Opinion | LGBTQ+ community perpetuates gender binary perceptions

By Chiara Awatramani, Senior Columnist

The LGBTQ+ community commonly brings to mind the celebration of diversity. From pride parades to drag shows at local bars, individuals can express themselves as they are. Although this community may seem united, many LGBTQ+ individuals find themselves on one side or another on the debate of gender, specifically with one question: is gender binary or nonbinary?

Too often, the LGBTQ+ community perpetuates the view that gender is a binary concept. This causes more emphasis to be put on arbitrary gender and pronoun labels rather than on the lives of the beautiful people in the LGBTQ+ community and the struggles they face. 

Many individuals believe that their gender corresponds to a predetermined set of gender roles and a fixed gender expression. This creates a binary understanding of gender. For instance, some believe that nonbinary people have to express themselves in a way typical to nonbinary people, like dressing androgynously, acting in both masculine and feminine ways and using they/them pronouns. Put simply, one’s gender and pronouns are expected to align with one’s expression. 

This view is being spread widely across the LGBTQ+ community through the introduction of they/them pronouns and the nonbinary gender identity. Yes, respect and love should be given to everyone no matter their identity. However, the addition of the nonbinary gender label adds to the human urge to assign roles and expectations to certain people. 

Those who don’t “fit in” with what is socially acceptable as a man or woman now feel like they have to “fit in” with this label of nonbinary, too. 

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For centuries, people have been forced into boxes, a notable example being the expectation for women to cook, clean and raise children. These specific expectations did not account for women who wished to work or did not wish to have children, but because a woman was labeled as such, and traditional expectations were fastened to her anyway. 

These same problems are now arising in the sea of new LGBTQ+ identities. Some find themselves wondering, “How do nonbinary people look?” and then, “Do I look like these norms?”

The main issue arises when people start asking themselves, “How can I change to fit in with these norms?” or “What label can I give myself so that I fit into the norm?”

This question proves to be increasingly relevant as people struggle to interpret their gender and its significance in their life. For those who believe one’s gender labels are associated with specific ways of existing, the pressure of looking and acting in accordance with their gender labels limits expression. 

This is particularly prevalent with masculine presenting women and feminine presenting men. For example, a masculine-presenting woman might believe that she must act feminine according to her label as a woman. She could easily misinterpret this as a need to relabel her gender or use different pronouns, causing unnecessary emphasis on gender in her life. While she could naturally identify as nonbinary, societal pressure should not force her into this label.

With a more open-minded view that people can express their gender independent of labels or pronouns, this woman could proudly say she’s a woman regardless of how she expresses herself. There’s no pressure on her to fit into what society expects of a female because the range of what that can look like broadens. There’s no pressure on her to fit into the box of nonbinary just because she doesn’t adhere to female norms, either. She can look feminine, tomboyish, alternative, super masculine — it doesn’t matter, as long as she’s happy. 

 

Chiara is a sophomore in LAS.

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