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The Normativity of Recognition: Non-Binary Gender Markers in Australian Law and Policy

Gender Panic, Gender Policy

ISBN: 978-1-78743-203-1, eISBN: 978-1-78743-202-4

Publication date: 27 October 2017


Purpose: To consider the extent to which the legal recognition of non-binary gender has the potential to disrupt the gender binary.

Methodology/Approach: This chapter will employ case study as method, focusing on recent changes to Australian law and policy, which introduce a third gender category. I rely on the work of queer theorists on normativity and recognition as a theoretical framework and on the work of social scientists on transgender people as evidence.

Findings: This chapter finds that while there is much to be celebrated about increasing alternatives to the dominant categories of male and female, the legal recognition of non-binary gender may in fact serve to conceptually purge the dominant gender categories of non-conforming elements while simultaneously masking the ways in which institutions of regulatory power continue to demand conformity with normative standards of gender.

Research Limitations: Since few non-binary individuals in Australia have adopted the X marker the implications laid out in this paper are speculative. The experiences of non-binary individuals present an important avenue for further research.

Practical Implications: I recommend, as an alternative to further gender classifications, that we should seek to minimize the degree to which membership of a particular gender category is used to distribute rights and privileges.

Originality/Value of Paper: This chapter advances the literature on non-binary gender, contributes to existing queer and feminist analyses of the gender binary and extends work on normativity to legal recognition of alternative genders.




This chapter is based on a project completed in partial fulfillment of an award of Honors in Law at the University of Wollongong. I am grateful for the supervision provided by Professor Nan Seuffert, without whom that project and this chapter would not have been possible. Special thanks also to Rillark Bolton and Dr Tanja Dreher for their guidance and support, and for their helpful comments on earlier versions of this chapter.


Davis, D.A. (2017), "The Normativity of Recognition: Non-Binary Gender Markers in Australian Law and Policy", Demos, V. and Segal, M.T. (Ed.) Gender Panic, Gender Policy (Advances in Gender Research, Vol. 24), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 227-250.



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