Non-binary students share mixed opinions on petition seeking to give their gender legal status

The petition has over 130k signatures and will be considered for debate in parliament

Last week, a petition was doing the rounds on Instagram calling for non-binary to be given legal status as a gender identity.

Along with over 130,000 other people, I signed it, hoping that the action would, in the words of the petition, “aid in the protection of non-binary individuals against transphobic hate crimes, and would ease gender dysphoria experienced by non-binary people.”

But while I may have been well-intentioned, making non-binary a legally recognised gender may not necessarily be what those who don’t define as male or female actually want.

The Tab spoke to several non-binary students to get their opinions on whether making non-binary a legally recognised gender would be a good thing or not.


Beth, Lancaster University

Lancaster student Beth thinks making non-binary a legal gender identity would be a good thing but isn’t hopeful the government will act on the advice of the petition.

“It would mean that the government actually acknowledged people’s existence which is always nice but, if I’m honest, I can’t see them doing it,” Beth told The Tab.

“I’ve signed the petition and I’ll fight for it but I know that the government is already stingy when it comes to recognising alternative genders (it took them how long to recognise trans and intersex people exist?)”


Rory, University of Edinburgh

Edinburgh student Rory believes giving non-binary legal status would be good for inclusivity, protect people from discrimination and offer legal protection. Despite this, they think that making non-binary a legal gender isn’t without its problems.

“Non-binary is an umbrella term for many non-cis identifying people, but it’s not a third gender,” Rory said. “The most progressive thing the government could do is not require sex or gender markers at all on legal documents.”


India, University of Leeds

While Leeds student India believes that for some people “labels can be empowering,” they take issue with elements of the petition.

“By legally recognising non-binary, what you’d be doing is legitimising the binary and I think that’s really dangerous because it’s solidifying gender differences which I think are the harmful things in the first place,” India told The Tab. “Maybe it’s unrealistic, but working to abolish gender is the way I would prefer things to go.”

Edinburgh student MJ doesn’t want non-binary to be given legal status and is concerned about the issues that would be raised in relation to foreign travel.

“If I had a big ol’ ‘NB’ label across my papers, that screams ‘trans’ and sometimes it is safer for me for people not to know that,” MJ told The Tab. “Also, if I wanted to travel somewhere less hospitable to trans people (worse even than the UK!) having a marker on my passport that stated I was anything other than M or F could be dangerous.

“But if all British passports simply had an ‘X’ or whatever regardless of gender, that wouldn’t be an issue, I don’t think (as I understand it passports have to have a gender marked but if everyone is just marked the same, I don’t see how that’s an issue).”

Although parliament must now consider the petition for debate as it’s reached over 100,000 signatures, all the students The Tab spoke to thought it was unlikely it will go anywhere.

“Realistically, this isn’t going to happen,” MJ said. “If we’re gonna push for change which is unrealistic now, there’s better ways about that than going via a petition, and if most of it feels impossible, why not shoot for no legal gender?”

Related articles recommended by this writer:

• Conversion therapy is finally being banned, three years after government promised to end it

• ‘They tried to pray the gay away’: Growing up gay in a deeply religious household

• Uni’s a place for LGBTQ+ students to thrive, but this year many haven’t had the chance