What About Gender?

Written on 07/20/2021
Jayme Tucker


You may be hearing a lot about gender these days; gender fluidity, gender binary, gender nonconforming, gender expression. What does it all mean? What does this have to do with being non-binary? What is gender, anyway?

Gender is dictionary defined as a grammatical subclass and as “the behavioural, cultural, or psychological traits typically associated with one sex.” Gender and sex (which is the structural and functional characteristics of organisms) are not mutually inclusive and can be separated from each other. Your sex can be assigned as female, but your gender is something completely different.

The gender binary refers to a social system that assigns gender in accordance with assigned sex, and you are raised in that gender no matter what. The idea of ‘boys wear blue and play with trucks, girls wear pink and play with dolls is a reductive expression of the gender binary.

Being non-binary is to reject the binary system, identifying neither as a man or a woman, or identifying with parts of being a man or woman, or outside the idea of the binary entirely. Non-binary identities take many forms and are a spectrum like sexualities are.

AMAB and AFAB are acronyms for assigned male/female at birth. People who are non-binary can identify as both non-binary and as their assigned sex to reflect their identity and their socialization as children.

Terms like genderqueer, bigender, agender, and gender nonconforming all are within the non-binary umbrella. People who use these terms are diverse and varied, and the terms mean different things to different people.

Using the correct pronouns for people these days must be hard then! How do you know what to call them? Well, an easy way to get around that is to just ask. Asking someone what pronouns they prefer is a great way to respect those around you and not misgender someone (referring to someone by a pronoun that they are not).

Not every feminine person goes by she/her, and not every masculine person goes by he/him. Neo pronouns, like ze/zie/hir/xe/xer, are as valid as they/them/he/him/her/she and are gaining wider use as the non-binary spectrum continues to evolve.

The gender spectrum is as big a rainbow as the LGBTQIA+ spectrum, and next week we’ll be getting into some more non-binary terms, why pronouns matter, and some misconceptions about being non-binary!


(Image Credit: Kids Helpline Australia)