The Future is Gender Chill

January 15, 2020

Megan Kipperman

Megan Kipperman (she/her) is a self-described bicon who has been involved in the marketing industry for 3 years. Some of her extracurricular activities include creating queer headcanons for her favorite shows, circulating memes, and taking naps. Currently, she lives in New York City with her cat, Shia LeFluff.

When people think about famous nonbinary celebrities, their minds likely go to the highly publicized few, such as Ezra Miller, Ruby Rose, Jonathan Van Ness, and Asia Kate Dillon. Maybe they’re more in-the-know, and can also name newly-out Brigette Lundy-Paine and model-turned-actress, Cara Delevigne. If you put them in a line-up, you could easily see how they fit the mold of what one can appreciate as nonbinary - thin, tall, androgynous (read: masculine lite), and white.

The beautiful thing about nonbinary gender identity is that it encompasses anyone who doesn’t feel like they fit within the constructs of the two outlined genders we are assigned at birth. Nonbinary folks could use they/them pronouns, she/her pronouns, or neopronouns (pronouns outside of they/she/he) such as xe/xir. Because of how broad this identity umbrella is, we don’t all have a singular “look.” There is no “typical” nonbinary person because we all have our own unique understanding of how we’re comfortable expressing our gender identities. For some of us, it looks the same as anyone who identifies with the gender binary. For others, it looks like a beautiful mix-and-match of styles and elements that are culturally understood to be either male or female.

For many of us who don’t identify as either of the two genders on the binary, that standard is just unrealistic. Oftentimes, we see the pictures of those “accepted” and “understood” to be nonbinary and know that we aren’t going to fit into the homogeneity of the acceptable nonbinary aesthetic. Even when the nonbinary person is thin and white, if she doesn’t fit into the mold of what our idea of nonbinary “looks like” she’ll be misgendered by her exes and godmother; letting us all know that dressing traditionally feminine is not acceptable for nonbinary folks assigned female at birth (AFAB) and use “binary” pronouns. Also notably, the only people who are assigned male at birth (AMAB) and accepted as nonbinary must perform being nonbinary by wearing traditionally feminine clothing or makeup, lest they be seen as eccentric men. (Of course, if they dress too feminine, like Indya Moore, they will be mistaken for trans women and misgendered in media outlets.)

When Brooklyn-based Posture Media’s Winter Mendelson and Asher Torres took the stage at The 3% Conference, they came with a message and the action to prove it. Nonbinary isn’t inherently white, nor is it necessarily thin, nor is it going to fit the perfectly androgynous guideline that media would have us believe. In fulfilling their mission of “champion[ing] diversity in advertising and communications,” Posture hires primarily women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ folks. 

“What’s In A Pronoun?” is a video created for Pride by Posture Media, and Winter provided a succinct and thoughtful explanation of nonbinary identity: “To identify and express oneself outside of the binary gender system.” The video follows five nonbinary folks of color in New York City. It visually and literally tells us some of the most basic (and nonetheless important) fundamentals of living outside of the binary: we spend so much time trying to make others comfortable, we feel our best when we can be ourselves, and we know that the world we live in wasn’t built for us. It ends with one of the microaggressions nonbinary folks deal with regularly, their waiter approaching with a friendly: “Hey ladies, let me know what I can get for ya.” 

In this piece, Posture showcases five nonbinary folks who present both highly feminine and highly masculine, and some who present in the middle. Instead of presenting us with the status quo, Posture lives to its mission by casting and hiring people to tell their own stories. In speaking toward that mission, Winter turns to Asher to explain his process for hiring. As a trans person of color, he says, it’s easy to find talent because of the connections the community has. He actively seeks out creators through Instagram, primarily, and builds a relationship with them. Winter added that it’s important to be active in your search for diverse talent because “you can’t expect [marginalized] people to feel comfortable to come to you,” especially in a world where trans women of color are murdered on a much too regular basis in the USA. 

Speakers on the stage

So how do we, in the advertising and communications world, provide better representation for trans and nonbinary folks? One simple answer is to hire Posture to consult with your team. The more complex answer is to look at the people around you and ask some key questions:

Do you have trans and nonbinary people on your staff? 

If not: Hire trans and nonbinary people. We’re pretty cool.

If you were trans or nonbinary, would you feel comfortable coming out in your workplace?

If not: Hire an external agency (Posture Media, for example) to do some trainings on gender diversity

If not: Reassess the language you and your coworkers use. Do you address your team as “Hey guys!” or use the term “Girl” or “Lady” when talking to coworkers you presume to be women? 

If not: Fire people who are blatantly transphobic and/or misogynistic; if we hear misogyny in the workplace, we sure aren’t going to be coming out.

After some and/or all of these are done, you should hire trans and nonbinary people. Don’t put us into an unsafe scenario and expect us to make it better by existing

Are you a generally LGBTQ+ friendly space?

What this looks like: Gender neutral and accessible bathrooms
What this looks like: Gender bias training for all employees, especially leadership and HR roles
What this looks like: Pronouns listed in e-mail signatures
What this does NOT look like: A Pride float (sorry ‘bout it) 

The onus on creating accessible, safe spaces for trans and nonbinary folks is on people who identify as the gender they were assigned at birth. While we do our best to promote our own communities and empower our trans and nonbinary siblings, we cannot do this alone. Widening the scope of who and what trans and nonbinary folks are and look like is only one step, albeit a huge one. Bring us to the table to talk about our experiences, and pay us for our time and effort. This kind of change can drastically alter heavy statistics about trans suicides, murders, and mental health decline. After all, the future isn’t female, it is (as Jacob Tobia puts it) “gender-chill.”