Cynthia Nixonâ€™s 30-point loss to Andrew Cuomo last night is nonetheless being touted as a win â€” forÂ elevatingÂ critical issues of racial and economic justice in New York andÂ oustingÂ a clique of Republican-enabling Democrats from the stateâ€™s senate. But thereâ€™s another accomplishment she can point to, and thatâ€™s bringing the reality of nonbinary and gender nonconforming people onto the political stage.
Conceding the race last night, NixonÂ tweeted, â€śTo all the young people. To all the young women. To all the young queer people who reject the gender binary. Soon youâ€™ll be standing here, and when itâ€™s your turn, youâ€™ll win.â€ť This echoes a remark she made at her get-out-the-vote rally the night before the election, where she greeted the crowd, â€śHello brothers, hello sisters, hello siblings that reject the gender binary.â€ť
To all the young people. To all the young women. To all the young queer people who reject the gender binary. Soon youâ€™ll be standing here, and when itâ€™s your turn, youâ€™ll win.
â€” Cynthia Nixon (@CynthiaNixon) September 14, 2018
These comments mirror a statement made by Democratic Congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez back in June when she encouraged â€śwomen and gender-expanding peopleâ€ť to run for office.
Until this summer â€” until these two democratic socialist women spoke up â€” I have never heard a Democrat of any stature acknowledge nonbinary peopleâ€™s existence. Itâ€™s galling that the bar is as low as â€śacknowledging I existâ€ť but damned if Iâ€™m not thrilled they cleared it.
Countless political speeches begin with â€śladies and gentlemenâ€ť or â€śbrothers and sisters.â€ť Public figures in elected office and beyond make references to â€śmen and womenâ€ť exclusively, even when describing the LGBTQ+ community. As the #MeToo movement gathered welcome momentum, too many of the discussions it kindled completely excluded the possibility that anyone but a man or woman might be involved in harassment and abuse â€” even as rates of sexual assault against transgender and nonbinary people remainÂ staggeringly high.
The persistent use of binary gendered language that excludes other possibilities works to hide those possibilities. And it works well â€” most of my life I had no idea I had any other option but to be a man or a woman and I lived in the ill-fitting role assigned to me until I was 35 years old. While itâ€™s been a joy to have finally stepped out of that role into one that gives me room to be a whole person, I wish Iâ€™d been able to do so earlier. I canâ€™t imagine what my life mightâ€™ve been like if Iâ€™d grown up in a world where candidates for public office casually tossed off references to people beyond the binary.
The erasure of nonbinary identity can have deadly consequences, even for people who do have a binary gender. The cisnormative idea that everyone should â€śpassâ€ť as a man or a woman contributes to the violence inflicted on those who canâ€™t or donâ€™t want to look the way society says they should. Itâ€™s no wonder there is anÂ epidemicÂ of murder committed against transgender and gender nonconforming people â€” particularly black trans women and other trans women of color.
Iâ€™m glad there are candidates like Nixon and Ocasio-Cortez whoâ€™ve used their time in the spotlight to open up space in our society for people like me. But that should not be a surprising rarity among Democrats â€” it should be the minimum acceptable standard for anyone who claims to be an ally of transgender and gender nonconforming people.
Image via Getty