Bruce Jenner's transition to From Caitlyn, to Miley Cyrus and Ruby Rose; conversations around non-binary gender are entering mainstream culture and people are speaking up. Projects such as We Are You. But as with many progressive changes in society, as there is more acceptance there is also an increase in intolerance and hate crime.
Reliable figures show that at least 0.4% of the UK population defines as nonbinary when given a 3-way choice in terms of female, male or another description. That’s about 1 in every 250 people. Society is increasingly challenging conventional gender stereotypes and to many young people the whole notion of gender norms is seen as unnecessarily restrictive and not reflective of their experiences. There is a growing movement within this group of accepting that there is more than simply ‘male’ and ‘female’. Progressive brands have been following suit. Facebook now offer custom gender identities to include a huge variety of options with which to identify. But as always with change comes resistance. And as there is a groundswell towards recognition of more fluid identities, so there is a backlash against it.
This is manifest in some mainstream media titles – conversations where gender-nonconformity is seen as deviant or sexually promiscuous. It’s seen in trolling and the enormous amount of online abuse directed at both people identifying as non-binary and their allies. And its seen in conversations around policy-making where the rights of the individual are often secondary to “what’s right”. We know that there is a groundswell of young people who are passive accepters or even armchair allies of non-binary people. They are more than willing to support acceptance and highlight discrimination and harassment by sharing or liking on social media. but to create real change and drown out the loud and intolerant minority we need to move them to do more. That means both more education around the issue and clarity around what they can do to help.
Create a campaign that clearly educates young people (16-30) about what they can do to support non-binary people, and elicits active support. You need to reframe the issue as one which is impossible to argue against. You need to bring humanity to the fore. You need to create a campaign that works to activate them in their communities wherever that may be and wherever its needed most – think beyond the liberal big city bubble. Your big idea could be executed as a poster campaign, a stunt, in social media, a film, a window sticker…choose a medium that gives your idea the biggest impact.
Gender non-conforming people don’t all sit in the one box. They may identify as trans, gender fluid, genderqueer, androgynous or a myriad of other labels. They may use a wide range of pronouns to describe themselves. We must respect their right to self-determination. Rather than focussing on these labels, which can be divisive, find a creative expression that speaks with compassion about all non-binary people.