What is Gender. The OED defines it as – the state of being male or female (typically used with reference to social and cultural differences rather than biological ones).
Some may prefer it as the state of being a woman or a man, boy or a girl rather than male of female.
If you look in Wikipedia (which I know isnt always right) it says – Sexologist John Money introduced the terminological distinction between biological sex and gender as a role in 1955. Before his work, it was uncommon to use the word gender to refer to anything but grammatical categories. However, Money’s meaning of the word did not become widespread until the 1970s, when feminist theory embraced the concept of a distinction between biological sex and the social construct of gender.
So in the round, gender is how you identify within a framework of social norms based on the way natal females and males live – right?
But is it? Or is that all about the way society need to describe you, should we not start with how you really describe your gender and what does it look and feel like?
In the Cogiati test (COMBINED GENDER IDENTITY AND TRANSSEXUALITY INVENTORY) there’s a question that really focuses in on this point about gender identity and our personal understanding of it. By the way if you haven’t took the test try it, you may find it useful, incidentally I scored 120 and it describes me as COGIATI classification THREE, ANDROGYNE. Or I prefer to call it Intergender or inbetweeny.
Anyway the question – Suddenly the entire world is magically changed. Now you exist in a world utterly devoid of gender. All bodies are hermaphroditic, utterly androgynous in appearance, both male and female at the same time. The culture reflects this, as does all human interaction. You, however, are still yourself inside, with all of your memories of living in our world as it is now. Your feelings are intact, only your flesh has been changed. In this new world, everyone dresses, acts, and lives however they feel at the time, and there is no such thing as being male or being female. You alone remember the world of gender. In such a world, would you still need to dress like a woman?
This question alone should get all people thinking about gender and what it personally means to them. I’ve struggled a long time to understand this and only now as I’ve been taking hormones for a good while and my gender dysphoria symptoms stopped have I actually properly solidified my understanding of my own personal gender. Prior to hormones I was almost sure, like 90% certain, however I was worried what the hormones would do to me physically and in turn that caused me concern as to how I would need to live. Suffice to say although I saw myself as an ‘inbetweeny’ I was concerned that to get through life I would have to fit into the mould of one gender stereotype or another just to get by.
However, as the psycho-biological symptoms of Gender Dysphoria died, I’ve gained confidence within me, and confidence for who and what I actually am, the need to conform is leaving me rapidly, actually at the speed of light.
Personally I’m learning to dress and present how I feel I want to that day – simple. Nobody should ever need to apologise for being themselves so why should I … really if I accept someone for presenting in a way they choose then why shouldn’t they. I see people with purple hair, short skirts, wearing military dress, clothes relating to their religion, I don’t question them or treat them any differently…so why should I be trying to meet other peoples expectations in that way by being something I’m not. Yes I know what I appreciate in terms of the way people present but really it doesn’t change the person – and that is only what I appreciate.
This whole concept of how gender variant people should present and the incidence of regret and mental health difficulties faced by people who have had SRS may be linked to this concept of gender. I believe that perhaps if gender variant people where first a little braver and second society a little less bothered, then maybe gender variant people would have less trouble and fewer regrets. SRS should be reserved for the people who need it, for people who have real psychological reasons for needing such surgery, it should not be considered, offered or even thought about until a person is fully confident and fully well in their congruent gender manifestation. In short help people to gain congruence by any other means first and then and only then if they need offer SRS. In the UK this hasn’t always been the case, the understanding has been that SRS is the ultimate magic pill to cure gender dysphoria but sadly for some it isn’t.
I believe it’s important to understand that Sex and Gender although linked in some ways are separate in others – I am living proof. It can be said that sex is almost always binary (forgive me people who are born hermaphrodite), hormonal balance yes is linked to the process we undergo in the womb that defines our sex but how much of this process has been completed is difficult to know, I suspect that in some the process is complete both physically and mentally, for others less so. In short if people can be born hemaphrodite and their physical sex ambiguous then surely some can be born with a mental ambiguity of sex and thus struggle with their understanding of their gender as they are moulded by parents, their own expectations and society. They unknowingly can be born as hermaphrodites but in bio-psyhcological sense.
Maybe ideally nature may have intended to be a totally binary species, however binary is 1 or 0, one thing or the other, either male or female. But as we all know some peoples reproductive systems don’t work and are born without the capacity to reproduce. Therefore if you use the binary sex argument which is either one of the other on a basis of having the right bits inside and out to reproduce, then does it not follow that these people by definition are neither male or female? I know many will scream that my argument is very harsh, but it’s intended to make a point. The point is this, if we accept that a person born with a penis and not the capacity to reproduce is male even though they are in effect ‘faulty’, then we surely accept that their are sex difference from the ideal norm. So does it not follow that those sex difference can be many and diverse from the ability to reproduce, to the way our brain works and indeed our personal gender understanding. In turn if we accept that their are variances of sex by definition of who can and can’t reproduce then we must also accept that there is no such thing as binary gender – it’s impossible, it’s variances on a theme surely?
My point is this as a society we should embrace all shades of sex, gender, creed colour, ability, disability etc etc … we are all variants on a theme in every way, some bits work, some bits faulty, some bad, good etc. We are all variants – each one of us unique … so instead of spotting difference as a threat we need to see difference as a strength (I learnt that the hard way). At the end of the day all animals have evolved by the mixing of difference and so should we continue.
Over the last few years I have struggled with many aspects of my life including my gender variance, but with hard work and support I am winning slowly, if you are struggling with gender variance issues of any type look deep within yourself, be brave, push a little each day and slowly emerge as you. Doctors can help, psychologists, psychiatrists, support groups, odd things like laser beard removal, a few new items in the wardrobe, but keep on trying to gain your own congruence and be you…ultimately though you have to do it yourself.
On a final note, labels are important to sign post us to services and the like, but labels can also be destructive, they can make people wear a stigma and feel suppressed also. Simply remember one thing irrespective of labels, each and every one of us is different but similar, no two of us are the same, we are all unique. I know only too well that being true to yourself can have many massive effects on your work and private life and can continue for a long time if not throughout your life, but I also know that not being true to you can have worse effects too … so really we have little choice. So taking control is the only way and it works, I’ve seen it and know it to be the case … I took a lot of inspiration from Helen my partner, although I struggled at first to understand I have taken a massive amount of inspiration from an amazing woman – thank you.
Be brave, stand tall and be true to you .. no matter what. You only get one go on the roundabout make yours go count.