How sexual harassment manifests for nonbinary people

Gender-based or sexual discrimination can happen to anybody, male or female – but what if you’re nonbinary?

When you don’t fit neatly into anybody’s preconceived binary notions of gender, the potential for workplace discrimination and gender-based harassment may be amplified.

What does discrimination or harassment against nonbinary people look like?

Nonbinary people may already struggle with acceptance in their workplaces, largely because of biases, prejudices and stereotypes. In practice, these issues often manifest as:

  • Misgendering: Misgendering is one of the most common forms of harassment that nonbinary individuals experience. It involves using language or pronouns that do not align with a person’s nonbinary identity. This can be intentional or unintentional, but it can cause significant emotional distress and discomfort for nonbinary individuals.
  • Inappropriate comments: Nonbinary individuals may face derogatory or offensive comments or slurs related to their gender identity. A lot of times these are thinly disguised as “jokes” that the target is supposed to laugh off, even though the comments are blatantly hurtful.
  • Microaggressions: These are subtle (sometimes unintentional) acts or comments that marginalize or demean individuals based on their identity. They can manifest as backhanded compliments or dismissive attitudes about someone’s experiences or abilities. Unintentional or not, they can make a nonbinary person feel very exposed or unduly scrutinized by their co-workers or bosses.
  • Invasions of privacy: Nonbinary workers may find themselves struggling to reply appropriately to intrusive questions about their bodies and identities – things that nobody would dare ask a cisgender person.
  • Dress code policies: Workplace dress code policies that require employees to conform to a binary gender appearance are inherently discriminatory against nonbinary individuals who do not identify with or feel comfortable conforming to traditional “male” or “female” expectations around clothing or grooming.
  • Bathroom access: Some workplaces may not have gender-neutral or all-gender restroom facilities, making it difficult for nonbinary employees to access restrooms without facing discomfort or judgment from others.
  • Name and identification: Nonbinary employees may encounter difficulties when trying to change their names or gender markers on official company records, identification badges, email addresses or internal communication systems.

Make no mistake: Gender-based sexual harassment is illegal, and New York’s laws are clear that it’s unacceptable. If you’re nonbinary and you’ve suffered sexual harassment because of someone’s outdated views on how you “should” dress or behave, you have the right to be angry. You also may have the right to take legal action, so seeking legal guidance may be in your best interests.

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