ahunter3 (ahunter3) wrote,

Binary 2.0

Gender used to be narrowly restrictive and inflexible: you were born with a penis or with a vagina, and that determined your identity. Many folks think that except for the stodgy dinosaurs holding on to those older notions, we're past all that, enlightened. Mostly, we're not. We're immersed in what I refer to as Binary 2.0. It's larger and wider than the 1.0 version and yes, there's more room in it, it feels less constrained--but it's still confining.

Superficially, yes, our mainstream media touts the existence of genderqueer and nonbinary celebrities and celebrates their attractiveness and marketability.

But at the local level, the support groups and safe spaces for nonbinary and gender nonconforming people are chock-full of people who were assigned as something at birth; and they've been treated and regarded as either boys or girls for most of their lives. The problem for them is that the assignment they were given at birth wasn't random and arbitrary. If I saw them on the nude beach I could guess with better than 99% accuracy what designation their mom's obstetrician jotted down on their birth certificate. Yes, physical sex is a social construct. But we are part of the society that does the constructing, and we know the criteria, we've learned it well and we know how it works whether we choose to opt out of it or not. So the young genderqueer and nonbinary folks keep posting selfies and asking whether they look sufficiently other than their at-birth sex designations.

There's a determined pushing-away from those body-based identities, with a lot of adopting of the adornments and stylings associated with the opposite sex. Because since sex is, as stated, a social construct, there's still an opposite sex. The primary manifestation of nonbinary identity is one form or another of "between the two", and it is still anchored in those two.

The spaces for young transgender people are rife with their version of the same issue. Medical transitioning is complicated and expensive and although puberty blockers and hormones can be located, there are a lot of people participating whose physical morphology still matches up with the socially constructed pattern that corresponds with how they were designated at birth. In recognition of this, and not wanting to invalidate trans people's identities by implying that they are less valid than for folks who have done a medical transition, we focus on people's gender identities and we refer to their sex, if we do so at all, by considering it to match their gender. The plumbing inside someone's underwear is nobody's business. So sex is the same as gender (yet again, or still) since sex is assumed to match gender (whereas the assumption used to work the other way around, that gender matches physical sex).

Transgender women tend to feel obliged to do makeup and hair and to wear a lot of designated-female apparel, in order to signal that they wish to be perceived and recognized as female, as women. Meanwhile most cisgender women, born with the contours and configurations that our society relies on to designate a person female, can wear jeans and a t-shirt, cut their hair short, and go makekup-free without much concern about the possibility of being misgendered.

To say "misgendered" should cause us to realize that gender is a verb, that we get "gendered" by other people all the time -- "mis" or otherwise. We still gender people based on perceptions anchored in binary sex, so we're still in the shadows of assumptions about what our bodies mean.

My colleague Annunaki Ray Marquez, an intersex activist, points out that the terms "cisgender" and "transgender" contain assumptions. An intersex person isn't likely to have been assigned intersex at birth, but to conflate the situation of intersex people with that of transgender people is to erase them, especially since one of the central issues for intersex people is genital surgery done without their consent as infants or children, whereas medical transitioning is generally seen as a positive solution -- one for which medical insurance coverage is a political objective -- within the transgender community. ""Not all intersex people assigned wrong at birth will be comfortable being called 'transgender', although some will", says Marquez.

What made me nonbinary was that I ran into a two-options conundrum, either I was male and a boy (or man) which was not true; or that I was female and a girl (or woman) which was also not true. I was male and yet one of the girls. I encountered the socially-recognized physical configuration that got me designated male any time I saw my body. I didn't have any dysphoria about it, it wasn't wrong.

I want to be accepted as a male femme, a male gal. I should not have to present as female in order to be known as one of the girls. I should not have to push away from maleness in order to assert girlness. my maleness and the experiences that come from being a male girl are part of my identity. I am NOT a cisgender female person; being seen and thought of as such would NOT recognize me. It's not who I am. I'm a male girl.

I should be able to go to the nude beach and be who I am, a girl. I should be able to go the nude beach without obtaining medical intervention to transition by body and be accepted for who I am, a male girl.

My transgender sister should be able to go to the nude beach -- with or without medical intervention -- and accepted for who she is as well. She considers herself female and woman. She shouldn't have to "pass". She shouldn't have to adorn herself and fix up her appearance in order to elicit our approval of her identity. She shouldn't have to keep her body under wraps if she can't afford or hasn't opted for medical transitioning.

Neither should my intersex brother. His body is intersex. His gender identity isn't a consequence of either of the two conventional physical sex constructs. He also needs to be able to walk here on this beach.

Until we can do that, until acceptance of gender identity isn't dependent on having the "right" body, until acceptance of gender identity doesn't depend on erasing the body either, we're still stuck in Binary 2.0.


My book, GenderQueer: A Story From a Different Closet, has been published by Sunstone Press. It is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble in paperback and ebook, and as ebook only from Apple, Kobo, and directly from Sunstone Press themselves.

Links to published reviews and comments are listed on my Home Page


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Tags: androgyny, cisgender, dysphoria and misgendering, femininity, masculinity, sex v gender, transgender

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