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Non-Binary Identities: The Need for Information and Representation

The difficulties of feeling valid in a world where gender non-conformity is misunderstood and misrepresented

A woman with rainbow flags at a pride parade
by Eduardo López | @pexels

Gender identity is an inherent right that should be recognized and respected by all. Unfortunately, despite the substantial progress made in fighting toward LGBTQIA+ acceptance, non-binary identities still struggle to achieve the same level of recognition, respect and support. As somebody who identifies as non-binary, feeling comfortable and valid in my gender identity has been a struggle due to the lack of accessible information and accurate representation in the media.

Rejecting Gender Binaries Throughout History

In contemporary media, there seems to be a common misconception that non-binary people are confused or that our identity is a new label that has been created. However, gender non-conformity and rejection of traditional gender roles have been prevalent for centuries in indigenous communities around the world.

For example, Native American communities focus on spirituality rather than rigid gender binaries, holding androgynous individuals in high regard as something referred to as 'two-spirit'. Having both the spirit of a man and a woman, they are believed to be twice as spiritually gifted. Rather than focusing on the distinctions between men and women, this tradition instead, encapsulates the diverse spectrum of sexual and gender identities.

Another example is the 'Māhū', which in Native Hawaiian culture refers to somebody that is 'in the middle', embracing both masculine and feminine characteristics.

Despite being so highly valued and respected in these small communities, non-binary individuals are still not given the validation they deserve in today's society. I think we can definitely learn a lot about identity and acceptance from these communities and their culture, as they show that dismantling traditional gender norms allows us to explore and embrace the masculine and feminine characteristics that live inside of us all.

Lacking Media Representation

Gender identities that fall outside of the binary are also continuously underrepresented in mainstream media, particularly in film releases.

Of the 110 films GLAAD counted from the major studios in 2018, 20 (18.2 percent) contained characters identified as LGBTQ. However, there were no transgender or non-binary characters counted in mainstream releases this year.

Without representation, we are not given the opportunity to connect and familiarize ourselves with the wonderful diversity that our world has to offer. That being said, we are slowly beginning to see more representation in television as shows begin to introduce non-binary characters, such as Doctor Kai Bartley in 'Grey's Anatomy'. This seems to be a promising step in the right direction, striving towards informing viewers and spreading non-binary individuals' stories. Hopefully, this is a pattern that will be continued as we strive towards a more inclusive tomorrow.

For more resources regarding non-binary gender identities, check out the LGBT Foundation and find out how you can support our community today.


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