“I was often taken for a boy until I was five years old. On the one hand I thought it was cool, and on the other it was like: no, I’m a girl!”, remembers Kris Strobel, 34 years old, environmental specialist. .
“But I also found it a little wrong to say that I am a girl. I never felt like I belonged somewhere, neither with the boys nor with the girls.”
Actor Nic* Reitzenstein, 42, also struggled as a child to clearly assign himself a gender, although Nic* initially identified more with boys:
“But it grew at some point because I didn’t want to be a boy. It was just my first access to my inner feeling, so to speak.”
We perform a social gender
As early as 1949, the philosopher and feminist Simone de Beauvoir coined the famous phrase: “We are not born a woman, we become one. And that by social pressure. Women fulfill, so to speak, their social gender unceasingly.
Even biological sex is actually a social construct, says post-structuralist philosopher Judith Butler.© picture alliance / ZUMAPRESS.com / Paco Freire
In 1990, the theorist Judith Butler went even further in her book “The Discomfort of Genders”: First of all, biological sexual characteristics – female or male – cannot in themselves be used to infer social gender. And second, even distinctive physical characteristics, such as “equal male penis” or “equal female uterus”, are socially constructed.
Any form of binary, whether biological or social, is ultimately man-made and becomes permanent through constant repetition in discourse. It must be shaken up, deconstructed, because it supports the patriarchal balance of power in our society.
The right to rebuild again and again
“There are things that only I know, but they are not fixed from the start and forever,” says Sasha Marianna Salzmann, 36, playwright and writer.
“In fact, everyone should be allowed to constantly explore what is good and what is not, and the possibilities should be adapted to that, as long as it does not harm anyone else.”
Intersex has existed since Antiquity
Modern society has apparently agreed that there are only men and women, it seems “natural”. There have always been other forms of gender. Whether in the Bible, in Ovid or Shakespeare, whether in the Hijras in South Asia, the Two Spirits in the native communities of North America or in the Prussian General Land Law of 1794, which even legally recognized the existence of intersex people. The terms “third gender”, “miscellaneous” and, for some time now, “non-binary” appear at most.
“I believe language trains thinking like a muscle,” says Sasha Marianna Salzmann. “As soon as you have a new word, a new challenge, something develops in your head. And then you can always say no, but you can see it, you have your own outlines.”
A second sexual revolution?
To this day, being a woman or a man entails valuations, role expectations, attributions and privileges. Some feminists have accused non-binary people of opting out of these sexist discourses.
Non-binaries might respond that they are one step ahead of this debate. They initiated a second sexual revolution that could finally end gender inequality by detaching gender identity from the body, in the mind of Judith Butler.
More than a fashion
Non-binary people are still a minority, but they are becoming more and more common. For them, it’s not fashion, it’s simply their identity, which finally has a name.
“What I discussed with myself at first a few years ago was whether I could be trans? And then it quickly became clear, no, I’m definitely not a trans man” , says Kris Strobel.
“And then there was this confusion again: Somehow I don’t feel like a woman, I don’t want to be a man either, what am I? that term comes to me and I think, wow, okay, that’s really good. It’s going really well. And I think I am.”
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