Discrimination towards non-binary gender persons

Discrimination towards gender variant persons who fall outside of the gender binary is prejudice towards individuals whose gender identity does not fit the gender binary as strictly male or female. It can be identified as a type of transphobia[1] and sexism.[2][3] It affects third gender, genderqueer, agender, and other non-binary identified people. Cisgender and binary transgender people can both display prejudice against non-binary people, and discrimination of this sort can be found in the transgender community. Much discrimination towards non-binary identifying individuals can be found in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) communities.[4] Discrimination towards non-binary persons demonstrates the existence of a gender hierarchy, since genders outside the binary are considered "other" and are often not widely accepted in society.

In the binary sex/gender system, genderqueerness is unintelligible and abjected.[5] A 2008 study in the National Transgender Discrimination Survey showed that genderqueer and other non-binary individuals were more likely to suffer physical assaults (32% vs. 25%), experience police brutality and harassment (31% vs. 21%), and opt out of medical treatment due to discrimination (36% vs. 27%) compared to transgender individuals who identified within the gender binary (i.e., trans men and trans women). This study also found that they were more likely to be people of color (30% vs. 23%) and younger (under 45) than binary transgender people (89% vs. 68%).[6] In another study conducted by the National LGBTQ Task Force,[7] responders who identified as neither male nor female were less likely to be white and more likely to be multi racial, Black, or Asian, but less likely to be Latin-American/Spanish in origin compared to those who identified as male or female. 20% of non-binary individuals lived in the lowest household income category.[8]

Legal discrimination

United States

Despite being more likely to receive higher levels of education when compared to the general public, 90% of non-binary individuals face discrimination, often in the form of harassment in the workplace. 19% of genderqueer individuals report job loss as a result of their identities.[9] Because identifying as non binary is an emergent and lesser-known identity, anti-discrimination laws that outline prohibition of discrimination for non binary individuals specifically does not exist. However, Title VII and the current proposed version of the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act use such terms as "gender identity" and "gender expression," categories under which non binary individuals fall due to the fact that their gender expression cannot be defined as male or female.[9]

Twelve states currently have legislation which bars discrimination based on gender identity.[10] Despite these efforts, non-binary individuals have higher rates of physical and sexual assault and police harassment than those who identify as men or women, likely due to their gender expression or presentation.[11]

Currently, only two US citizens are believed to be legally registered as non-binary. In Oregon, Jamie Shupe was able to declare their gender as non-binary in June 2016 after a brief legal battle and successfully granted petition for a legal change in gender.[12] Following in Shupe's footsteps, California resident Sarah Kelly Keenan also was able to legally change her gender marker to non-binary in September 2016.[13] After both Shupe and Keenan had success with their cases, more people have been inspired to take on the legal battle of changing their gender to a non-binary marker. There are hopes that this will lead to the normalization of non-binary as a legal gender, but there are still no federal laws in place to allow for such a thing.

United Kingdom

Non-binary is not recognized as a legal gender in the United Kingdom.[14] The Gender Recognition Act 2004 allowed people to apply to the Gender Recognition Panel for a change of gender after living as the gender you wish to show on all your legal documents and being given a diagnosis of gender dysphoria by at least two health professionals. However, this change of gender only allowed for a change from male to female or vice versa.

In 2006 the Identity Cards Act 2006 was introduced, which issued documents to UK residents and linked them back to the National Identity Register database. When the issue of transgender people and their assigned vs. inner gender came up, it was said that transgender people would be issued two cards, each with a separate male and female gender marker.[15] It was also said that eventually the hope for some was that the identity cards would get rid of the gender markers all together. The Identity Documents Act 2010 made all these cards invalid and called for their immediate destruction.


In 2014, the Australian High Court legally recognized non-binary as a category for people to identify with on legal documents. After a citizen named Norrie made a request for a third gender identity on legal documents and was eventually denied, Norrie chose to take the matter up with Australia's Human Rights Commission and their Court of Appeal. After a four-year long legal battle beginning in 2010, Norrie finally won the case. From this and the legalizing of the matter in New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory made the decision to pass a law which recognized non-binary identities. Though this is a step in a positive direction for non-binary identifying Australians, the law currently lacks concise policies on marriage licenses and recognition of partnership for non-binary people. Because of this, Australians registered as non-binary may not be able to legally marry.

In addition to marriage issues, the non-binary marker for Australian citizens requires proof of gender confirmation surgery. Because non-binary people live outside of the gender binary, they may not wish to obtain gender confirmation surgery. The people not wishing to do so ultimately will not be able to register as non-binary until this portion of the law is amended.[16]

Health discrimination

United States

14% reported discrimination in medical care, but were "more likely to avoid care altogether when sick or injured because of the fear of discrimination."[8]

United Kingdom

In a similar survey conducted by UK Trans Info, the vast majority of non-binary responders reported "fear of treatment being denied" as the main deterrent for not seeking healthcare. Many reported anxiety over having to deny their identities or "pretend to be someone [they are] not" in order to receive treatment. As a result, 20% reported self-medicating as an alternative to seeking healthcare.[17]

See also


  1. Norton, Jody (1997). ""Brain Says You're a Girl, But I Think You're a Sissy Boy": Cultural Origins of Transphobia". International Journal of Sexuality and Gender Studies. 2, Number 2 (2): 139–164. doi:10.1023/A:1026320611878.
  2. Roger J.R. Levesque (5 September 2011). Encyclopedia of Adolescence. Springer. p. 2641. ISBN 978-1-4419-1694-5. Retrieved 20 September 2012.
  3. Frederick T.L. Leong; Wade E. Pickren; Mark M. Leach; Anthony J. Marsella (1 November 2011). Internationalizing the Psychology Curriculum in the United States. Springer. p. 163. ISBN 978-1-4614-0072-1. Retrieved 20 September 2012.
  4. Kelsie Brynn Jones (February 2, 2016). "When Being Trans Is Not Trans Enough". Huffington Post. Retrieved June 4, 2016.
  5. Hale, J.C. (1998) "...[O]ur embodiments and our subjectivities are abjected from social ontology: we cannot fit ourselves into extant categories without denying, eliding, erasing, or otherwise abjecting personally significant aspects of ourselves ... When we choose to live with and in our dislocatedness, fractured from social ontology, we choose to forgo intelligibility: lost in language and in social life, we become virtually unintelligible, even to ourselves..." from Consuming the Living, Dis(Re)Membering the Dead in the Butch/FtM Borderlands in the Gay and Lesbian Quarterly 4:311, 336 (1998). Retrieved on 2007-04-07.
  6. Jack Harrison; Jaime Grant; Jody L. Herman (2011–2012). "A Gender Not Listed Here: Genderqueers, Gender Rebels, and Otherwise in the National Transgender Discrimination Survey" (PDF). LGBTQ Policy Journal. Harvard Kennedy School. 2: 22.
  7. Jack Harrison, Jaime Grant, and Jody L. Herman (April 2012). "A Gender Not Listed Here: Genderqueers, Gender Rebels, and Otherwise in the National Transgender Discrimination Survey". LGBTQ Policy Journal. Harvard Kennedy School. 2.
  8. 1 2 "A Gender Not Listed Here: Genderqueers, Gender Rebels, and OtherWise in the National Transgender Discrimination Survey - The Task Force". The Task Force. Retrieved 2015-10-21.
  9. 1 2 "Non-Binary Identities & the Law | Transgender Law Center". transgenderlawcenter.org. Retrieved 2015-10-21.
  10. "State Laws That Prohibit Discrimination Against Transgender People - National Center for Lesbian Rights". www.nclrights.org. Retrieved 2015-10-21.
  11. "10 Myths About Non-Binary People It's Time to Unlearn". Everyday Feminism. Retrieved 2015-10-21.
  12. "Legal gender - Nonbinary.org". nonbinary.org. Retrieved 2016-10-10.
  13. "House of Commons Public Bill Committee : Identity Documents Bill". www.publications.parliament.uk. Retrieved 2016-10-10.
  14. "Experiences of non-binary people accessing healthcare". UK Trans Info. Retrieved 2015-10-21.
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