Life isn’t binary: On being both, beyond and in-between

Review by Jennifer Huddleston, Lead of Relationships and Operations, Sticks ‘n Stones

Iantaffi, A., & Barker, M. J. (2020). Jessica Kingsley Publishers

Life Isn’t Binary, by Meg-John Barker and Alex Iantaffi, is a book that will make you question your current understanding of the world and how you view different aspects of your life. It’s a brilliant look at how binary thinking – thinking there are only two options and usually one is seen as good and the other bad – is unhelpful in so many areas of our lives. When we are binary thinking, we think along the lines of one or the other and fail to recognise that there can be more or multiple options in-between and that one does not have to be stuck in the rigid either/or perspective (e.g. cis/trans, black/white, male/female, emotional/rational, normal/abnormal etc.) and can move towards both/more possibilities. Before reading, I did not realise how many binaries I am faced with on the daily. This book challenges this limited way of thinking and looks at how non-binary thinking can be applied to all areas of our lives. 

The book starts by looking at gender and sexuality, an area in which most individuals have some understanding of non-binary thinking. It then builds upon this knowledge and critiques this understandingby further looking at other areas including relationships, bodies, emotions and thinking. This book caused me to stop, think and reflect on my own binary thinking and how easily we can fall into the black and white trap of thinking, when our world is actually full of shades of grey. 

I appreciate how the authors provided space within the book to stop, reflect, pause and breathe to be able to dissect the content more clearly and make it applicable to one’s own life and experiences. I did find that it ended quite abruptly without a final concluding chapter or few lines to wrap up and highlight key pieces or food for thought moving forward. The Further Resources sections at the end of each chapter are a brilliant opportunity to deep dive further into the research.

 If you are looking for a read which will challenge your current thinking, leave you with more questions and provide you with ‘I never thought about it that way’ moments –  then this is the read for you.

The Mental Health Foundation’s Information Service brings you reviews this Pink Shirt Day on books with bullying prevention themes.

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