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robertogreco : nonbinary   2

On Instagram, Seeing Between the (Gender) Lines - The New York Times

"Around the same time, Moore became aware of a performance-and-poetry group (now disbanded) called Dark Matter. Moore became transfixed by videos of one of its members, Alok Vaid-Menon, who was able to eloquently dismiss conventional notions of gender, particularly the idea that there are only two. Seeing people like Vaid-Menon online gave Moore the courage to reconsider how they approached gender. Moore began experimenting with their outward appearance. Before Moore changed the pronoun they used, Moore had favored a more masculine, dandy-like aesthetic — close-cropped hair, button-down shirts and bow ties — in large part to fit in at work. Moore began wearing their hair longer and often chose less gender-specific clothing, like T-shirts or boxy tops, which felt more natural and comfortable to them. Vaid-Menon’s assuredness, Moore said, “boosted my confidence in terms of defining and asserting my own identity in public spaces.”

A shift in technology emboldened Moore, too. In 2014, Facebook updated its site to include nonbinary gender identities and pronouns, adding more than 50 options for users who don’t identify as male or female, including agender, gender-questioning and intersex. It was a profound moment for Moore. “They had options I didn’t even know about,” Moore told me. That summer, Moore selected “nonbinary,” alerting their wider social spheres, including childhood friends and family members who also used the site. For Moore, it saved them some of the energy of having to explain their name and pronoun shift. Moore also clarified their gender pronouns on Instagram. “I wrote it into my profile to make it more explicit.” To some, the act might seem small, but for Moore, their identity “felt crystallized, and important.”

Several societies and cultures understand gender as more varied than just man or woman, but in the United States, a gender binary has been the norm. “In our cultural history, we’ve never had anything close to a third category, or even the notion that you could be in between categories,” said Barbara Risman, a sociology professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Risman, who recently published a book called “Where the Millennials Will Take Us: A New Generation Wrestles With the Gender Structure,” contrasted her early research with what she is seeing now. Few of the people she interviewed for the book in 2012 and 2013 were openly using nongendered pronouns, if they even knew about them. Just four years later, she began researching nonbinary young adults because the landscape had changed so radically. “It was reflexive with their friends at school, social groups. Many colleges classes start out with ‘Name, major and preferred pronouns,’ ” Risman told me. In Risman’s experience, it used to take decades to introduce new ideas about sex, sexuality or gender, and even longer for them to trickle upstream into society. “What’s fascinating is how quickly the public conversation has led to legal changes,” Risman said. California and Washington, among others, now allow people to select “x” as their gender, instead of “male” or “female,” on identity documents. “And I am convinced that it has to do with — like everything else in society — the rapid flow of information.”

Helana Darwin, a sociologist at the State University of New York at Stony Brook who began researching nonbinary identities in 2014, found that the social-media community played an unparalleled role in people’s lives, especially those who were geographically isolated from other nonbinary people. “Either they were very confused about what was going on or just feeling crushingly lonely and without support, and their online community was the only support in their lives,” Darwin told me. “They turned to the site to understand they aren’t alone.” Most of her subjects said social media was instrumental in deepening their understanding of their identities. “A 61-year-old person in my sample told me that they lived the vast majority of their life as though they were a gay man and was mistaken often as a drag queen after coming out. They didn’t discover nonbinary until they were in their 50s, and it was a freeing moment of understanding that nothing is wrong. They didn’t have to force themselves into the gay-man or trans-woman box — they could just be them. They described it as transcendent.”

When Darwin began her study four years ago, she was shocked to discover that the body of research on nonbinary people was nearly nonexistent. “Even as nonbinary people are becoming increasing visible and vocal, there were still only a handful of articles published in the field of sociology that were even tangentially about nonbinary people and even fewer that were explicitly about nonbinary people.” What little research there was tended to lump the nonbinary experience into trans-woman and trans-man experience, even though all signs pointed to deep differences. The void in the field, she thinks, was due to society’s reliance on the notion that all humans engage in some sense of gender-based identity performance, which reaffirms the idea that gender exists. “There was an academic lag that isn’t keeping with the very urgent and exponentially profound gender revolution happening in our culture.”

Her research found that social media is a gathering place for discussing the logistics of gender — providing advice, reassurance and emotional support, as well as soliciting feedback about everything from voice modulation to hairstyles. The internet is a place where nonbinary people can learn about mixing masculine and feminine elements to the point of obscuring concrete identification as either. As one person she interviewed put it, “Every day someone can’t tell what I am is a good day.”

Nearly everyone Darwin interviewed remarked about the power of acquiring language that spoke to their identity, and they tended to find that language on the internet. But Harry Barbee, a nonbinary sociologist at Florida State University who studies sex, gender and sexuality, cautioned against treating social media as a curative. “When the world assumes you don’t exist, you’re forced to define yourself into existence if you want some semblance of recognition and social viability, and so the internet and social media helps achieve this,” Barbee said. “But it’s not a dream world where we are free to be you and me, because it can also be a mechanism for social control.” Barbee has been researching what it means to live as nonbinary in a binary world. Social media, Barbee said, is “one realm where they do feel free to share who they are, but they’re realistic about the limitations of the space. Even online, they are confronted by hostility and people who are telling them they’re just confused or that makes no sense, or want to talk to them about their genitals.”"

"Psychologists often posit that as children, we operate almost like scientists, experimenting and gathering information to make sense of our surroundings. Children use their available resources — generally limited to their immediate environment — to gather cues, including information about gender roles, to create a sense of self. Alison Gopnik, a renowned philosopher and child psychologist, told me that it’s not enough to simply tell children that other identities or ways of being exist. “That still won’t necessarily change their perspective,” she said. “They have to see it.”

In her 2009 book, “The Philosophical Baby,” Gopnik writes that “when we travel, we return to the wide-ranging curiosity of childhood, and we discover new things about ourselves.” In a new geographic area, our attention is heightened, and everything, from differently labeled condiments to streetwear, becomes riveting. “This new knowledge lets us imagine new ways that we could live ourselves,” she asserts. Flying over feeds in social media can feel like viewing portholes into new dimensions and realities, so I asked Gopnick if it’s possible that social media can function as a foreign country, where millions of new ideas and identities and habitats are on display — and whether that exposure can pry our calcified minds open in unexpected ways. “Absolutely,” she said. “Having a wider range of possibilities to look at gives people a sense of a wider range of possibilities, and those different experiences might lead to having different identities.”

When we dive into Instagram or Facebook, we are on exploratory missions, processing large volumes of information that help us shape our understanding of ourselves and one another. And this is a country that a majority of young adults are visiting on a regular basis. A Pew study from this year found that some 88 percent of 18-to-29-year-olds report using some form of social media, and 71 percent of Americans between ages 18 and 24 use Instagram. Social media is perhaps the most influential form of media they now have. They turn to it for the profound and the mundane — to shape their views and their aesthetics. Social media is a testing ground for expression, the locus of experimentation and exploration — particularly for those who cannot yet fully inhabit themselves offline for fear of discrimination, or worse. Because of that, it has become a lifeline for many people struggling to find others just like them."

"Although social media generally conditions users to share only their highlights — the success reel of their lives — Vaid-Menon thinks it’s important to share the reality of living in a gender-nonconforming body; they want people to understand what the daily experience can be like. “The majority of nonbinary, gender-nonconforming cannot manifest themselves because to do so would mean violence, death, harassment and punishment,” Vaid-Menon told me. … [more]
jennawortham  2018  instagam  internet  web  online  gender  gendernonconforming  culture  us  alisongopnik  maticemoore  alokvaid-memon  barbararisman  helanadarwin  psychology  learning  howwelearn  nonbinary  sexuality  jacobtobia  pidgeonpagonis  danezsmith  akwaekeemezi  jonelyxiumingaagaardandersson  ahomariturner  raindove  taylormason  asiakatedillon  twitter  instagram  children  dennisnorisii  naveenbhat  elisagerosenberg  sevaquinnparraharrington  ashleighshackelford  hengamehyagoobifarah  donaldtrump  socialmedia  socialnetworks  discrimination  fear  bullying  curiosity  childhood  identity  self  language 
9 weeks ago by robertogreco

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