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International Non-Binary Day 2021

15.07.2021 / Created by (EMWF)

International Non-Binary Day, celebrated around the world every year on July 14th, is an occasion to lift up non-binary members within the LGBTQ community. At a time when young people’s identities are being targeted by legislation in multiple states, it is crucial to remind LGBTQ young people that their identities are valid - and worth fighting for.

The term non-binary describes someone who does not identify exclusively as a man or a woman. Non-binary people may identify as being both a man and a woman, somewhere in between or as falling completely outside these categories. While many also identify as transgender, not all non-binary people do. Non-binary can also be used as an umbrella term encompassing identities such as agender, bigender, genderqueer or genderfluid.

Even though Western cultures tend to reinforce the idea that gender identity and expression are a strict binary, it’s simply not true. Non-binary people have existed for centuries and they show us every day that knowing one’s self and identity is a powerful thing that no one can strip away.

There is still a lot of work that needs to be done when it comes to securing full protections and rights for our non-binary siblings, but amid that work we must take time to celebrate as well.

Here are seven historical facts that challenge the concept of clear gender binary: 

  1. Around 5000 to 3000 B.C., Gala, described as androgynous or trans priests of the Sumerian goddess Inanna, spoke their own dialect and took on feminine names.
  2. Sometime from 200 to 300 B.C., in ancient Greece, some gods were worshiped by galli priests who wore feminine attire, identified as women and have therefore been identified by scholars as early transgender figures.
  3. In the fourth century, Anastasia the Patrician fled life in Constantinople, the capital of the Roman Empire, to spend the remainder of life dressed masculinely as a monk, and has become viewed by some scholars as transgender.
  4. In South Asia, at least eight-known gender-expansive identities have historically been present in the subcontinent, the most well-known being hijra - third gender people of historical, spiritual, and cultural significance in South Asian society. Hijra and individuals of diverse gender identities have been well-documented in religious and cultural texts and legends. These individuals often form intentional communities for community as well as survival.
  5. Around the 18th century, the Itelmens of Siberia recognized a “third gender” called “koekchuch” to describe individuals who were assigned male at birth, but expressed themselves as women.
  6. The oldest Western institute studying LGBTQ identities was started in Germany in 1919. Institut für Sexualwissenschaft (Institute for Sex Research) performed some of the earliest contemporary affirming medical services. It was eventually destroyed in the rise of German fascism under the Nazi party.
  7. In Turtle Island (an Indigenous name for North America), Indigenous communities use the term two-spirit as a modern, pan-Indigenous umbrella identifier for people of another societal and ceremonial gender identity. This term was established in 1990 as a modern, collective term for a historical gender identity describing individuals not considered men or women in most, if not all Indigenous cultures of Turtle Island.

Read more on the topic at the platform of Human Rights Campaign. 


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