I always thought it would be cool if there was a cute graph or chart to helpfully indicate the differences between (and the different spectrums of) sex, sexuality and gender. The problem was I never liked any of them. At best, they were limited in their usefulness or oversimplified, at worst they reproduced incorrect or harmful ideas. I’ve come to accept that there’s never going to be a handy little chart that illustrates exactly how all of these things work and the ways in which they are or are not interconnected, this shit is just way too complicated for a cute little infographic. Breaking down the binary and deconstructing sexual dyadism* are way too messy and complex for tidy labels and tidy infographics, in fact its our addiction to symplifying complex and nuanced concepts that gets us stuck with these rigid, inaccurate systems of classification like the gender binary and sexual dyadism.
My first and most salient reason for taking issue with infographics like the genderbread person is that they always fail to illustrate that the dyadism of biological sex is a social construct. Granted, its not really the kind of thing you can explain with a graph or a chart, but that’s kind of my reasoning for not using them.
Also, genderqueer is frequently represented as the only non-binary identity and it is always illustrated as being between or consisting of a combination of male and female. I understand that a lot of people use genderqueer as an umbrella term, but a lot of people also use it as a singular gender identity, but my real issue here is that there is more than one non-binary identity and most of them are not made up of male and female or anywhere in between them, a concept these infographics consistently fail to illustrate correctly.
Another thing I take issue with is the representation of sexuality in these infographics. Every graph or chart I’ve seen so far uses attraction to men and attraction to women as opposite poles or as two “independant unidirectional linear continua” in the case of the updated genderbread person. What about people who are primarily attracted to non-binary gendered people? Which, contrary to what the infographics would have you believe, is not just a mash up of masculinity and femininity.
The spectrum-style charts also create a problem when they line up all of the woman/female/feminine poles on one end and all of the man/male/masculine poles on the other, implying that default alignment for an intersex person (or whatever identity is used to mark the middle of the first spectrum) would be something like “intersex/genderqueer/androgynous/bisexual”, which is ridiculous. The conflation of “neutral” and “androgynous” by using them interchangeably to mark the middle of a spectrum on which the two poles are male/female or man/woman is incorrect as well; neutral means “of no distinctive quality, characteristics, or type”, androgynous means “having both masculine and feminine characteristics” these are clearly not the same thing. Having a neutral gender or gender expression is not the same as having an androgynous one. “Androgynous” belongs between “masculine” and “feminine”, a truly neutral gender or gender expression is independent of all three and belongs on an independent axis.
In the end, if you really have to use one, the genderbread person v2.0 is the best one out there, as for me I’m content to continue hashing out the nitty gritty details and intricacies the old fashioned way, with my words.
*see the Glossary page if you don’t know what this term means.