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Sex and Gender

Maybe we are all ‘non-binary’?

While it is easy to create identities, it is rather more difficult to define who qualifies.

Today marks International Non-Binary People’s Day. Scheduled ingeniously 128 days after International Women’s Day (on 8 March) and 128 days before International Men’s Day (on 19 November), today has been set aside for people who identify as non-binary. But while it is easy to create identities, it is rather more difficult to define who qualifies.

Authority on these matters seems to have been entrusted to lobby groups like Stonewall UK who define non-binary as “an umbrella term for people whose gender identity doesn’t sit comfortably with ‘man’ or ‘woman’.” They go on to explain that non-binary identities are varied and can include people who identify with some aspects of binary identities, while others reject them entirely.

But couldn’t that refer to everybody? Does anyone identify completely with those arbitrary and sexist constructs imposed us by a society that — just like Stonewall — likes to classify us and slap labels on us.

Confusion has arisen because, once again, sex has been conflated with gender. When we distinguish between them, clarity is restored – certainly as far as sex is concerned.

There are only two sexes — there always have been — and we created neither of them. Rather they created us. If anyone is unsure, I can only refer them to their biological parents: both of them. One will have supplied a small gamete and the other a large gamete. There are no other gametes and therefore no other sexes. Sex is binary.

I might be a transwoman but I am also a science teacher and I am under no illusions about the gametes I produced and hence my male sex.

But while sex relates to biology, gender relates to psychology and there are far more than two of them. Arguably there are currently 7.7 billion different gender identities. Where is the binary in that context? Maybe we are all non-binary?

However, unlike the 1980s when role models including Annie Lennox and Phil Oakey rejected sexist restrictions, today we imprison individuality in new identity groups. While they may seem safe, they are just as restrictive as the traditional binary constructs they sit alongside. This is not progressive.

Maybe we just all need to identify as non-binary and join them to celebrate the day, not because we conform to an identity — defined by Stonewall UK or anyone else — but because we are human, and who wants to be constrained to a binary?


Debbie Hayton

* This article was first published by Unherd on 14 July 2020: Maybe we are all ‘non-binary’?

By Debbie Hayton

Physics teacher and trade unionist.

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