Non-binary identity and gender critical feminism: similarities and differences

A “gender therapist” who is selling a book to help people figure out what their gender identity is, has written a helpful post for people who think they might be non-binary. (I’m not linking just to avoid sending a trackback to her site, but you can easily find her by searching for the quotes below.)

“What does it mean to be Non-Binary?

To be able to explain “non-binary” let’s first define “binary.”

“Binary,” in regards to gender identity, refers to being either female or male. Woman or man. Girl or boy. “Bi” = two, meaning these are the only options for gender that exist.

Or so we thought.”

She is mixing up gender and sex. A person’s sex is whether they are biologically male or female; that is, whether they produce sperm or ova. Male and female are not identities or feelings, they are accurate descriptions of reproductive anatomy. It is important to note that they are only descriptions of reproductive anatomy; they do not define a person’s personality or style. There certainly is a sex binary, because humans are a species who reproduce sexually and it takes males and females to reproduce. Yes, some people are intersex, but the existence of a tiny percentage of humans born with ambiguous genitals doesn’t actually disprove the facts of human reproduction. Most of us are unambiguously male or female.

The word gender is used in many different ways. It often refers to someone’s social role in terms of whether they perform femininity or masculinity. It is also used as a synonym for reproductive sex, or as a synonym for personality and style.

If we are talking about there being many different genders, then we’re talking about personality and style. There are indeed as many personalities as there are people.

If we’re talking about the social roles prescribed to us by our culture, there are only two: masculinity and femininity. These are the social roles assigned to females and males based on our role in reproduction. Females are assigned the role of nurturer because we gestate babies and breastfeed, and males are assigned the role of breadwinner since they impregnate females and take care of their families. Lots of us don’t identify with these roles, which is why there are career women and stay-at-home dads and childless couples and other alternative families.

A person can certainly be “non-binary” in the sense of not identifying with social roles, but we are almost all reproductively male or female, and we can’t identify away our physical bodies.

“As a gender identity “non-binary” does indeed exist! It means someone doesn’t feel comfortable identifying as a male or a female. In other words, they don’t feel aligned with the gender they were assigned at birth, nor do they feel aligned with the “opposite” gender. This can also include how one feels their femininity and masculinity combine within them to form who they are as a person.”

Once again mixing up gender and sex. You don’t identify as male or female any more than you identify as having brown eyes or ten fingers. You are born with a certain body. If someone doesn’t feel comfortable acknowledging themselves as male or female, that is a dissociation from their physical bodies. (Non-binary individuals aren’t trying to say they are physically intersex when they say non-binary. If they were, this would be a different conversation.)

It’s entirely possible not to identify with the gender role we were assigned, though. Most of us don’t, in fact—you don’t see everyone going around being a perfect stereotype of what a feminine woman or a masculine man should act like—people have a variety of personalities and styles and they won’t normally align with cultural stereotypes. Since we arbitrarily assign certain personality traits as “masculine” or “feminine,” every person does indeed have a combination of the masculine and feminine in their personality. This is entirely normal and doesn’t require an identity label.

“Someone may not be able to put into words why they feel this way about their gender. They may only know what does and doesn’t feel “right” when they are reminded of this (and remember, since gender is everywhere it is bound to happen a lot!).”

Ask any feminist and she’ll explain to you in great detail why people are uncomfortable with their gender. (In this context, gender means sex role. People aren’t uncomfortable with their personalities, they are uncomfortable with the role they are expected to perform.) The reason females feel uncomfortable with our gender (sex role) is because we don’t like being reduced to a sex object or a baby incubator, and the reason males feel uncomfortable with their gender (sex role) is because they are limited in terms of their interests and self-expression by a culture that punishes them for failing to perform masculinity. If anyone is confused about why the expectations of gender are making them uncomfortable, they can find all the answers they need in the (gender critical) feminist movement.

“Non-binary is an umbrella term that has a multitude of options within it. That’s because if someone feels like they are “outside of the binary” the possibilities are endless as to how you can experience and describe your gender identity.”

The possibilities are endless as to how you can describe your personality or your style. Most people don’t fit the extreme ends of the continuum of masculinity and femininity, we are somewhere in the middle. You know the normal distribution graph? Given any characteristic, most people will fall into the normal range, making the graph higher in the middle, and only a few people will fall into the extreme ranges, making the curve lower at the ends. Most of us are neither the Incredible Hulk nor a fairy princess, we are just regular people.

Normal distribution

“How do you know if you might be non-binary?

Here are a few questions to ponder. Place a checkmark next to the ones you can relate to. Keep in mind that answering “yes” to any of these questions doesn’t mean you are undeniably non-binary. It means there’s something here worth exploring further.

“____Do you feel uncomfortable being given only the choice of male or female as options? (Ex: checking either “male” or “female” on forms, restrooms, at concerts when the singer says to the crowd, “Ladies you sing, now guys you sing!”)”

No, I don’t feel uncomfortable checking off “female” on forms. That’s because I have a female body, which is a morally neutral observation about me. It has nothing to do with my personality or lifestyle.

“____ Do you shop in whichever clothes section has the clothes you want to wear, regardless of how the section is labelled? (as well as having difficulty finding clothes that fit you properly?)”

Yes. I often shop in the women’s section because those clothes fit my body the best, but I often feel alienated by the styles which are rather silly sometimes with flowers and frills. I like the plainest clothes possible, which is why I do buy men’s clothing sometimes when I can find items that fit. Generally when I go clothes shopping I hate almost everything I see. The reason I don’t like much women’s clothing is because it’s designed to make us look sexualized and undignified. It’s normal for a woman to object to being expected to look that way. Women just want comfortable clothes, we don’t want to look like silly sex objects.

“____ Do you dislike being addressed as either “sir” or “ma’am” as well as terms such as “ladies” or “fellas”?”

I don’t mind being addressed as ma’am because this is a standard term of politeness in English for use with women. There’s nothing insulting about this phrase. The word ma’am doesn’t say anything about what kind of woman I am.

“____ Do you wish you could be seen as whatever gender you feel like on any particular day?”

This question is rather vague. If gender means personality, people can tell what my personality is like by interacting with me. Personality doesn’t change day by day. The only thing that changes day by day is mood. Does “gender” mean mood now? If it means style, people can tell what my style is like by looking at me. If it means my sex, people can tell I am female by looking at me. Males and females don’t look the same, and it’s very rare that you can’t tell just by looking at a person’s face and general shape, even while fully clothed. I don’t really care that much how people see me, as long as they see me as a person. The reason someone might not see me as a person is if they are sexist and believe that women aren’t people.

“____ Do you wish there was no such thing as gender and would rather have nothing to do with it?”

YES, I wish there was no such thing as gender because gender is a social system that harms everyone but particularly harms women. For more information, see the Manifesto of the Gender Rebels.

“____ Do you feel fine with whatever gender you are perceived as, maybe even getting a kick out of confusing others with how you are presenting?”

Do you mean what sex I’m perceived as? Even women who dress in androgynous clothing are obviously female. It’s pretty rare that anyone’s actually confused. Someone did call me ‘sir’ once while standing behind me in a line. It was a simple mistake and I don’t think it was a big deal—the person just wasn’t paying much attention.

I say it’s no big deal, but being perceived as male can be a very big deal for women who are more gender nonconforming than I am, especially when using sex-segregated spaces such as washrooms. People will sometimes tell lesbians they are in the wrong washroom because they don’t look the way we expect women to look. This is a result of sexism and homophobia. This isn’t a fun thing that lesbians do on purpose to “get a kick out of confusing” people. They are just being themselves and people have a problem with it.

“____ Do you have discomfort with being referred to as either “she” or “he”?”

No discomfort. He and she are just grammatical words, they don’t say anything about who I am as a person or what kind of lifestyle I live. When I get called ‘she’ that doesn’t mean that I like purses and shoes, it just means that someone has identified that I am female.

“____ Do you have no real attachment to being referred to as either “she” or “he”?”

Yes. Pronouns are just grammatical and they aren’t an indicator of who I am.

“____ Would you like to have the freedom to use non-gender-related terms to describe yourself, even when “your gender” is specifically asked for?”

Huh? Forms don’t ask for my “gender,” they ask for my sex. My sex is female. If anyone asked for my gender, I’d say “androgynous,” but I’ve never been asked for that before.

“____ Do you have a first name that is very gendered (I.e. very feminine or masculine) and it feels like it doesn’t suit you?”

My name suits me fine.

“____ Do you find it unpleasant to be presented with only two options, especially if you are expected to choose one of those based on the gender others assume you are?”

If it’s a medical form, then the only options should be male, female, and intersex. I can’t think of any situation where I would need to fill out my social role, personality, or style on a form. I would be quite concerned if a medical form wanted to know my personality instead of my sex—that would indicate incompetent doctors!

“____ In regards to your sexual orientation, do you find it difficult to specify if you are “gay” or “straight” because that means you are saying you are interested only in the “opposite” or “same” gender?”

I have no difficulty saying I’m a lesbian. Homosexuality is attraction to the same sex, not attraction to a gender. My partner and I are both female, and neither of us are feminine. My sexual orientation includes the ability to be attracted to females with any style ranging from feminine to masculine.

“____ Do you feel like there are some aspects of who you are physically, socially, and hormonally that you are fine with and others that you are very uncomfortable with?”

That’s a really vague question. Um, yeah, I’d like to change my physical, social, and hormonal self. I’d like to lose some weight, be less socially awkward, and get less emotional around my period. This doesn’t relate to my sex except for the part about having a period.

“____ Do you find yourself not wanting to be limited by gender when it comes to what you can be interested in, how you can act, how you dress, etc.?”

ABSOLUTELY. I am raging against gendered expectations constantly. I don’t think there should be any expectations that we should look or behave a certain way just because our bodies produce ova or sperm. In fact, for decades now feminists have been fighting against the expectations placed on females because of our sex and our presumed role.

There is no answer to the quiz, because the “gender therapist” cannot determine whether someone is non-binary. But if you buy her book, you can read more!

So what did we learn here? Well, I learned that my personality and style are similar to those of people who identify as non-binary, because I did answer yes to some of these questions. Where I disagreed, my disagreement was based on the fact that I understand the difference between gender and sex. I have no problem being called “she” or ticking off an ‘F’ box on a medical form because I understand that this is a reference to my sex, which is female, and has nothing to do with my personality or lifestyle.

The “gender therapist” who wrote this identifies as non-binary. She is female and has a female partner. She looks very much like me, with short hair, no makeup, and an androgynous clothing style. In fact, lots of lesbians look this way. I don’t think there’s any difference between her and me in terms of “gender,” but there is a difference between us in terms of ideology. I know that it’s normal for women to want to wear comfortable clothing and short hair, and that this doesn’t indicate we’re not female. She believes the opposite—that women who don’t identify with expectations of femininity are not female. I call that sexism. I also understand what homosexuality is, which is why I call myself a female homosexual (lesbian.)

A lot of people who identify as trans are same-sex attracted, so if her gender therapy business gets any clients, statistically there is a good chance some of them will be lesbians. Sadly, in 2016, it would be considered progressive if this lesbian therapist counselled another lesbian to believe that she is not female, and therefore not lesbian, all in the name of “gender identity.”

Anyone purporting to be a “gender therapist” should at least know the difference between gender and sex, should know that gender nonconformity is normal for anyone but particularly common among lesbians, gay men and bisexuals, and should understand what sexual orientation is. This is the absolute basic knowledge someone should have before working with a gender nonconforming client. I would suggest that anyone struggling with these sorts of questions steer clear of anyone calling themselves a “gender therapist,” in order to avoid being further confused by misleading ideology.

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27 thoughts on “Non-binary identity and gender critical feminism: similarities and differences

  1. I loathe “non-binary”. It’s so much wank. Gender is a hierarchy, not a game of dress-ups, and it’s not an opt-in or opt-out because it’s about how people are treated, based on their sex. And sex, children, is a binary, whether you like it or not. Grow up, grow a personality, and lose the pomo hipsterism.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Male and female are gender words as well as sex words. For example, if you have an M on your birth certificate and you’re a woman, you can transition without changing your body at all and be recognised as a woman on your new birth certificate (at least in the UK, where it’s theoretically possible to get a GRC without having hormones or surgeries). This suggests that the M and F on birth certificates is about gender (social), rather than biology. It’s even easier to get the gender marker on your passport changed.

    The vast majority of society use male and female as adjectives for man and woman. The vast majority of forms out there don’t care what’s in our pants, they want to know about our minds and our lives. (Exceptions being things related to medicine, like health insurance and medical records. My medical records all say “indeterminate” or similar on them, though.)

    In this context, the writer’s introduction and questions make complete sense and are actually very helpful.

    In a culture that recognises and accepts nonbinary people and binary trans people, the thing that makes sense to me is to stop gendering bodies with words like male or female altogether. “My body isn’t “female” because it has a uterus and ovaries, it’s a body with a uterus and ovaries.”

    I’m tickled by the fact that people cite chromosomes as being a deciding factor in someone’s sex, when most of us don’t know what our chromosomes are and there are a lot of conditions that involve sex chromosomes other than XX and XY that are completely undetectable without a chromosome test. 😉 Like XXX – it’s estimated that 90% of people with those chromosomes have no symptoms and are totally unaware. Because yeah, medically speaking, if you are XXX or XYY or XXYY your sex is intersex, but you may have primary and secondary sex characteristics that are considered totally typical for your gender.

    So no, most forms don’t actually want to know whether your anatomy is called male, female, or intersex. Most forms want to know your gender, so the humans involved in the system behind the form know how to refer to you. Sometimes they might make assumptions – if your brain is female, you’re more likely to shop for bras, maybe. There’s a very strong likelihood. (In my gender-inclusive utopia they wouldn’t ask your gender, they’d ask whether you buy bras.) And I would argue that sex is just gender for bodies.

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    • You’ve got it backwards. Gender is the hierarchy based on the observable reality of physical sex. It’s a human creation, the expression of patriarchy, not something found elsewhere in nature, whereas sex is biological reality. And frankly I wouldn’t want a gender-inclusive “utopia”. Getting rid of gender would do women far more good.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Cassian, you’re being downright silly. Medical forms certainly want to know our biological sex. Doctors need that information in order to treat us. Doctors only care about what’s in our minds and lives insofar as it helps them arrive at a diagnosis (whether we are smokers, and whether we are under large amounts of stress, etc) That sort of information would not be in the M/F boxes, it would be elsewhere on the form.
      A body that has ovaries and a uterus is a female body. Female means “Of or denoting the sex that produces ova or bears young,” and this is true all over the animal kingdom. If a female human identifies with cultural stereotypes normally assigned to men, she’s still female. She still needs to take steps to prevent pregnancy, needs to soak up menstrual blood, will go through menopause, and will still be treated as female by everyone who can identify her as female.
      Most of us do know what our chromosomes are because we know our sex. I know my chromosomes are XX because I have a female body and I don’t have any genetic anomalies.
      There is no such thing as a female brain, and lots of females in fact hate shopping for bras. Your stereotypes are showing.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ahhh, this is *that* kind of blog. (Also, I said *most* forms – I acknowledged that forms that are related to medical practise are asking for someone’s sex, and then said most other forms are asking for social stuff, ie: gender.) Moving along.

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        • Yes—this is *that* kind of blog—the kind that acknowledges the reality of human reproductive anatomy and how we are treated based on people’s expectations of males and females. Thanks for stopping by and have a nice day.

          Liked by 2 people

        • “Ahhh, this is *that* kind of blog” one not run by a stupid person, yes. It’s so crazy that this pomo bullshit is mainstream now.

          Liked by 2 people

    • yadda, yadda, yadda. Better use of this person’s time would be spent protesting prostate cancer as something that effects only men or getting the word out that not all men have prostates. Seriously, they should write the AMA or JAMA, people need to know this.

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    • “…if your brain is female, you’re more likely to shop for bras, maybe.”
      Do you have any idea how breathtakingly idiotic this sounds? Are you a 15-year-old MRA who stumbled upon this blog by accident?

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I’m so fed up with people these days using the word “gender” when they clearly mean biological sex! I’ve heard the suggestion that they’re uncomfortable using the word “sex” or have forgotten its other meaning, but it’s also likely it’s just part of the overall trend to write biological sex out of existence and reduce everything to “gender feels.” How does one “identify” as a woman or man? I menstruate and suffer from dysmenorrhea because of my biology, not because of warm, fuzzy feelings or an abstract identity.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Eyebrows | This Soft Space

  5. @PurpleSagefem

    “(I’m not linking just to avoid sending a trackback to her site, but you can easily find her by searching for the quotes below.)”

    A handy tool that allows for direct linking without trackbacks/improving their search ranking is donotlinkit.it

    I use it often as I sometimes review and provide commentary on websites with questionable views on feminism.

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