Gender identity has never been as simple as only male or female. Some people identify as both male and female or identify with neither (agender). The terms nonbinary, genderqueer and genderfluid are commonly used to describe these gender identities. Nonbinary and genderqueer identities sit under the umbrella of transgender.
If you identify as the gender you were assigned at birth, you are considered cisgender male or female.
Everyone is assigned a gender identity at birth, usually assumed based on biological sex. And yet one's true gender identity can be deeply personal and sometimes latent or even suppressed for many years. External augmentation of the body – including clothes, makeup and jewellery - can help express what is felt inside.
Through the Wardrobe explores some ways of expressing genderqueer and nonbinary identities in clothing and the body. In British society, many forms of gender expression are often a choice, unlike gender identity. A person can be nonbinary and still dress and express themselves in a way that you may perceive to be 'male' or 'female'. Equally, a person can wholly identify as cisgender male or female and express themselves in a gender non-conforming manner (e.g. cisgender men who wear dresses or women with 'men's haircuts').
The voices of the people in Through the Wardrobe mainly use the pronouns 'they/them' to avoid the binary pronouns he/him or she/her. Sometimes pronouns can change or depend on context, so when you're uncertain about someone's pronouns, it's okay to ask.
Gender identity is internal and deeply personal; it is not a choice. It may be difficult for some trans and nonbinary people to come out and find the language to articulate and affirm who they truly are. The language is rapidly changing as scholarship and societal boundaries shift.
As trans and nonbinary labels are increasingly recognised and protected under British law (including the right to use the toilet that matches your identity), more people are finding the language to articulate their identities. According the Government Equalities Office (2018), roughly 200,000-500,000 people identify as transgender (including nonbinary/genderqueer) in the UK.
Biological sex is a medical category, assigned to people at birth based mainly on sex characteristics (including genitalia). It too is not so easily delineated, as one in 2000 babies is born intersex in some way - that is, born with both 'male' and 'female' characteristics. Beyond genitalia, many have chromosome variants beyond XX (female) and XY (male).
Identity may change throughout someone's life - e.g. from female to male, male to female or nonbinary. Sex characteristics are more difficult to alter. The wait lists for clinics that provide gender affirmation support/procedures often last for several months to years; this is not a rapid or trivial process.
Not all trans, including nonbinary, people will elect for any kind of medical intervention. It is also possible to be biologically intersex and yet identify as binary male or female, as gender is not restricted to genitalia or biology.
Gender dysphoria is when someone's gender identity doesn't match up with aspects of their body and/or the social gender role assigned to them at birth.
One of the key themes we explore in Through the Wardrobe is ways of experiencing euphoria as a nonbinary person in a highly binary world. We view 'euphoria' as an act of self-affirmation and liberation to feel happy in our bodies.
Most articles of clothing (like people) are labelled male or female. Through the Wardrobe questions the fixity of these labels by encouraging visitors to explore the ways of expressing gender playfully.
In experimenting and mixing up your outer expression–such as clothes, makeup and jewellery–ask yourself how this does or does not express the gender identity you feel inside. A person identifying as cisgender male or female can express themselves in a gender non-conforming manner (e.g. cisgender men who wear dresses or women in a suit). A person can be nonbinary and still dress and express themselves in a way that you perceive to be 'male' or 'female'.