Slowly but surely public perceptions around gender identity are changing, paving the way for a (long-awaited) age of equality for LGBT+ people.
Facebook now offers users 50 ways to define their gender and statistics indicate that 50% of us now agree that gender identity falls on a spectrum.
While clearly more needs to be done to end discrimination against non-binary individuals, we’ve made an important step in the right direction. So how have we gotten here?
As part of The Huffington Post UK’s original video series #Powershift, Game of Thrones actress Sophie Tuner explores how social media is helping us redefine how we define ourselves.
Musician and LGBTI rights activist CN Lester knows firsthand how hard it can be to grow up as a non-binary individual in the UK.
“The word that I would use for myself is gender queer, or androgynous, or gender neutral,” Lester tells Turner.
“And that’s someone who maybe just doesn’t feel that they fit into traditional ideas of male and female.”
Lester says it’s “really tough” to go against society’s ideas of what gender should be.
“One time I was punched in the street in the crotch by someone who kept asking me, ‘are you a man or a woman?’” the activist explains.
Lester is a classically trained musician and has struggled to find a place in the music industry.
“In alternative music I’ve had people say ‘we would love to work with you, but it’s too weird and our audiences wouldn’t get it,’” Lester explains.
“With classical music I’ve even had people emailing other people I’ve worked with to say ‘I’m not working with ‘that’, I won’t allow ‘that’ in my production’, which is all kinds of discriminatory.”
While there are discrimination laws in place to protect transgender people who’ve transitioned from male to female or female to male, Lester says “there’s no protection under law” for people who define as gender neutral.
But thankfully, social media is helping people like Lester call out the discrimination they face.
“Social media has its downsides, but it’s made marginalised people… we can find each other and we can work together in a way that we couldn’t before,” Lester says.
“We started collecting instances where we had been discriminated against, where we had been abused, under the hashtag ‘specific detriment’: ‘this is my specific detriment – because I was raped’, ‘this is my specific detriment – because I have been denied housing’, ‘this is my specific detriment – my GP won’t acknowledge who I am and provide me with the medication that I need.’”
In just four days the group were overwhelmed with responses, which they recently presented to the Ministry of Justice along with more research from the Scottish Transgender Alliance.
“I don’t think we could do any of this without social media,” Lester says.
As a gender fluid performer, Mykkie Blanco has also found social media a powerful tool for discussing gender identity and catalysing change.
“When I started to talk about gender, people began to engage
with me in a way where debates would form,” the musician explains.
“I would make a statement and then people would open it up for this dialogue about gender, and many times it’s been awesome because I seem to have attracted really intelligent people who have are enlightening me, you know, about books, professors, essays, scholars.”
Blanco believes this type of public and intelligent discussion has helped more people to be open about who they are.
“I think really what has happened is that people are now a lot more comfortable with being in the grey area, you know, they’re ok with it,” Blanco explains.
“They probably always felt that way but now there’s an open dialogue about it they feel that they can be themselves, which is an awesome thing.”