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Image credit: Seventeen

Debunking 6 internet comments about non-binary identities

July 14, 2018

In today’s pervasive digital age, internet comments are a basic source of communication. Hate speech on social media directly impacts the daily lives of marginalized groups and makes existing in public much more difficult.

Last year, GLAAD Campus Ambassadors worked with Seventeen Magazine to create a viral video series discussing gender identity. As LGBTQ people, we don’t recommend reading the comments on the internet. We know it is a tempting but it truly is a vicious cycle that will most likely end up leaving you seriously bummed out. But as media advocates, we know it is important to correct misinformation, especially when that misinformation is hurting young people.

In honor of International Non-binary Day, we responded to (6) misinformed comments about non-binary gender identity — so you don’t have to.

1. Requiring that your pronouns be respected does not make you entitled.

Everyone deserves to be referred to by their correct name and pronouns- it’s not an entitlement, but a basic way to demonstrate human dignity. Remember, transgender folks experience disproportionate acts of violence and harm on a daily basis. Referring to someone by their correct name and pronouns can help to alleviate some of the harm they may face

2. You don’t have to assume someone’s gender.

We often may assume someone’s gender because we have been socialized to make assumptions about people based on limited information that we perceive. For example, if someone has long hair, we may assume that they identify as female because society has taught us that only women have long hair. By unlearning these inherent stereotypes, we can actively work to stop assuming the gender of people we encounter and reimagine a world where social stigma doesn’t inform gender.

This comment is accurate in pointing out that humans are more than their gender. We are complex beings who should be treated with respect, regardless of how we identify.

3. Misgendering a trans person is a hateful act.

Speech can be a form of violence when intentionally used as a tool to harm and oppress an individual. Perpetually misgendering a person through systematic microaggressions may cause chronic health problems such as “persistent anxiety, fatigue, stress, hypervigilance, anger, fear, depression, shame, and a sense of loneliness”. (Kapusta 504).

This comment is correct in suggesting that words can be used to prevent violence. If you misgender someone, politely correct yourself and continue the conversation. If you have questions or are confused about gender, reach out and ask!

4. You can legally have a third gender option in some states. 

First of all, this comment demonstrates the perfect way to refer to someone who uses “they/them” pronouns. Note above: “if someone doesn’t like me calling them by there real gender.” Thank you for the delightful demonstration!

Secondly, you can legally change your gender identity if you identify as non-binary or another gender non-conforming identity and have access to resources that allow you to do so. Oregon, Washington, California, New York, and Washington, D.C all legally recognize third-gender options on official government documentation! Unfortunately, research indicates that the majority of transgender people do not have legal documents or identification that matches their gender identity because, even where it is offered, it is often difficult and expensive to obtain. Any non-binary person should be considered valid, whether or not they legally change their gender identity. 

5. Gender identity is different than sex.

You don’t have to denounce science to understand gender identity. According to GLAAD’s Media Reference Guide, sex is determined at birth based on the appearance of one’s external anatomy and reproductive organs. Gender identity is an internal and deeply held sense of gender that is not visible to others. For some, their gender identity matches the sex they were assigned at birth, while for others gender and sex do not align. According to GLAAD, “most people have a gender identity of man or woman (or boy or girl)” while for others, “their gender identity does not fit neatly into one of those two choices” and they may identify as non-binary or another gender non-conforming identity.

6. Non-binary people can identify as transgender.

 

The term “transgender" is an umbrella term for anyone whose gender identity does not match the sex they were assigned at birth. Some non-binary people choose to identify as transgender while others do not! Based on this definition, non-binary identification is a transgender identity because it is different than sex assigned at birth.

Internet comments can be cruel and hurtful, but they often come from a place of misinformation. By debunking these myths about non-binary identification, we hope to reduce perpetuated stigma and validate non-binary people worldwide. 

Leah Juliett is a GLAAD Campus Ambassador and rising senior at Western Connecticut State University studying political science. They are the Founder and Executive Director of the #MarchAgainstRevengePorn. Leah is a 2018 GLAAD Rising Stars Grant recipient and currently serves as the Youth Engagement Coordinator at GLAAD.

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