Open Access Open Access  Restricted Access Subscription or Fee Access

Leave those kids alone: On the uses and abuses and feminist queer potential of non-binary and genderqueer

Lucy Nicholas, Sal Clark

Full Text: PDF



The argument of this paper is that, despite their limits, gender ‘proliferations’ like nonbinary and genderqueer are the most effective and pragmatic approaches to overcoming or dismantling the gender binary whilst also expanding the range of ‘cultural resources’ of gender in the meantime. We make this case with the political and ethical caveat, however, that it would be politically ideal for these invocations of proliferation to be complemented by ongoing attempts to challenge sex/gender itself. We first outline the many ways that non-binary and genderqueer identities are invoked by numerous commentators as either symbols of progress, or weaponised for antithetical political purposes by a coalition of forces hostile to their proliferation. We then outline a defence of these identities as ontologically, pragmatically and socially justified, with feminist and queer political potential. We will make an argument as to why the invocation of non-binary and genderqueer as identity or subject positions is both understandable, due to the cultural constraints of the compulsarity of gender identity in society, and a potentially politically effective strategy. We then go on to engage, generously, with some potential limitations around non-binary and genderqueer and their potential collapse in to normativity, and consider how these may be addressed or mitigated against by a queer ethics. In short, we argue that non-binary and genderqueer can be understood as ways to make space in a structure that is not likely to crumble any time soon.

Keywords: non-binary; genderqueer; radical feminism; queer ethics; identity politics

NOTE: Both authors wish to acknowledge that they live and work on stolen land, never ceded by the custodians, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin  nation. We pay our respects to elders past and present and to the ways  that gender and sexuality have long been understood by the Indigenous  custodians of these lands

Bibliography: Nicholas, Lucy/Clark, Sal: Leave those kids alone: On the uses and abuses and feminist queer potential of non-binary and genderqueer, INSEP – Journal of the International Network for Sexual Ethics & Politics, Vol. 8, Special Issue 2020, pp. 36-55.