You see and notice it everywhere: gender neutrality. Gender neutral clothes at HEMA, ‘dear travellers’ at the public transport, gender neutral toys with colours other than pink and blue and so on. But why is this happening nowadays, while people who identify themselves as gender neutral aren’t new? Or are they? Does the term gender neutral even exist?
First it’s important to know what gender neutral means. The different personal identifications of sex are broader than you would think. Definitions of sex, other than male or female, are: transgender, gender neutral, non-binary, intersexual and gender fluid. I will explain quickly what they mean.
When someone feels he or she was born in the wrong body, we speak about gender dysphoria. When this person later choses to change their sex by operations, you’re called a transgender (American Psychological Assocation [APA], n.d.).
An intersexual person has been born with both male and female characteristics. After the birth the child can choose the gender he or she prefers and he or she will have an operation. They will also get hormone treatment, so he or she can live life with an evident gender (Intersex Society of North America [ISNA], n.d.).
A gender neutral person isn’t an existing term. This is called non-binary: when a person feels both male and female or neither. You can recognize them (them is the new term, in stead of he or she) because them has both male and female characteristics. Another term for this is gender fluid (Abrams, 2017).
Summarised: only non-binary persons don’t ‘label’ themselves with a gender. Intersexuals and transgenders generally choose a gender, wear male or female clothes and want to be called he or she.
In Canada, the world’s first baby without M or F on the health insurance card was born. Kori Doty, the parent who is non-binary, made this conscious choice with the purpose to give the child the opportunity to choose their own gender. Doty thinks the genitals don’t contain enough information to determine which gender the child has or prefers. ‘I raise Searyl without the limitations of being a boy or a girl’, says Doty. The health insurance card contains a ‘U’, which means undetermined or unassigned, according to BBC. The baby was born in 2016 and in July 2017 it was announced, after several discussions, that permission was given to put a ‘U’ on the care pass (British Broadcasting Corporation [BBC], 2017) (Zeidler, 2017).
Back to gender neutrality. Who is this meant for? Who is ‘allowed’ to wear the unisex clothes? The purpose of the gender neutral changes is to address non-binaries too, so they won’t feel excluded. It’s also a step closer to a world where everyone is non-binary and nobody has to label themselves as male or female.
On the other hand, we see a countermovement: inventions specifically for women (or men). For example, Doritos developed lady-friendly chips (Bruner, 2018) and Johnnie Walker made a female version of their brand called Jane Walker (Johnnie Walker, 2018).
What we see is that everyone is being more accepted and that more people can be their true selves. Empathy has increased, for example for non-binary people. ‘Feminization’ is actually a countermovement of participation and diversity. But from another point of view, chips for women is also a form of participation, but exclusively for women. It clearly excludes other groups such as non-binary people.
I think the movement around gender neutrality will stay and the countermovement, feminization, is a temporary hype. In the future empathy and acceptation will be more important than products specified for any gender. In addition, women don’t even want supposed chips for women!
Some people believe the genders male and female will completely disappear and there will be no labels, but I don’t think so. I assume people are becoming more and more open-minded the upcoming years, however, the terms man and woman will stay. But this third gender will be natural for everyone: genderless.
Abrams, M. (2017, October 20). What Does It Mean to Identify as Nonbinary? Retrieved January 6, 2018, from HealthLine: https://www.healthline.com/health/transgender/nonbinary
American Psychological Assocation [APA]. (n.d.). What does transgender mean? Retrieved January 6, 2018, from American Psychological Assocation: http://www.apa.org/topics/lgbt/transgender.aspx
British Broadcasting Corporation [BBC]. (2017, July 3). Canadian baby ‘first without gender designation’ on health card. Retrieved January 6, 2018, from http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-40480386
Bruner, R. (2018, February 5). The Internet Thinks ‘Lady-Friendly’ Doritos Are in Pretty Bad Taste. Retrieved February 15, 2018, from TIME: http://time.com/5133674/lady-doritos/
Intersex Society of North America [ISNA]. (n.d.). What is intersex? Retrieved January 6, 2018, from Intersex Society of North America: http://www.isna.org/faq/what_is_intersex
Johnnie Walker. (2018). JOHNNIE WALKER BLACK LABEL THE JANE WALKER EDITION. Retrieved February 26, 2018, from Johnnie Walker: https://www.johnniewalker.com/en-us/our-whisky/limited-editions/jane-walker/
Zeidler, M. (2017, June 30). Parent fights to omit gender on B.C. child’s birth certificate. Retrieved January 6, 2018, from CBC: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/parent-fights-to-omit-gender-on-b-c-child-s-birth-certificate-1.4186221