Break the Binary


Celeste Casella, Editor-in-Chief

In my experience, as a member of Generation Z (1997-2012), my childhood and teenage years were shaped by technological advancements growing as fast as I was. For as long as I can remember, I would come home from school and watch TV, which soon turned to Youtube and Netflix. It’s still changing as the options are limitless, due to the internet. 


While I pretty much had access to what I wanted to watch, a lot of what I was encouraged to watch were things still being made by adults who were stuck in their own mindset. Much of what we were exposed to as children was either inherently homophobic or misogynistic. Although we are in a more tolerant age, people in the past believed that being LGBT meant you were mentally ill and subhuman. We still see hate crimes against queer people too regularly. 


We were taught a lot of this intolerance in the form of microaggressions: whether it be making the statement that “boys will be boys” or using “gay” as an insult. Those small actions or phrases strengthen heteronormativity and increase the likeliness of hate crimes being committed against people who are simply living their lives as their most authentic selves. 


I’m not saying that we should “cancel” these shows and people or call for them to be banned, but I think it’s extremely important to recognize how some of these things can be harmful. We were so used to seeing the heteronormative narrative that the “perfect” fairytale life as a man and woman being happily married with children that we never took the time to see beyond that.


Since a young age, I’ve familiarized myself with the LGBTQ+ community in multiple ways. I was an avid watcher of Youtube creators like Tyler Oakley and Superfruit. These creators were my “introduction” to the LGBTQ+ community and I’m glad that I was fairly young at this time because it was so simple to me that queer identities and relationships were natural. Seeing as these creators often had thousands if not millions of followers, I was not the only person who began normalizing something other than a Disney fairytale. 


Gender roles have and continue to change each and every day. Many more people are adopting the idea that gender is a spectrum and that everyone falls somewhere on either side, in the middle, or not on it at all. 


Some think that someone’s gender is equal to their sex. This is where the phrase “gender assigned at birth” comes into play. When you’re born, the gender you’re assigned at birth is based on your sex, but that doesn’t mean they’re the same. 


For an individual to be transgender means that they don’t identify with the gender they were assigned at birth. Being non-binary means to identify as neither male nor female, meaning that the person would use they/them pronouns. People may also choose to use different variations of pronouns depending on their relationship with their gender. Respecting someone’s pronouns is extremely important to remember and is part of the basic respect you should provide for everyone. 


The idea of there only being two genders is a concept only common within western society. Many other prominent world countries have multiple genders in their society. The most common ones include Wakashu in Japan, Māhū in Hawaii, Muxe in Mexico, and Bissu in Indonesia. 


The recent “potato head” debate has again sparked the question of how we should define gender. Some say, “Well, he has a mustache and she has a purse, so it’s obviously Mr. and Mrs.” This would mean that gender is defined by how you express yourself. Others may argue that gender is defined by one’s sex. 


I see flaws in both of these statements. If gender was defined by one’s expression, that would mean that one, clothing was gendered as well, and two, it would cause so many restrictions within fashion. Trans men aren’t required to present as masculine and vise versa for trans women. Likewise, non-binary people aren’t required to dress and present androgynously. To think that gender is defined by sex is completely dismissive of trans identities and intersex people.


A social construct is defined as “something that exists not in objective reality, but as a result of human interaction. It exists because humans agree that it exists.” By this definition, I would define gender as a social construct because of how we can all agree that it exists, but that we all have different meanings. 


At the end of the day, whether a social construct or not, gender identity is different and personal for everyone, and it’s crucial to take the time to respect people’s identity and pronouns.