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Transgender and Nonbinary Gender Policy in the Public Sector  

Nicole M. Elias

Our understanding and treatment of gender in the United States has evolved significantly over the past four decades. Transgender individuals in the current U.S. context enjoy more rights and protections than they have in the past; yet, room for progress remains. Moving beyond the traditional male–female binary, an unprecedented number of people now identify as transgender and nonbinary. Transgender identities are at the forefront of gender policy, prompting responses from public agencies at the local, state, and federal levels. Because transgender individuals face increased rates of discrimination, violence, and physical and mental health challenges, compared to their cisgender counterparts, new gender policy often affords legal protections as well as identity-affirming practices such as legal name and gender marker changes on government documents. These rights come from legal decisions, legislation, and administrative agency policies. Despite these victories, recent government action targeting the transgender population threatens the progress that has been made. This underscores the importance of comprehensive policies and education about transgender identities to protect the rights of transgender people.

Article

Nonbinary Trans Identities  

B. Lee Aultman

Nonbinary trans identities have historically referred to a range of gender non-normative embodiments and self-making practices that stand on the outside of, or sometimes in direct opposition to, the Western binary classifications of sex/gender (i.e., man or woman, male or female). These identities include but are not limited to androgyny, genderqueer, genderfluid, gender nonconforming, and genderf*ck. Increasingly, nonbinary has become its own free-standing identity, without many of the historical connotations that genderqueer, for instance, might invoke. Nonbinary people identify themselves with gender-neutral pronouns or a fluid mixture of gendered pronouns in social practices. Some transition and take on embodiments that have a particular gendered aesthetic. This may or may not include sexual reassignment surgeries and other procedures that are body confirming. In short, nonbinary people have varied and robust social lives. The umbrella category of “trans” helps to situate some of the meaning and history of gender-non-normative identities. On the one hand, it can be a productive political vehicle that mobilizes communities of similarly felt histories toward collective action. On the other hand, it can limit the range of recognized embodiments and practices that have participated in the historically pertinent conventions that trans describes. The history of nonbinary identities is then a complex prospect. Such identities alter the categorical assumptions that underscore transsexual and transgender identities within binary terms. The complex narratives and histories of nonbinary trans identities raise some timely questions about the conventions of sex/gender in contemporary life. What constitutes one’s enduring sense of gender now that the binary itself has come under dispute? Should the gender binary be protected and for whom? In what varied ways do nonbinary identities alter a commonly shared imaginary of the bodily aesthetic? What role does desire play in the ongoing social changes in this long revolution of the body? The politics that emerge from these questions are becoming increasingly pressing as technology can now link otherwise isolated people across global boundaries. And finally, the reception of nonbinary identities offers important spaces of dialogue about the proliferation of identity politics, political movements, and the social divisions of labor these forces demand.