Hey Vesper! I have a question. I’ve noticed that within the nonbinary and larger trans and queer and so forth communities, some nonbinary genders seem to get more recognition than others. Some- especially maverique as I’ve noticed- are hardly known of by many other nonbinary and/or trans people, while others such are gaining recognition in trans, nb, and other circles much more quickly in comparison. Why do you think some nb genders are becoming more well known than other nb genders?
this is a really tough question. not just because of how subjective it is (i mean, what even counts as ‘recognition’, let alone what counts as ‘more’ or ‘more quickly’), but also because there are an infinite number of factors involved in why any non-binary gender gets any amount of recognition at all.
imho, some non-binary genders are more commonly recognized at least in part because of the comparatively long history of people identifying or describing themselves as such. correct me if i’m wrong, but i think the most notable example of this is genderqueer, but even agender and genderfluid (or rather, the concept of gender fluidity) have arguably stood the test of time longer than most other non-binary identities in English.* honestly, i feel like it’s unfair to compare general recognition of a gender like maverique to genderqueer, for example, for that reason.
but perhaps that’s not even what you’re referring to.
if you’re comparing the recognition of equally (comparatively) newly coined words / identities, i still hesitate to compare their recognition at all because honestly, all recognition of non-binary genders in general is abysmal imho… also i’d hate for it to seem like i’m pitching one gender against another when all of us are struggling so much for recognition.
having said that….
Just to add some other thoughts, I think NB identities also get complicated because of the way that, as a young and fractured community, there are often instances where the definitions and boundaries of particular identity terms are in flux.
Like, when I first started exploring NB identities, I noticed that while I saw tons of discussion of being “neutrois” or “agender” on the AVEN forums where I was spending a lot of time, I never saw that term at my university. But it’s not that people weren’t discussing those kinds of experiences – it’s just that there, people with the same kinds of experiences were calling themselves “genderqueer” instead.
So, on the one hand, it may seem like neutrois is disproportionately unrecognized in the latter space, knowing it’s popularity in the former. On the other hand, as a linguist, it can be thought of as simply a different way of categorizing and naming the same equally recognized experiences.
And because you have lots of little clusters of nb activity scattered all around, coining a lot of new terms as they struggle to find language that works, it’s quite common for these sort of “dialect” differences to occur between different communities.
But then of course, these communities aren’t isolated, so there’s a lot of confusing rehashing and resorting of identities as community with different definitions and labels and categorizations systems interact – sometimes labels are redefined more narrowly to try and avoid definition overlap (like trends in some spaces that differentiate agender and neutrois as gender apathy vs. a strong desire for a specific “neutral” type of appearance). Sometimes certain terms are elevated to “umbrella term” status to account for that overlap (like “nonbinary”, or in some instances “genderqueer”). Sometimes less “successful” terms just disappear as they are subsumed by other overlapping terms (Like, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the identity label “neuter” in anything not written like 2 decades ago or by someone of that age).
And this is all constantly in flux depending on the specific time and group. And I feel like the process is further complicated by the age of various terms, by the influence of their respective communities of origin, etc.
(you can see that kind of trend elsewhere too, like in ace label histories – in early ace history, there was a lot more variety in terms, with some asexuals and some nonsexuals and some unsexuals and some celibates and so on – with some people trying to draw a line between these as separate identities and others treating them as alternative terms for the same experiences, like soda vs. pop. In english communities, these identities eventually consolidated under the single term “asexual”, and “nonsexual” and the like disappeared.
On the other hand, in other communities other things happened – for example, in some (older?) Japanese language ace communities, things consolidated into two groups instead – with “asexual” and “nonsexual” carrying distinct meanings and referring to two different groups of people. (not sure how common this is still, though, as I’ve heard there is also pressure to adopt the single-identity american model)
So, in that light, is it that americans have insufficient recognition of nonsexual people? Or is it just that our “dialect” draws on different labels and categorization systems? )
Basically, language is super complicated.
it’s 5am and Why The Fuck Am I Still Even Up, so i’m just going to say yesssssshhhhh to all of this now and maybe comment further later.
(also, i’m not sure where you heard that that there’s any kind of actual pressure to adopt a single-identity model as in English, but let me assure you that that is not at all the case and Aセクシャル / asexual vs ノンセクシャル / nonsexual is very much alive and well in Japan still.)
language is so beautifully and yet annoyingly complicated, i love it. <3
I…don’t actually remember where I had heard that (it was either a tumblr post or one of the skype groups I’m in, I think ), so there’s a very good chance that I am wildly misremembering the extent of the pushback described – I am really not an expert on that area.
My main exploration into the different linguistics of japanese ace groups was like, 5 years ago, and I haven’t really looked into it much since, so I had no idea if my knowledge was still true or not – thanks for clarifying!
just now coming back to this, but i really do love and agree with the commentary regarding how linguistics plays a part in all of this.
even from a non-linguistic point of view, the comment about how people with the same kinds of experiences refer to themselves as different things is especially relevant to me personally. even though my experiences have always been what they are and my gender has always been what it is, for example, i’ve referred to myself as different things over the years. while some people mistakenly see this as my gender changing, it’s always just been me referring to the same thing (maverique) as “neutrois” at one point and as “genderqueer” before that, before “non-binary” was even a commonly used word online.
going back to the linguistic side of recognition in general, another interesting thing to note is how words and identities can (do) semantically shift / change over time and how that can also play a part in recognition.
for example, “non-binary” as it is used today as an umbrella term is very similar to how i remember “genderqueer” being used online 4 years ago. meanwhile, it seems like the recognition or understanding of “genderqueer” today among many non-binary people is rather different from what the word / identity used to mean– and in fact still means among people who do not actively follow / participate in online non-binary spaces. i was in a non-binary chatroom recently when people were discussing how they feel “non-binary” is different from “genderqueer” and some of the things said about genderqueer very much conflicted with my own personal understanding of / experience with the word. i’ve written briefly about my own personal identity shift away from genderqueer over the years (although i can’t find it atm?), but i really do think that semantic / generally linguistic shifts like this also play a huge part in recognition and even in the previously mentioned “dialectal” differences between online and offline communities.
personally, i try not to view the lack of people identifying as X, Y or Z as directly translating into a lack of people who are what X, Y or Z describe. similarly, especially in generally gender-conscious spaces, i try not to view the lack of recognition of the specific identities X, Y, or Z as directly translating into a lack of general awareness of the fact that such people exist.
to use Japanese ace and non-binary communities as examples:
even though there is a distinction made in Japanese communities between aro aces (”asexuals”/Aセクシャル) and romantic aces (”nonsexuals”/ノンセクシャル), in my experience the vast majority of people use “asexual” / Aセクシャル for themselves to describe experiences that go far and beyond strictly being what English communities would refer to as aro ace. people in Japan are well aware of the fact that there is more to being ace than just being aro ace or romantic ace. there is recognition of this within ace spaces, even if there isn’t discussion of it anywhere near the level that exists in English spaces. Japanese aces are faced with a huge lexical gap due to a severe lack of words to describe different things. the lack of people identitying as X, Y or Z in Japan is not directly reflective of a lack of recognition on the part of Japanese aces, even if it may be that when it comes to society or the LGBT / セクマイ community as a whole.
the exact same thing is true also of non-binary / Xジェンダー communities in Japan at the moment, which is even younger and more disjointed than English speaking non-binary communities. people here know that a person could be a lot more than just the few most common non-binary gender identities that exist here, however there simply aren’t words for such genders at the moment. people with similar experiences identify as various things, while at the same time people with vastly different experiences all gather together under the same Xジェンダー identity. the lack of explicity identity as X, Y or Z or even the lack of open discussion of X, Y or Z genders is not necessarily indicative of a lack of recognition of those genders.
it’s just complicated.
so while there probably isn’t a single person in Japan identifying as maverique right now and there certainly isn’t any explicit recognition of maveriques w h a t s o e v e r, that doesn’t make me feel as alone as i could because i know that such lack of recognition and community doesn’t actually mean that i’m alone.