Why Are They All Obsessed with Gender?’ (Non)Binary Navigations through Technological Infrastructures

Spiel, Katta

Gender is encoded in multiple technological infrastructures, most prominently in digital forms across educational, commercial, medical and governmental contexts. To illustrate the pervasiveness of (binary) gender ideologies and the impact this can have on non-binary individuals – like me – encountering them, I conducted an autoethnography. For more than a year, starting with me receiving a legal non-binary status, I documented systems that did not allow me to register my gender correctly. The findings indicate how technological infrastructures predominantly encode gender as a fixed, immutable and static binary variable with limited options for non-binary people to adequately register self-determined choices for gender and/or (gendered) titles. I further analyse the range of reactions that I received when pro-actively asking for workarounds, fixes and updates, indicating how pointing towards those issues can trouble the status quo, identities and power hierarchies in unintended ways. I close on suggestions for the refactoring of existing and design of new technological infrastructures around gender and reflect on the value of lived experience in knowledge production – as well as the cost it comes with for those doing this research.