Category X: What does the Visibility of People who Reject the Gender Binary Mean for the Gender Structure?


  • Barbara J. Risman University of Illinois, Chicago, USA
  • Travers Simon Fraser University, Canada
  • Colby Fleming University of Illinois, Chicago, USA



In this paper, we address the growing visibility of people who reject gender categories and identify as neither women nor men. We begin with a brief overview of how we conceptualize  gender as a social structure. We use this theoretical framework to theorize how the increased visibility of people who reject the gender binary influence how we understand the gender structure,  social change, and social justice. While we offer no empirical analysis in this article, we do draw upon interviews with 120 non-binary people in three metropolitan areas in the United States and interviews that are in process in Italy and Spain. We discuss the possibility that those who reject gender categories may increase freedom from gendered expectations for everyone, but also the possibility of backlash to increased visibility of gender non-conformity. We conclude the paper with an argument that the future of feminism as a social movement should be aimed at liberation from gender itself. 

Keywords: gender structure, non-binary people, gender non-conformity, social change, feminist movement.