Xanthe, 15: ‘You can just have fun with gender’

Rainbow: “I realised I didn’t like particularly girly things… but occasionally I would.”

What does it mean to be gender-fluid? Xanthe tells The Day that they do not feel like a boy or a girl. “I’m just me,” they say. More teenagers than ever are rejecting the old gender binaries…

Xanthe is 15 years old. They love “eating and sleeping mostly”, have a pet owl named Squiggle, and one day they hope to be a stylist to the stars.

They are also gender-fluid, meaning they do not think of themselves as a boy or a girl, but can switch between the two. “Put very simply, I feel I can wear a suit comfortably, but also rock a pair of heels with it.”

Gender-fluidity is a non-binary gender identity. “Non-binary” is an umbrella term for genders that are neither male nor female. For Xanthe, it means: “You can be incredibly manly, you can be incredibly womanly.”

Xanthe does not mind which pronouns people use to refer to them — “they”, “she” or “he” are all fine. “I quite enjoy when people think I’m a boy because it’s different from what I usually get... it makes me feel kind of giddy.”

To Xanthe, “gender is a mental state and does not at all apply to your body type. It applies to your taste, it applies to the way you act.”

More and more teenagers are rejecting the gender binary, the idea that there are only two genders, male and female. Xanthe believes there are an “infinite” number.

They say social media is helping more non-binary people to express their individuality. Often, however, “people assume you’re just making it up. But it doesn’t feel like something that I need to really explain… I’m okay with it really, because it’s their problem that they don’t understand.”

How important is gender to society?

“Reasonably,” Xanthe says. “I don’t think gender completely defines a person, because it is up to you how you define yourself.” As for the rest of society, “I don’t think we should be worrying” about gender, “I think we should be presenting more of a spectrum. That’s very important… A lot of people get discrimination for it, I’m just lucky that I haven’t.”

You Decide

  1. How many genders are there?

Activities

  1. Write down all of the characteristics and stereotypes that you can think of which are associated with non-binary people. Then discuss: Are they mostly positive or negative traits? If you know any non-binary people in real life, do you think they fit those stereotypes?

Some People Say...

“Gender is not sane. It’s not sane to call a rainbow black and white.”

Kate Bornstein

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Your gender is how you feel inside, not the biological sex that you were born with, which is determined by your genitals, hormones or chromosomes. Some cultures, such as Mexican and Indian, have long had room for a third gender.
What do we not know?
How many people in the UK identify as non-binary. There are plans to introduce a broader question about gender in the 2021 census.

Word Watch

They
Although Xanthe does not mind which pronouns are used, The Day has decided to use “they”, as it is a common option for non-binary people. It also clearly demonstrates Xanthe’s rejection of the idea that people must choose between two genders.
Non-binary
The term “non-binary”, when it comes to gender, rejects the idea that there are only two genders, male and female. Instead, it encourages people to see gender as a spectrum.
More and more
A poll by Fusion in 2015 found that around half of millennials believed that gender is a spectrum.

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