Considering it is Pride month, I want to invite the readers to join the conversation on the gender spectrum. Let me start with the basic, definition of gender; it refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviours, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women, and sex; refers to the biological and physiological characteristics that define men and women (WHO). According to Ontario’s Humans Rights Commission, Gender identity is each person’s internal and individual experience of gender. It is a person’s sense of being a woman, a man, neither, or anywhere along the gender spectrum. A person’s gender identity may be the same as or different from their birth-assigned sex. Gender expression is how a person publicly expresses or presents their gender. This can include behaviour and outward appearances such as dress, hair, make-up, body language and voice. A person’s chosen name and pronoun are also common ways of expressing gender. Others perceive a person’s gender through these attributes.

At this stage, our society presumes that a person may express their gender in congruence with their biological sex. This view that humans are of two types, male and female, is called the gender binary. While gender binary may be the norm, some people like me have identified it as a restriction. Having stepped out of the gender binary, non-binary people no longer assess human behaviour based on the premise of assigned gender roles. This allows one to avoid judging others and their self, based on gender roles, making room for well-being. In my personal journey, identifying as non-binary has proved helpful in detaching myself from society’s expectations of me based on my assigned gender at birth. This perspective acknowledges the biological difference between males and females but does not impose masculinity and femininity based on biology alone.

As a researcher and advocate for gender-diverse people, my intention is to create more spaces to allow for research and conversation to take place in this area in hopes of creating a better-informed society. We need more understanding of people identifying outside the gender binary in India. Some of the variables that could be explored via research are the quality of life, mental health status, physical health status, identification of queer-informed healthcare professionals, the status of education and other demographics among queer folks. Qualitative research can help identify support networks and the workings of support networks, systemic discrimination, health-seeking, and help-seeking behaviours among nonbinary people, etc.

Research in the Western world has shown that gender-diverse individuals struggle with social and family acceptance which leaves them vulnerable to mental health struggles. A higher percentage of gender-diverse people struggle with harassment and exclusion in the healthcare system, depression, anxiety, and alcohol use disorders compared to binary individuals ((Stanton et al., 2021)). There are talks of gender diversity/nonbinary people in the media and many are sharing their stories on social media but now this movement requires support from the research community. I look up to Dr Shruti Chakravarty, she is the Chief Advisor for Mariwala Health Initiative and her areas of engagement include mental health, gender, sexuality and human rights. I feel fortunate to have identified an Indian queer academician to look up to, her work and engagement via social media have made a considerable impact on my journey as a queer researcher. I would like to close by honouring her words “Norms are being broken daily, and people’s identities, desires and relationships are far too varied and complex to be squeezed into the narrow band that the heteronormative allows.” In the spirit of PRIDE, I encourage you to take part in taking another step towards a more inclusive system and society. You have already taken the first step by joining the conversation through this blog.

Thank you for tuning in.

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