Whether or not we are conscious of it, the gender binary (i.e. the notion that one’s gender can only be one of two distinct varieties – male or female, and that it is necessarily dictated by the sex one was assigned at birth) exists everywhere in our society and we experience it every day. From the moment we are born, we are labeled as either “male” or “female,” and from that point forward, we are referred to by specific gendered pronouns (i.e. he/his, she/her), we are dressed in colors and clothing that are traditionally indicative of femininity or masculinity, and we are treated in ways that our society teaches us to treat boys and girls, depending on their gendered “box.”
The gender binary has been institutionalized in our culture. We see it in our gendered language, bathrooms, applications and forms, sports teams, personal records, and in many more places. Because “male” and “female” are the only two legally recognized genders, falling outside of the gender binary has significant negative implications for accessing healthcare, legal benefits, inheritance, employment, housing, and any other kind of institutionalized resource.
What does it mean to fall outside the gender binary? To fall outside the gender binary means identifying with a gender that is not male or female, but rather something more nuanced and complex. You may have heard the notion that gender exists on a continuum, that there exists not only the two ends of the continuum (male and female), but that there are infinite gender identities that exist between them. There are infinite shades of gray.
I had a chance to catch up with one such individual, Chicago native Lauren Lubin, who is currently working on a documentary called Gender Blender: A Movie about A Third Gender. Lauren took the incredibly brave path of documenting her transition from “female” to “gender neutral,” in order to share her journey with the world and raise awareness about the very important issue of gender diversity and existing outside the gender binary.
Betsy Rubinstein: Lauren, congratulations on the development of your new documentary, Gender Blender! Can you tell me a little bit about the synopsis of the film?
Lauren Lubin: Thank you for having me! The film gives an intimate window into the challenges, triumphs, and experiences of the everyday life of those who live outside of the gender binary. The film will follow my life ‘pre’ and ‘post’ transition, and will document how a post-op gender-neutral person like me has to relearn, and re-assimilate themselves into a gender-binary society. The style is very cinematic, and captures moments that have never been shown in a feature-film before.
BR: What inspired you to document your experience in such an intimate way through film? And, why this medium in particular?
LL: The children (and their families) who will be able to use this film as a resource motivated me to embark on this project. People like me are virtually invisible in our global society, and any type of representation acts as a vital resource for them. I chose to document my transition because I believe in the power of honesty. I also believe in the power of film. By educating the masses through an engaging, empowering and touching film, we can impact and promote change.
BR: What advice do you have for those who are currently struggling with their gender identity?
LL: As cliché as this is: it is only truth that can set you free. Only you know your truth, therefore no one can tell you otherwise. Where the struggle lies is in the denial of our inner knowing, and in the acceptance of antiquated or ignorant societal norms. The struggle dies the moment we accept ourselves over society. And… it always gets better.
BR: Can you envision a world that has broken free from the gender binary? What do you think it would look like?
LL: Yes, I can envision this world because I see glimpses of it already. Our youth are far more enlightened and accepting of gender diversity than previous generations, and countries around the world are starting to embrace movements friendly to our cause. For example, Nepal just announced that they will begin issuing citizenship certificates with the category “third gender” for people who do not wish to be identified as male or female. Another example comes from Canada, where there is a growing movement to remove gender markers from passports. Change is happening.
Humans are born not just male and female, but a multitude of beautiful gender expressions. A world that breaks free of the gender binary would be one where science and logic trumps antiquated beliefs, and where everyone is granted their birth-right to live free of abuse and discrimination.
BR: Where are you and your team in the development of Gender Blender? What can we do to help support your project?
LL: Gender Blender is currently in production! However, we are actively fundraising for post-production, and to get this film out as soon as possible. The best way to support us is to donate to the project and tell others to do the same. We are fiscally sponsored by the IFP, therefore all donations are tax-deductible. Here is the donation link: https://fiscal.ifp.org/donate.cfm?donate=586
BR: I can’t wait to see it! When do you anticipate the film will be available to the public?
LL: We cannot wait to share it! We anticipate Gender Blender to be available by the end of this year/beginning of next year. Mark your calendars! Also, make sure to follow any of our social media pages for the latest Gender Blender updates.
Learn more about Lauren Lubin’s story on her website, Facebook page, and her Chicago Ideas Week video presentation. Make a tax-deductible donation to help support the development of Gender Blender here.
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Betsy was born in Chicago and raised in the northern suburbs of the city. She graduated from Washington University in St. Louis with her B.A. in Philosophy, and went on to pursue her M.A. in Social Work from the University of Chicago. Over the past six years, Betsy has developed and pursued her passion for women’s health, LGBTQ issues, and social justice. In January of 2012, she became the Manager of the Lesbian Community Care Project (LCCP) at Howard Brown Health Center, the largest LGBTQ healthcare organization in the Midwest. Betsy is thrilled to join The L Stop team to write for the Queering Her Health blog. She hopes the blog will: 1) help LBTQ women get access to health information that is focused specifically on queer women’s health issues, 2) provide resources for LBTQ women to get connected to healthcare that is safe and affirming, and 3) encourage queer women to take care of themselves and their health, because we’re worth it!