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  • Writer's pictureStar Williams

Non-Binary and Puzzled: My Undies Ain't Gendered

Updated: Aug 17, 2018

When you ship stuff to another country, it seems you have to gender it.

See, we're moving back home to the USA, using a company called Seven Seas. So. Five packing boxes arrive. Great! But because of customs in various countries, or whatnot, we're told we must list every item we're packing in said boxes on a rather impressive form. And—here comes the puzzling bit—on this form, using a dropdown menu, you must gender every item you pack.

Is this to do with beliefs about what "men and women" pack in said boxes? Do such labels exist for places where only women look through women's stuff, and so on? Is there a legality somewhere? Is there certain stuff that folks in customs want to know about before they see it? Or is someone just messing around, trying to get me to gender a desk lamp?

Here's the rub. I'm non-binary, so anything that involves me classifying myself, or my stuff, into "male or female" is pretty darn disturbing. Hell, it might well be disturbing to anyone, especially those who feel different. But when you're used to being made invisible by the binaried world around you, gendering your Crocs becomes all the more frustrating.

"Are you breaking some either/or cultural law, just by being who you are?" says Kate Bornstein in her beautiful Hello Cruel World. "If so, you're not alone."

Thank dog for you, Kate Bornstein!

Fortunately, Seven Seas, God bless their cotton socks, include an "other" category, as well as "male" and "female." This may well be because you can't gender a pair of tongs. (Or can you?) But whatever the reason, I appreciate it. And frankly, if companies everywhere could please remember the "other" category when using gender marker dropdowns, I'll send them Valentines all year long, no matter what the cost of a postage stamp.

Sainsbury's home delivery: fuzzy hearts coming soon.

But seriously, isn't it maddening, this focus on gender? The idea that a piece of cloth you wear to cover your bod should somehow be "female" is clearly bonkers. And surely if underwear does possess a gender, the latter depends on the person who's wearing it. But no! Apparently, if a man buys a bra and puts it on, he's wearing female clothing—or so we're told. It's enough to make this humble queer want to eat their own head.

Binaries. They're everywhere. The big either/or of fairy tales. As a society, we put them on everything, even on genderless objects. Humans construct and construct, time and again, then try to argue that gender isn't a construct.

So how to proceed with this flaming packing, without getting triggered?

In my dreams, each piece of underwear I happen to have bought from Victoria's Secret shall, from this point on, be named Harold, Deepak, or Philippe. "Philippe the pair of underpants," or "Deepak the stocking." The little shorts I purchased from Top Man will, from hereon out, be referred to as "Astrid the First," as will my slouchy sweatpants. (An abundance of Astrids! Deal with that, binaries!) Plus, our picture of a cat wearing pearls and an Audrey Hepburn tiara will now be referred to as "Mx. Excalibur," which, I have decided, is a grand non-binary name. And I'm not shipping tampons, but if I were—and this here is very important, because there are men and non-binary peeps who have periods too—those tampons would not receive a gendered identity. Rather, they would be my "little mice." Mice, after all, have no gender.

Those who think I'm wrong, just ask one.




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