The Gender Binary & Gender Invisibility
Welcome to yet another piece where I try to put into words a concept that has, well, none really, not in English, anyway. Call it a think-piece if you want.
Yesterday, I mentioned a bit about how being trans* (or having any sort of nonconforming gender identity) is akin to wearing an Invisibility Cloak a la Harry Potter. In my observations of our society, it doesn’t matter how “out” you are, this is still largely the case, and that is due to a concept that only became conceptualized into words between the 1980s and 1990s.
Funny how that works, isn’t it?
The Gender Binary
Before I dig too much deeper, I want to define the term. At it’s core, the gender binary is the idea the a person is either a man or a woman because of the external genitalia and internal sex organs they possess.
Thus, as soon as a child is born, we allow a doctor to perform a visual examination, and now your baby has a gender role for life. Either wear dresses and makeup and look pretty, etc, or get rough and tumble and work your way up the corporate ladder. (I know, that’s way too simplistic and stereotyped. Those are other posts.)
For most people, this isn’t too much of an issue, and even in cultures that recognize more than two genders, third, fourth, and fifth gender people are the exception rather than the rule. The difference is, in these cultures, they are accepted as they are in many ways that I don’t see for United States or “western” individuals. That’s not to say all cultures do, or that any culture does it perfectly, however the one I find most intriguing to this point are the Bugis of Indonesia.
Now before you say, wait, Rai, that’s a three minute clip, it can’t possibly sum up everything!
I included it because it’s a better overview than I could give. The point is, they accept the idea that not everyone fits neatly into the box defined by their visible biology.
Why I See Invisibility
Take a look at this Gif. For an 11 year old kid at a magical school? Pretty freaking sweet! I’ve got a cloak that lets me sneak anywhere!
For transgender and gender nonconforming people in the society I live and move in every day? My body is that cloak. I got “lucky” according to some other transgender people I know, in that I do look a bit more masculine, and can pass without a horrendous amount of effort.
But why should I have to pass? Isn’t that another form of invisibility? I’m not a man. Never have been, never will be. I’m not a woman, either. The best term I have in English is transman, yet there’s no place or space for someone like me. It seems, even according to some quite vocal transgender personalities, that I HAVE to be one OR the other. The problem is when physical sex is one way and the mind is another, it’s not just one way.
I don’t see how it can be.
Yet I’ve seen vocal encouragement in the media for trans people to physically transition. I’ve disagreed vocally, and may follow my previous article up at some point.
I know the argument. Essentially a physical transition “proves” someone is truly transgender. I have yet to meet a man or woman who has to physically prove through risky, life-alterating, costly medical procedures that they either are or aren’t a man or woman.
I know, you’re probably wondering where I’m going with this. Here it is.
Acceptance: Let Us Take Off The Cloak
Stop asking us to take the highest risks anyone can take – including higher rates of sex-based cancers, intense surgical complications, and numerous side-effects, as well as the roller-coaster of a second puberty – just to prove what we see in our minds.
It doesn’t always end the way the magazines would like you to think it does.
Am I saying no one should ever physically transition?
No. That’s a choice I can’t make for another person.
I’m saying it needs to feel more like a CHOICE. Because frankly, it doesn’t. I’ve been called out by other transmen and asked how can I possibly be happy with my life and not undergo a physical transition? Well, it’s because I’m surrounded by a number of loving people who don’t expect me to undergo one in order to prove I am who I say I am.
I wouldn’t give these relationships up for the world.
I also know that’s not the case for many other people with identities. Often, when we come out, it doesn’t go as well as we’d hoped.
And then we get on social media, and the world implodes around us unless we keep a ruthless hold on our newsfeeds in order to keep some shred of sanity. I don’t speak for everyone, but I believe it’s safe to say most of us don’t want the spotlight we’ve gotten because of these new social movements and the election cycle. We just want to live our lives the best way we know how, just like most other folks I know.
Once again, I’d love to hear your thoughts, questions, comments. Share them in the box below, and don’t be afraid to ask me things that may seem a tad personal. I’m a pretty open person.