversity within humanity, let’s support one another.  

Let’s not assume everyone identifies as male or female, because the truth is they don’t.  

Let’s thrive for genderless dialogues by calling people by their names.

Let’s eliminate gender binary by proactively asking how people identify.

Let’s challenge our own ideas of gender binary by educating ourselves on the social constructs of gender.

And above all, let’s be human, loving beings and respect how each one of us identifies regardless of our own inner beliefs or convictions.

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