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Binarism is the belief that people or things must fall in to one of two opposing categories. People who have these beliefs are called binarists. They do not acknowledge that people or things may not neatly fall into either category. The terms entered the vocabulary in the mid-1950s.
The term binarism commonly refers to the belief that people are either male or female. This is more specifically called gender binarism. Gender binarism is a type of transphobia. As many cultures recognize more than one gender, binarism can also be considered a type of racism. People who believe in this type of binarism are called gender binarists.
Binarism doesn’t just concern gender though. It can also refer to thinking that people are either gay or straight, or good or evil. In fact, any type of “either/or” thinking is binarism.
Critics of binarism say this way of thinking does not recognize the individual differences between people and things. Modern thinking suggests systems we once thought were binaries, such as gender and sexuality, are actually spectrums.
Binarism can make the lives of people who do not fall into binary categories difficult. People who identify as bisexual or non-binary may feel ashamed of their identities and marginalized by binarists. Education about the spectrums of gender identity and sexual identity can combat binarism and help people outside the binaries feel more accepted.
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