A brief history of identities beyond the binary

It’s a widely-held misconception identities beyond the binary are new.

Maybe people claim lack of knowledge as an excuse for not being welcoming towards people who identify as non-binary.

There is actually evidence of people identifying as something other than male or female as far back as 400BC.


The Trans and Hijra Empowerment Mela in Mumbai will help people become financially independent. Photo: The Asian Age

One of the oldest non-binary identities, officially known as a third gender in India, is Hijra.

The Hijra community has been mentioned in a variety of ancient literature – The most known of which is the Kama Sutra.

Not only were hijra people welcomed and embraced in society, they hold ‘significant roles in some of the most important texts of Hinduism, including the Mahabharata and the Ramayana.’

How ’bout them apples?

Things changed for the Hijra community however when the British colonized India in the mid-19th century. They were not as welcoming towards difference as the country had previously been, and criminalized ‘carnal intercourse against the order of nature.’

Two Spirit

Two Spirit is a Native American term for people who identify as a third gender. Some nations even recognized up to six genders.

There are pictures of two spirit tribal members dating as far back as 1896, but apparently the term ‘two spirit’ wasn’t used for the first time until 1990.

Two spirit itself is seen as an umbrella term for people who ‘see life through the eyes of both genders.’ The identity acknowledges gender is a spectrum of which people can sit anywhere on, and isn’t as simple as male or female.

Similar to hijra people, two spirit people were highly regarded in society. They often had important roles such as ‘craftspeople, child rearers, couples counselors and tribal arbiters.’

People believed two spirit people had been ‘touched by the spirits’ and were considered to have similar powers to a shaman.

Even before people identified as Two Spirit, Native American parents did not assign gender roles to their children. Neither did the children wear gendered clothing.

Settlers who arrived in Native America were confused when faced with two spirit people. Instead of respecting the Native people, they used gender binary language based on biology as a ‘violent tool of colonialism to assimilate Indigenous peoples into their Western European colonialist cultures.’

There are numerous other international examples of people who identify beyond the binary: Quariwarmi people in Peru, Aruvani people in India, Metis people in Nepal and Tida wena people in Venezuela.

Non-binary people often use gender neutral pronouns. A they/them/theirs badge.

Non-binary people often use gender neutral pronouns | Photo: theyspace Instagram

Old English

Some may be surprised to hear ‘they’ as a singular pronoun has actually been used in English for hundreds of years.

‘They’ then started to become less wildly used in 1745.

Calls for a gender neutral pronoun began again in 1794 after a series of ‘battle of the sexes‘ articles appeared.

There is also evidence of ‘thon‘ (contract of that one) being proposed as a gender neutral pronoun.

This was done so in 1858 by someone in Pennsylvania.

There were even more calls from 1860s to the 1880s for ‘they’ to be used as a singular pronoun again.

A lot of people began using it again from that point onwards.

When it comes to gender neutral titles, Mx is the most widely known and used.

There is evidence of it being used as far as as 1965. This is just recorded evidence though and it very well may have been used even earlier!

Recent history

There are now currently around 10 countries around the world that offer some form of third gender or gender neutral passport option: Canada, Denmark, Germany, Malta, New Zealand and Pakistan.

Most jurisdictions in Australia offer some form of recognition of a third gender on forms of identity.

In the United States, there are some states that allow people to use a third, non-binary option on birth certificates, drivers’ licenses or identity cards. These states are: Colorado, , Washington, ArkansasMaine, Washington DC, New York and Oregon.

California was the most recent state to start accommodating to the non-binary community.

The exact laws in each state vary however. Some states allow people to only change one form of ID, others allow people to change all three.

Facebook recognized gender isn’t as binary as simply male and female in 2014 when they introduced over 50 gender options.

In 2015, the Oxford Dictionary added Mx – A popular title for gender non-conforming and non-binary individuals.

This is all amazing obviously. However, there is still so much more progress to be made in terms of rights for non-binary people.

The non-binary flag

What next?

More and more countries are recognizing that gender is not binary.

The Netherlands issued their first gender-neutral passport in 2018.

Scotland may become the first country in the United Kingdom to legally recognize a third gender.

A majority of the 15,000 responses in a 2018 consultation backed by the Scottish government supported the creation of a legal third gender.

The majority was 65%. 56% of that majority supported the full legal recognition of non-binary people. Non-binary individuals are those who do not identify as exclusively male or female.

However there is little progress for non-binary rights when it comes to the UK as a whole.

In mid 2018, non-binary activist Christie Elan-Cane lost their high court challenge against the UK government after they refused to issue gender-neutral passports.

Mr Justice Jeremy Baker upheld Home Office policy. The court was told it would ‘affect other legislation, cost too much to change computer records and increase the need for consular support abroad for gender-neutral British citizens.’

In comparison, around the same time, the Austrian constitutional court ruled that people don’t identify as male or female should have the right to recognize this when completing official forms.

Even Uruguay now offers citizens a third gender option (O) on official identity documents. There is even the option for people to choose to leave their sex entry blank.

Non-binary activists in the UK are still pushing for gender-neutral passport options. Hopefully, other countries around the world also follow the examples set by the likes of Canada and New Zealand.

Author: Charlie Mathers

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Gender-neutral couple emojis are coming to phones this Fall

Eight of the 16 different combinations of the gender neutral emojis

Gender-inclusive emojis for non-binary and same-sex couples have been announced.

Unicode is responsible for defining which emojis make onto all platforms, including iPhones, Android devices, and computers.

Their new update will be rolled out in October.

The gender neutral couples are some of the 230 new emojis revealed on Tuesday (February 5).

According to Unicode, emojis will be available in 16 different skin tone combinations.

The gender neutral ‘People holding hands’ emoji will be listed under the family category.

15 of the 18 combinations of the men holding hands emoji

Men holding hands are also featured in the update | Picture: Unicode Consortium

‘Men holding hands’ and ‘women holding hands’ are also joining the roster which is more diverse than ever.

Apple introduced gender-neutral face emojis back in 2017.

However, this new update features couples holding hands.

People with disabilities will also have greater emoji representation, with blind people using white canes and people in wheelchairs soon dropping.

‘The trans flag is well over due’

But while sloths, skunks, and safety vests will have an emoji too, the trans flag remains to be seen.

Picture: @NJamesB1980, Twitter

Picture: @ch_arrowood, Twitter

‘The trans flag is well over due,’ one Twitter user noted.

Another user said they will use the new ‘pinching hand’ emoji ‘to refer to my gender’ as a result of having no flag.

A screenshot of four tweets by an account that tweets: 'There is this emoji, but no trans flag'

An account makes clear how needed the trans flag emoji is | Picture: @transflagemoji Twitter

Meanwhile, @transflagemoji has continuously tweeted Unicode roughly every three hours since October 2018: ‘We have the X emoji, but not one for the transgender flag’.

Bisexual, lesbian, pansexual, and asexual flags are also absent from what is Unicode Consortium’s sixth major emoji update since 2014.

The only LGBTI flag emoji available is the Pride Flag.

See also

You can now use emojis on Grindr and they’re incredibly dirty

This emoji just took on a new, explicit, queer meaning

Christians demand Facebook create a cross reaction emoji


Author: Josh Milton

The post Gender-neutral couple emojis are coming to phones this Fall appeared first on Gay Star News.

Updates to the International Code Council recommends gender neutral bathrooms

The ICC is updating their building codes to require an accessible restroom for all

The International Code Council (ICC), which develops standards for safe and sustainable buildings, has approved changes to restroom standards.

Who is the ICC?

The ICC is a 64,000 member organization focused on building codes and standards worldwide. Their International Building Code standards are the most widely used set of building safety codes. The ICC is also the group that helps establish federal, state, and municipal construction standards.

At the recommendation of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the National Center for Transgender Equality, the ICC is updating their standards to include a requirement for single-stall restrooms and other gender neutral facilities.

Restroom proposals

According to LGBTQ Nation, the first proposal was approved this week. It mandates that all single-stall restrooms must be shown to be available to all users, not a particular gender.

The second approved proposal allows for multi-stall gender neutral facilities, with a shared sink area and private stalls for each toilet.

These new provisions will make it so everyone — including trans and nonbinary people, disabled people, and families with small children — will be able to access a restroom.

‘The American Institute of Architects is proud to have taken a proactive public stance to ensure bathroom accessibility for all,’ CEO of the AIA, Robert Ivy, told LGBTQ Nation.

‘As architects, we are responsible for the health, safety and welfare of all citizens in the built environment. With pragmatic solutions, we can better serve and accommodate a variety of community needs. The code proposals are but one step in the right direction to enable access for all.’

The problem in building codes

Ivy is not the only architect that found problems with the existing building codes.

‘In my teaching and in my practice, I’ve become increasingly aware that the “default user” of architecture is basically a white, able-bodied, cisgendered male. And we tend to disregard other, non-conforming bodies,’ architect and Yale professor Joel Sanders told Architectural Digest.

Anything else?

Many other architects are working on finding solutions to this restroom dilemma. Stalled! is one example. This project is led by both architects and activists to ensure the creation of ‘safe, sustainable, and inclusive public restrooms.’

See Also:

Netflix moves production of show from North Carolina over trans bathroom laws

New York now requires changing tables in men’s public restrooms

University of Utah restrooms audited by students, LGBT Center for private spaces

University introduces menstrual products in men’s toilets for trans people

Author: Rafaella Gunz

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