Definition of "Gender Binary"

Pronounced "jen-DER BYE-nair-ee."

Related terms include gender essentialism, gender spectrum, nonbinary, and cissexism.

"Gender-segregated bathrooms with woman-in-a-dress and man-in-pants icons are a manifestation of gender binarism."

Gender binarism, or the gender binary, is the separation of males and females into two socially and biologically distinct categories that are viewed as opposite from one another and diametrically opposed. Gender binarism involves the assumption that all AMABs are inherently masculine and that all AFABs are inherently feminine. Gender binarism discourages the crossing and mixing of gender roles and gender identities. It reinforces gender-based stereotypes and devalues people with trans*, intersex, or nonbinary identities.

Gender binarism is hurtful to people in all spaces of the gender spectrum. By labeling and restricting certain interests, careers, and activities to "masculinity" or "femininity," it makes life unnecessarily difficult and restrictive to men as well as women. It can also be viewed as the driving force behind patriarchy and misogyny. People with nonbinary gender identity or gender expression may struggle with prejudice and persecution under a culture steeped in gender binarism.

The term "gender binary" became part of the mainstream feminist lexicon during the second wave feminist movement of the 1960s through 1980s, and has continued to be part of feminist and sociological discourse throughout the 21st century.