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Sexuality in a non-binary world: redefining and expanding the linguistic repertoire

Ynda Jas

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In this paper I consider how recognition of non-binary identities and trans people more broadly might require us to revisit the vocabulary of sexuality prevalent in the Anglosphere. I begin by examining the relationship between (neo)liberalism and inclusion practices. I then discuss linguistic innovations arising from the asexual (and aromantic) community before using data to highlight issues around trans and non-binary inclusion that exist with the current language. Next I use speculative, philosophical reasoning to break down what lies beneath sexuality when language is taken out of the equation, exploring identity, aesthetics and morphology. On the back of this exploration, I consider the question of how to distinguish fetishes and attraction, and what counts as sexuality. In the final two sections, I suggest which areas of the language might require revision to be trans-inclusive and reflect what lies beneath sexuality, and highlight a few cautionary concerns to be taken into account when considering the potential for language change. My exploration is primarily theoretical and philosophical in nature, but I complement and motivate my exploration with a small amount of data from my own original research on contextualised identity construction through speech by non-binary and other queer people in Southern England.

Keywords: sexuality, gender, transgender, non-binary, language


Bibliography: Jas, Ynda: Sexuality in a non-binary world: redefining and expanding the linguistic repertoire, INSEP – Journal of the International Network for Sexual Ethics & Politics, Vol. 8, Special Issue 2020, pp. 71-92.