The other day, a friend posted the above video on her Facebook timeline, with a comment which was not positive. After some comment discussion, it turned out she felt that male and female identities were being eroded by the steady drip of non-binary narrative, which she saw as promoting non-binary identity and denigrating binary gender identities.
I can understand this feeling. Asia Kate Dillon (the non-binary performance artist who appears in the above video), in their insistence that the Emmy awarding body come up with a gender neutral award category for their award for their non-binary part in “Billions”, seems to be being hostile and nit-picking.
However, in my reading about non-binary identities and non-binary people this is far from the truth about their campaign for recognition. Think about it this way – for many years, bisexual people have fought for a true identity which does not label them according to the gender of their current partner. This has been a long and difficult struggle but, slowly, bisexuality is coming out of the shadows, shrugging off prejudice and making its voice heard.
The same goes for non-binary people. They identify with both genders, or neither. Labelling them according to appearance or genitalia makes them feel as if they are not fully themselves. Just as a pre- or non-operative transsexual woman feels she is a woman despite her male genitalia, a non-binary person feels that they are neither gender completely, and so are increasingly refusing to be categorised as one or the other.
However, here we do come upon a stumbling block, in my opinion. If non-binary people can persuade awarding bodies, be that the Emmys, Oscars, Olympics etc to become gender neutral, then we hit the thick glass wall which is misogyny. Don’t we just know that if there was a “Best performance in a leading role” category, instead of “Best Actor” or “Best Actress” it would mostly be won by straight, male actors? After all, white, straight men make up the majority of all awarding bodies; and they make up the majority of actors too.
I would love to see the day when athletes are chosen according to their size, strength etc, rather than their gender identity. I would love to see gender-blind categories at awards ceremonies. However, until we as a society become more equal and accepting (and here I am talking about gender, sexuality, race and really anything else that’s different from the straight, white norm); until we are prepared to educate ourselves when we encounter something we don’t like or understand, instead of instinctively reacting defensively and angrily, then I don’t think we’ll ever get there.
All we can do is keep fighting and educating as best we can, and continue to dream big.