For nonbinary people: Recognition is not liberation


The nonbinary flag.  Photo in the    public domain

The nonbinary flag. Photo in the public domain

Recently I was scrolling through Twitter, and I stumbled across a tweet stating that Scotland had started constructing a nonbinary prison. The most recent article I could find on it was from 2018 but the whole concept of creating a nonbinary prison still begs a question.


This Tuesday July 14th marks International Nonbinary People’s Day, and for the first time, the week starting July 12th has been deemed Nonbinary Awareness Week. It is the one time each year when society is forced to acknowledge our existence. In an inherently binary world, for one day or one week we as nonbinary people finally have something to call our own, to celebrate each other and the fact that by being nonbinary we are committing a radical act against the binary nature of society itself.

But what is our goal? Because one day or week of acknowledgement does not do anything to inherently benefit us. We want to be seen as who we are but acknowledgement in this hyper capitalist white supremacist society is a means to placate us. When we strive for acceptance by the state particularly for those of us in Amerikkka, what we are really saying is that we want to assimilate into whiteness.

When we look at the gay rights movement in Amerikkka, it may have started off with radical intentions, but it was quickly overshadowed by the vision of acceptance that a majority of white gay people had. They wanted to assimilate into the stereotypical 1950’s white family, the one with two kids, a dog, a house with a white picket fence, the only difference being the family would have two mom’s and two dad’s. And it took time yes, but it was not hard for a lot of white gay people to assimilate into whiteness, because of how much of the gay rights movement did not progress further than by the passage of gay marriage.

And it is not coincidental by any means that the stereotypical nonbinary person is seen as white. They’re seen as AFAB, short, with a small chest, with short hair most likely dyed, maybe piercings. But they are seen as white, and that is because the standard for society has been deemed white, everything else is otherised. It is in the interest of colonial white society in order to further achieve its goals to feign acceptance of nonbinary people so that white nonbinary people especially continue to prop up these colonial institutions.

But it is these colonial institutions that have inherently subjugated nonbinary people for centuries. While caste and other factors certainly did play a role in perpetuating harm against third gender people in pre-colonial societies and continue to. It was western colonialism which codified it, which has forcibly established standards based on whiteness and Christianity that colonised people were required to adhere to. Colonialism is a violent process meant to impose the superiority of whiteness and western culture on colonised people.

As long as we continue to live in this white supremacist colonial hyper capitalist society, acceptance for white nonbinary people will always be tepid at best, and non white nonbinary people will never be accepted at all. They will still continue to be oppressed at the hands of colonial white supremacist institutions, by the carceral state. The society that may accept them for being nonbinary will never accept them for being black or brown and nonbinary.

Native American Two Spirit people march in a pride parade. In some Native American cultures, a Two Spirit is someone who has both masculine and feminine qualities. As this identity exists outside of the traditional gender binary, it falls under the umbrella of nonbinary identities.  Photo in the    public domain

Native American Two Spirit people march in a pride parade. In some Native American cultures, a Two Spirit is someone who has both masculine and feminine qualities. As this identity exists outside of the traditional gender binary, it falls under the umbrella of nonbinary identities. Photo in the public domain

So going back to the whole idea of the nonbinary prisons in Scotland. What would this do? Well the carceral state is an inherently violent system meant to enforce unjust laws. There is no reason to believe a prison for nonbinary people would be any less violent than a prison for men or women is. It would still disproportionately harm the black and brown nonbinary people who are more likely to be found guilty and harmed by the judicial system. It would still be a system that focuses on impunity rather than any sort of rehabilitation or reintegration. It will not provide true justice for survivors. By creating such a prison system it is meant as an appeal to nonbinary people, specifically white nonbinary people for continued support for the violent carceral state. A society that genders incarcerated people correctly is no less violent than one that does not.

So what is true liberation for nonbinary people? What should we be fighting for? True liberation is the abolition of the bonds that hold us back. We need to fight to abolish capitalism, and the economic discrimination that will forever harm us. We need to fight to end colonialism and racism which will continue to manifest violent institutional white supremacy and systemic oppression against nonbinary people of colour and return all stolen land to colonised people, and in turn abolish the colonial binary standards of gender and the culture that will come with it. We need to fight to end the carceral state, to abolish the police and prisons which have historically been used to systemically persecute and as a punitive measure disproportionately towards black and brown people. We need to fight to end all forms of antisemitism, islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, xenophobia and all other forms of bigotry. We need to fight to provide an environment where people feel safe to say they are nonbinary and have the ability to live their lives free of oppression. And we need to completely abolish the construct of gender and sex as to what they currently represent, to create a society where people are not labeled at all by their genitalia, as nothing will ever be able to fully define the so many unique identities that people have.

So on this International Nonbinary Day and Week, let’s celebrate ourselves but let’s also dream bigger of a fully liberated society, and then let’s fight to make that society a reality.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by individual writers in the opinion section do not reflect the views and opinions of The Daily Campus or other staff members. Only articles labeled “Editorial” are the official opinions of The Daily Campus.

M. Wisnefsky is a contributor for The Daily Campus. They can be reached via email at

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