A gender binary does not accurately describe the world I live in, and certainly not a world I want to live in. I commonly encounter people whose gender I cannot define, and instead of feeling threatened or anxious about the uncertainty, I feel liberated by the diversity.
I want our common humanity to bring us together. But I don't want to erase differences, I want to celebrate them. I want a world where we are all free to be 'out' about whatever gender we feel ourselves to be.
A person who identifies themselves as some form of nonbinary, like genderqueer, though, may have trouble defining how they relate to others, simply because there are not enough gender-neutral words in English. Here are options I have thought of:
- Instead of sister or brother, I can say sibling.
- Instead of daughter or son, I can say child.
- Instead of goddaughter or godson, I can say godchild.
- Instead of mother/grandmother/godmother or father/grandfather/godfather, I can say parent/grandparent/godparent.
- Instead of forefather or foremother, I can say ancestor.
- Instead of wife or husband, I can say spouse or partner.
- Instead of girlfriend or boyfriend, I can say friend, lover, or significant other.
In English, cousin is gender-neutral.
But what can I use in place of aunt or uncle? Niece or nephew?
'Social status' of adults is referred to by Mr. for men, and Mrs., Miss, or Ms. for women (depending on if they wish to announce their marital status, or not). But what can we use that is nongendered? I've seen Mx, which I think is pronounced 'mix'.
Hanne Blank's fascinating book, Straight: The Surprisingly Short History of Heterosexuality, points out that both of the adjectives heterosexual and homosexual refer not to who someone is intrinsically, but who their partner is. But both terms assume that there is a gender binary. What if your partner is genderqueer? Or intersex? What if you both are different flavors of nonbinary genders?
Are there other relationship words that I've missed?
What do you think?
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