Respect for ‘Others’–Beyond Gender Binary

Study shows that there was approximately 700,000 transgender individuals living in the United States in 2011. The actual number might be even larger, as some choose not to come out or rather stay out of the record. As one of the most liberal and diverse countries in the world; gay and lesbian people have started to gain more acceptance and equal support in the U.S., whereas people who identify as transgender or gender queer are still struggling for understanding, or even just recognition, from the public.

The Binary System& Gender Check-Boxes

I was trying to sign up to Pandora a few nights ago—not one of those hardcore radio heads who can’t get by a day without music, I have only started using the online radio station now (I might have done it earlier if I knew it was more like a psychic than a website; I don’t know how they do it but the thing can read minds.)

The registration process was a simple enough. With only one step, four entries and four check boxes and you are done.


People love easy going websites like that.

I supposed it could have been done in less than 3 minutes. But what happened was that I ended up spending 25 minutes stuck on that page staring at the check boxes, contemplating.


Yeah, why?

It struck me with the first question, why would an online radio station need to know my gender?

I clicked in the ‘Why?‘ link and it actually offered an answer. Following is the direct quote from Pandora’s webpage.

The free version of Pandora is supported by advertisements, and we want to be able to show the most relevant ads to our listeners.

For this reason, we require listeners to specify a gender with their registration information. Since this means that you’re more likely to see an ad that’s relevant to you, we hope it’s a good thing for our listeners as well as for our advertisers, and therefore also for Pandora as a whole.

I didn’t find that explanation satisfying, in fact I don’t find it a relevant answer at all for several reasons.

Stereotypical Gender Expectations

By saying that specifying one’s gender is necessary for receiving relevant ads is basically gender-specifying the products. Is it really necessary? What ads are more relevant to one gender than another? Is a tampon ad irrelevant to a guy? Doesn’t he have a mother, a sister, a girlfriend or just a female friend? Is a bodybuilding ad necessarily irrelevant to a girl? Can’t she want a masculine body? Can’t she see it and recommend it to her male friends who might be interested in bodybuilding?

I understand that as a company, it might be more effective and economic if you can narrow and target your potential costumers, but is it really more profitable to exclusive your products to only one group of the people and another? That is one question I thought about.

Twitter and Amazon don’t care about your gender.



Cisnormativity and Heteronormativity


(Visit Printerest for more graphics, posters about Trans* and gender.)

Cisnormativity is the assumption that one’s gender to match what that is assigned to their biological sex; such as heteronormatity is assuming heterosexuality and fulfilling one’s assigned gender roles to be the norm. But as the society nowadays became more and more open and understanding, it has become a knowledge that gender is more of a spectrum than a dichotomous system.

It is insensitive and ignorant to force people into the gender binary. While cisgender might be a common majority, it shouldn’t be the only normality; gender is diverse and incredible–there are transgender (male trans female, female trans male), gender queer (third gender, intergender, androgyny), and even neuter. (Watch the interview with Toby [5], the genderless neuter individual on YouTube.) Many people out there are fighting everyday to be who they are, despite what society and their birth certifications tell them to be.


Facebook’s registration process also requires the user to specify their gender as either male or female.

What is gender anyway?

It is very easy to fall into the common gender binary; since a child we are taught that gender is either this or that, that a person is either male or female. While in reality, human sexuality is a much more complicated thing; it is more of a spectrum rather than a simplified binary of this or that.


(click the image to enlarge. Image found here.)

A person could be born as male sex, but identify as female gender and have a feminine expression. She could also be born into male sex, identify as female gender and still have a more masculine gender expression; which shouldn’t make her any less of a woman. If she decided to undergo medical treatment to transition physically, then she would be considered a transsexual.

There are also individuals who are assigned one sex or another at birth but do not identify as either. They may express their gender identity through an androgynous expression, or their gender expression might vary from day to day. They may or may not take up medical treatment to transition their bodies. Those individuals who ‘challenge’ and ‘transgress’ the so-called ‘gender norms’ are considered transgender, or trans*. (The star implies that it is an umbrella term used to cover a broad number of groups.)


Transgender refers to people whose presentation, behavior, and identity do not fit into the assigned gender roles. It is an umbrella term often confused with transsexual. Transsexual is the universal term that refers to individuals who undergo medical transitions, such as hormone therapy and/or surgery. (see GLAAD Media Reference Guide) Transsexual falls under the category of transgender, but transgender individuals are not all transsexuals.

There are various of ways to be transgender, no two individuals express their gender identically. But there is one thing in common, that all transgender individuals express their gender identity in ways outside of the binary system, and often feel discontent and repressed in the binary society.

Sometimes it is simple things like signing up for a social media and find yourself unable to fit into the gender category they provide; while sometimes the situation is far more intense and threatening.

Statistic of Transgender and Gender Queer

  • There are approximately 700,000 transgender individuals in the U.S., according to the Williams Institution‘s study in 2011. [2]
  • 40% transgender individuals in the U.S. have committed suicide. [3]
  • 19% of U.S. transgender have been denied of medical care because of their trans status. [3]
  • 90% of transgender workers reported workplace discrimination and harassment in the U.S. [1]

The environment is already as harsh as it is, it doesn’t take that much to make it a little easier for ‘the others’.

The Human Rights Issue

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights ensures that  everyone enjoys the equal rights to be safe and included in a society in which they are entitled to inherent dignity, justice, freedom and peace.

Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. (Article 2)

It says in Article 28

Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.

The problem with the binary system is that it excluded anyone who doesn’t fit into the system. The system only provides limited options and categories to ‘fit into’. It is problematic because it not only excluded the people who do not fit into the binary, it also implies that they do not fit, or belong to the ‘norm’.

The idea and practice of a binary system goes against the equal human society the Declaration is trying to ensure, and it needs to be changed.

There are more than 700,000 individuals in the United States of America that are being excluded; there are more than 700, 000 people in the U.S. alone that do not feel safe in the society that promises their protection and basic human rights; 700,000 and more people in America deserve an alternative system, because the existing system tells them they are not ‘normal’ for the things they cannot change.

It is not a transsexual issue, it is not a transgender issue, it is not even a queer issue; it is simply a human rights issue.

Because the society is built for humanity, and if this society cannot make its people feel safe in their own skins, the society needs to change.

Solution and Alternative

the other

Google and YouTube offer the option of Other Gender in their registration process; it is just a small button, could save someone out there from utter awkwardness and discomfort. The point really isn’t about how many buttons there are, however; it is rather about the recognition and acceptance of differences and minority, to have one’s eyes and mind open and to be sensitive.

Gender is too nuanced to be measured with tests, standardized, and put into boxes. To look beyond pink and blue is to see the world in full color. [6]

It is not easy to jump out of the mindset that has been repeatedly implanted and reinforced since we were just mere children, but just because we are used to something doesn’t mean it should be the only way. We are very easily blinded by the obvious and overlook other possibilities; the knowledge, our outlook, of the world is not by birth but through education. That is why it is so important to be open minded, to be unprejudiced; to be curious and excited to learning and understanding.

All we need is a little tolerance for differences, and a little respect to the ‘others’.

Differences are beautiful, diversity thrives a species; majority is not equivalent to normality, to accept and not exclude the differences and diversity lets us be more complete and whole as people.

(Visit for fun and informative ebook about gender diversity [4])

The flag to represent the gender-queer community, just like the rainbow flag to represent gay-pride.

How to Create Your Own Post for Social Change

It is not easy to make a change, and sometimes it seems scary; the world seems so big and you feel so small. It is very empowering to know that your words and actions have power and you are able to make a difference. With the convenience of social media, we now could voice our opinions and make them visible in a platform that is open and free.

Do you have an opinion on current human rights or social issues? A blog is a good way to start getting your voice out there. Below is a PDF file on how to create your own post for social change using blog format. Check it out, and hope it could be of help.




Work Cited

[1] Burns, Crosby, and Jeff Krehely. “Gay and Transgender People Face High Rates of Workplace Discrimination and Harassment.” Name. N.p., 2 June 2011. Web. 24 Feb. 2013. <;.

[2] Gates, Gary J. “How Many People Are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender?” Williams Institute. N.p., Apr. 2011. Web. 24 Feb. 2013. <;.

[3] Geen, Jessica. “41 per Cent of US Trans People Have Attempted suicide.” N.p., 22 Nov. 2010. Web. 24 Feb. 2013. <;.

[4] Hill, Mel Reiff, and Jay Mays. “The Gender Book.” The Gender Book. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Feb. 2013. <;.

[5] Toby: Neuter, Genderless Person Pt1. N.d. YouTube. YouTube, 17 June 2012. Web. 24 Feb. 2013. <;.

[6] “Van’s Final Web Portfolio.” Vans Final Web Portfolio. N.p., 30 Mar. 2009. Web. 24 Feb. 2013. <;


2 thoughts on “Respect for ‘Others’–Beyond Gender Binary

  1. I think respect is SO important, and our world has really moved away from it which is a shame. Thanks for the eye opener and your passion about your topic. I respect you! Love the Blog title, cereal with wine too. Life is a funny thing. Hang in there!!!

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