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Nonbinary Visibility is Our Future

DOUGLAS SCHOWENGERDT

3 JUNE 2021

Over the past decade, we’ve witnessed a surge in representations of trans people like never before. Discourse around transness has become a deeply enriched network, thanks to the unprecedented authorship by trans people in mediums like television , documentaries, music videos, and scholarly books. There is far, far more work to do–especially beyond the fields of visual representation–but there is momentum towards a more trans-inclusive future.

 

Within this growing wealth of media are some of the very first pop cultural representations of nonbinary people. It’s not a new concept, but the term ‘nonbinary’ is a rather new word to describe how people navigate the world and express themselves. Part of the queer umbrella, ‘nonbinary’ refers to people who situate themselves outside of, in between, or fluidly along the gender spectrum, therefore not identifying solely with binary definitions of being a man or a woman. (If you’d like some further descriptions, this is a pretty helpful article.) It’s a broad term encompassing many gender expressions, meaning that there are nonbinary people who are trans, who are intersex, who don’t identify with gender, who use pronouns they were assigned with at birth, or who use the pronouns ‘they/them’.

 

In media, reality TV has offered unparalleled insight into being nonbinary–again, because it allow self-authored depictions of identities. People like Basit Shittu from Are You the One?, Tyreece Nye from Slag Wars, and Bimini Bon Boulash and Ginny Lemon from Drag Race UK are pioneers for bringing conversations about being nonbinary onto our televsions (or laptop screens, more likely). Their convos were emotional, influential, and often incredibly challenging, revealing the room for growth and awareness not only in mainstream society, but within queer communities as well.

As visibility continues to grow, more and more gender non-conforming, genderqueer, and genderfluid talent will begin to be booked for campaigns. This is an incredibly exciting frontier, so we’d like to offer some ways of being more inclusive to nonbinary and trans people. Calvin Klein’s 2021 Pride campaign features an undeniably iconic lineup of queer creatives, including King Princess, who identifies as genderqueer, and Arca, whose track ‘Nonbinary’ is a queer anthem. However, the first thing one is confronted with on the link to the collection is “Shop Women, Shop Men”. This is a missed opportunity that isolates some of their audience by immediately reinforcing binary gender categories.

As visibility continues to grow, more and more gender non-conforming, genderqueer, and genderfluid talent will begin to be booked for campaigns. This is an incredibly exciting frontier, so we’d like to offer some ways of being more inclusive to nonbinary and trans people. Calvin Klein’s 2021 Pride campaign features an undeniably iconic lineup of queer creatives, including King Princess, who identifies as genderqueer, and Arca, whose track ‘Nonbinary’ is a queer anthem. However, the first thing one is confronted with on the link to the collection is “Shop Women, Shop Men”. This is a missed opportunity that isolates some of their audience by immediately reinforcing binary gender categories.

‘Nonbinary’ challenges the rigidity of gender categories, and as many of us begin to question how we fit into the construct of gender, representation of non-conforming identites will continue to grow. The future of our culture welcomes fluidity, and brands should be prepared for how they can incorporate these understandings of gender. The world is not just men and women, and it’s time our language, actions, and beliefs begin to reflect that.

 

For more on queer representation and engaging with LGBTQ+ communities, pop in our inbox and schedule a presentation.

 

Lots of love,

Douglas (they/them)