A common misconception about feminism is that it aims to portray women as the ‘better’ gender. This is not true. The aim of feminism is to achieve equality between all genders, including those that do not conform with society’s outdated expectations.
Legally in the UK there are only two recognised genders: male and female. Everyone is born, and then slapped with a letter on their birth certificate and must live with that letter forever. This is a flawed system for several reasons. Firstly, it blurs the lines between sex and gender, which are two different things. Sex is the biological differences between men and women, whereas gender is the social expectations applied on sex, as well as personal feelings towards self- expression.
According to anyone that you ask, your sex is defined by chromosomes, xx being female and xy being male. Sometimes, however, a child will be born with, for example, female genitalia, and the nurse will label them as a girl. What cannot be seen immediately, however, is that this child produces a greater amount of testosterone, the hormone seen more in those assigned male at birth. This child also has xy chromosomes. So legally, this child is a boy, right? But they were labelled as a girl when they were born when they are in fact neither. They are intersex; meaning they do not properly align with male or female.
Gender and sex are different things, meaning gender is not confined to the two genders that the government believes in.
There is something called the gender binary, and it encompasses both male and female, but there are gender identities that do not fall on the gender binary, and these are non-binary identities. Non- binary can be used as a term to describe your gender identity and an umbrella term for lots of other identities that do not present as either male or female.
Some examples that fall under that umbrella are: agender (also known as gendervoid), genderfluid and bigender. There are so many more; I could write a whole book about all genders and why every one of them is valid, but there are a lot of other things to address.
As I mentioned before, the UK only recognises male and female genders. There was a petition going around in March with the aim to make non-binary a legally recognised gender identity. The goal of the petition was to reach 10,000 signatures before October 26th, 2021, so that the government would have to respond to it. The petition currently sits comfortably at 140,035 signatures, and the government has responded to it. Unfortunately, it was not the response many people wanted to hear.
“As set out in the response to the Gender Recognition Act consultation, there are no plans to make changes to the 2004 act.”
The main reason for this outrageous response was, to put it simply, that the non-binary identity seemed “too complicated.”
I would like to mention that the government had not spoken up about banning conversion therapy until the eleventh of May 2021. In fact, the Queen had to be the one to address the problem leading to the government finally agreeing to ban it ‘after further consultation.’
You would hope the government would recognise that they cannot be battling transphobia if not all gender identities legally exist to them. To make matters worse, ‘gender critical beliefs’ are protected under the freedom of speech laws and must be tolerated. That means that transphobia is no longer considered hate speech.
Unfortunately, it gets worse. It is currently illegal for anyone under the age of 16 to use hormone blockers. If you are unfamiliar with what those are, their main purpose is to delay puberty, and is used for all sorts of reasons in the medical industry. They are also used by transgender youth so that it is easier to transition later when they start hormone therapy or have gender reassignment surgery. Hormone blockers used to be the only thing that transgender youth could use to feel more comfortable in their body, and they are even reversible if necessary.
So, what does this mean for the non- binary community in the UK? Well, legally they do not exist and are allowed to be discriminated against as ruled by the very people who swore to protect and keep them safe, making it even more crucial for them to be included in activism, and for cisgender allies to do all they can to make life better for those who are non-binary.
What does this mean for feminism specifically? Until every gender is equally recognised, feminists cannot say that equality has been reached. It is just as important for us, as feminists, to fight for non- binary and transgender equality as it is for us to fight for women’s equality. So how can we help? Change can start by doing as little as introducing yourself with your pronouns or putting them in your email signature (even if you’re cis). Inclusive language is important as it helps both closeted and openly non- binary and transgender people feel more comfortable with who they are and stops people just starting to discover their identity from feeling like they need fixing. Equality is not just about women and men being equal, it’s about everyone – regardless of gender – being equal.