Specialists explain that it is important to assume gender is a social construction which is all about behavioral expectations.
Although terms and categories serve to identify, understand, comprehend, and visualize, the most important thing is how people identify themselves. In the case of non-binary gender, individuals flow between male and female, identify with both and reexamine certain elements, or don’t identify at all with either.
Gestalt psychotherapist and sexologist Teresa Salgado explains that it is important to assume gender is a social construction which is about expectations of behaviors, ways of feeling, and expressing oneself in relation to the sex assigned at birth based on male or female genitalia. Sometimes gender and sexual identities go hand-in-hand and sometimes they don’t. Which is perfectly valid.
“People are immersed in a sex/gender binary system in which there are only two options: male or female, but there’s a whole spectrum between those two, which are either rendered invisible or the binary system attempts to assign them male or female status.”
Philosopher Daniel Jiménez adds that this dichotomy is not universal. It has existed in the West since the origins of philosophy, from Plato and a little before. What’s more, it’s reinforced by the binary system of Christianity and other philosophical viewpoints that exist to this day. But there are other cultures that recognize up to five genders.
“In the Zapotec culture, there is the Muxe community, which is the closest example in the context of Mexico. They were usually classified as trans. However, muxes are a third gender in the Zapotec world. Although they were born with male sexual organs, they don’t identify as men or women,” says the PhD student.
In the United States, the Navajo, Cherokee, and Cheyenne Native American cultures recognize up to five genders. These identities are related to their beliefs about the soul and spirit, with only the first two being based on the body, he highlights.
Non-binary identities include people who are transgender, transsexual, gender fluid, non-gendered, and gender neutral. The following are some definitions of this broad spectrum provided by sexologist Teresa Salgado and philosopher Daniel Jiménez.
These are people who do not identify as the gender that was assigned to them at birth. They feel gender dysphoria, or distress. The distinction between trans and non-binary is very subtle because trans includes transvestites, transgender, and transsexuals. There are trans people who do identify with binarism. They want to appear to be men or women and they want to be identified as such.
Someone who is non-binary trans wouldn’t identify with their body but wouldn’t necessarily want to reassign their sex surgically and hormonally. What’s more, they wouldn’t identify as a woman or a man.
Someone who has made a hormonal and surgical transition to have male or female sexual organs, as applicable. This term is hardly used anymore because it has been used to pathologize this community.
Someone who moves between masculine and feminine. They flow on the gender spectrum. Individuals can identify as men –even for years– and then define themselves and dress as women.
People who identify as both masculine and feminine at the same time.
People who don’t identify as masculine or feminine.
People who are provocatively hostile to male or female norms. For example, someone might identify as a man but set out to annoy people by dressing up as a woman, dying their hair, or painting their nails to make people feel uncomfortable or provoke them.
Someone who identifies as the gender assigned to them at birth based on their sex. They don’t feel dysphoria about their body or their genitalia. An example would be someone who is born with female genitalia and identifies as a woman. In this case, the person does use binary classification.
Individuals born with different sexual characteristics (chromosomes, genitalia, gonads, and hormone levels) They may have both sexual organs or they may not be defined. These people used to be called hermaphrodites.
The Royal Spanish Academy (RAE) does not recognize the use of neutral or inclusive pronouns that have been proposed by groups and activists in favor of sexual diversity. The use of the “e” is proposed to address people of dissident or non-binary gender.
Daniel Jiménez explains that, “the ‘e’ is only used to address people, it isn’t used for dogs nor cats. It’s valid to say ‘niños’, ‘niñas’, and ‘niñes’ [for children]. In the case of ‘todes’ [everyone] this includes masculine, feminine, and non-binary and it’s the same case for ‘les otres’ [the others] and ‘aquelles’ [those].”
On principle, he recommends that we respect the pronouns with which non-binary people want to be called, which could be ‘él’ [he], ‘ella’ [she] or ‘elle’ [they]. The article ‘les’ [the] can be used for men, women, and non-binaries.
It’s also valid when referring to professions: ‘abogado’, ‘abogada’, ‘abogade’ [lawyer]; ‘psicólogo’, ‘psicóloga’, ‘psicólogue’ [psychologist], and so on.
Teresa Salgado, for her part, say that, “language is our instrument. It helps us to communicate. We shouldn’t have to adapt ourselves to it. It’s best to ask someone. Don’t take it for granted, don’t assume, because it could be that a non-binary person wants to be called by a masculine, feminine, or neutral pronoun.”