Jun 13, 2019 5 min read

#197: Rejecting the Gender Binary

#197: Rejecting the Gender Binary

Is it hot where you are? If so, find yourself a refreshing beverage, choose a comfortable spot, and get ready to read — because today’s issue does not disappoint. You’ll read outstanding articles on the struggles of nonbinary people, the history of African American spirituals, the power of YouTube,

Is it hot where you are? If so, find yourself a refreshing beverage, choose a comfortable spot, and get ready to read — because today’s issue does not disappoint. You’ll read outstanding articles on the struggles of nonbinary people, the history of African American spirituals, the power of YouTube, the decline of supermarkets, and the joy of ping pong. There’s no way I can recommend just one. You might as well take the day off and read them all, right?

Particularly powerful is the lead article, “The Struggles of Rejecting the Gender Binary.” If you want to talk about it, let me know.

HHH #10 was a huge success! Thank you to the 42 loyal readers who gathered to chat about the articles. Big congratulations go to Erin, Kira, and Crystal, whose luck led them to snatch the grand prizes. Mark your calendars: HHH #11 is Thursday, Sept. 5.

The Struggles of Rejecting the Gender Binary

The Struggles of Rejecting the Gender Binary

Everything was fine when Hannah came out to her family as a trans woman. But when they wanted to reintroduce themself as Salem — nonbinary, gender fluid, gender expansive — they hesitated, fearing isolation from their family, while at the same time feeling disconnection with themself.

More and more young people identify as neither male or female. This article poignantly explores the struggles that nonbinary people face in a society that demands we choose a side. “Think of getting out of the shower and standing in front of a mirror,” genderqueer therapist Laura Jacobs says.

For most people, cis people, it’s easy to see those body parts as belonging to us, even if we might rather they be smaller or bigger or more muscular or whatnot. Now imagine that the mirror is a little blurry, streaky with steam. And let’s say you’re a binary trans person who hasn’t yet transitioned. Around the edges of the blurriness, between the streaks, you can at least imagine the reflection you want; you know what it is. But the nonbinary person may not have an image; even with the help of the foggy mirror, they may not be able to find themself.

Often alienated from their own anatomy, nonbinary people sometimes find their journey a puzzle, a painful challenge to discover the best combination of feminine and masculine physical characteristics to pursue. Physicians and insurers exacerbate the problem by refusing to treat patients unless they subscribe to a binary narrative.

This outstanding article, a must-read for cisgender people, is made even better by the writing of Daniel Bergner, whose use of the singular they pronoun is plentiful and exquisite. (34 min)

+ How did this article push your thinking? Let’s have a conversation. Hit reply and share your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you!

They Introduced the World to Songs of Slavery. It Almost Broke Them.

The original Jubilee Singers of Fisk University did not want to sing, in public, the spirituals their parents taught them, calling them private and personal. But the ensemble’s white musical director, after hearing that white Northerners clamored for “plantation melodies,” quickly changed the group’s program and set the young performers off on grueling tours around the world, leaving them underpaid and overworked, while the university prospered. Sound familiar? (23 min)

Our reading community was out in full force last Thursday’s HHH #10, which had a record-breaking turnout. Loyal readers Nicki, Jonathan, Todd, and Vlad enjoyed the tropical island vibe and invite you to join them at HHH #11 on Sept. 5.

The Making of a YouTube Radical

Another profile of an aimless young white man who gets radicalized online into believing crazy alt-right ideas — that’s nothing new, right? Take a closer look and you’ll find this article is really about YouTube and its control over free thought and free will. Spooky stuff. College dropout Caleb Cain thought he was finding himself through an independent quest for truth, when in reality, YouTube already had a predetermined path set for him. (21 min)

The Man Who’s Going To Save Your Neighborhood Grocery Store

In 2014, Americans dined out more than in for the first time on record. That’s bad news for grocery stores — unless designer Kevin Kelley can save the day. If supermarkets are to survive, they must become more like cinemas, evoking emotion from their customers through orchestrated experiences. That means fewer narrow aisles and more in-store butter churners. In our world of disconnectedness, it’s all about building spaces where people want to convene. (40 min)

Sadie Jane belongs to loyal reader Ms. Alison, and this is her favorite ball during the summer. Want your pet to appear in The Highlighter? hltr.co/pets

United by Ping Pong, These Players Find Community in a New York Park

Summers as a kid involved battling my brother and friends in epic ping pong matches. I lost as many matches as I won, but I’ll always remember the week I was unbeatable. This delightful short film, an ode to the sport, features players — young and old, rich and poor — who gather at Bryant Park in New York to compete in community. As one player says, “Ping pong is the way you find your heaven.” (15 min)

Most-Read Articles (So Far) of 2019

You, the loyal subscribers of The Highlighter, are discerning readers. Here are your nine most-read articles so far of 2019. There are a few surprises! If you’re a new subscriber, or if you’ve missed a few issues lately, this is a great way to get caught up. Or, if you’re a Highlighter diehard, tick off the list, confirming you’ve read each article, basking in the glow of your reading prowess. (213 min)

That’s it! You’ve reached the end of this week’s issue of The Highlighter. Use the thumbs below to tell me what you thought. Also, please welcome new subscribers Angela, Lisa, Taylor, and Moira. Hope you find that the newsletter is a good match for you!

If you like The Highlighter, please help it grow and get better. I would appreciate your support. Here are a few ways you can help:

On the other hand, if this newsletter is only OK for you, please unsubscribe. See you next Thursday at 9:10 am!

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