Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Gender Musings

One of the things I've been thinking about recently is why some people get so bent out of shape when someone is perceived as not being in conformity with the binary gender system.

According to the almighty binary gender system there are only two genders, male and female. Males are supposed to have short hair, XY chromosomes, muscular bodies, big hands, narrow waists, rough skin, big feet and a penis. Females are supposed to have shorter hourglass shaped bodies with wide hips, small feet and hands, smooth skin, long hair, XX chromosomes and a vagina. The societal roles are organized based on those physical traits.

But as nature continues to demonstrate and science continues to inexorably point out, it is not as clear-cut and rigid as some humans wish it to be.

There are genetic men walking around on this planet right now who probably don't realize they have XX chromosomes and genetic women with XY chromosomes. Oh by the way, did I mention the peeps with three chromosomes? And just to make your head spin a little more let's add intersex peeps to this gender stew.

But let me take it back to the social gender aspects. What's up with the intense negative reaction to anything that doesn't fit the binary gender mode?

My thoughts on it is because over the last century and the early years of the 21st century we have seen rapid social changes and technological breakthroughs in our lifetimes. Those changes have sometimes altered our society in profound ways and people are grasping for something that has remained constant over time.

Gender used to be one of those things that peeps assumed was constant. Penis=male, vagina=female. Transgender peeps like myself and intersex peeps throw major curve balls into that assumption.

Gender-cued roles have also morphed as well in conjunction with the emergence of transgender people from society's shadows. You now have female CEO's, female bodybuilders, stay at home dads and beauty queens that were born male. Some peeps are having a hard time adjusting to these changes while others lash out at them using religion as their cover to do so. Some are unfortunately using violence to express their frothing anger over these events.

Transgender peeps are not a 20th century phenomenon. It's been occurring since human history has been documented and is even part of our folklore, stories and myths. We are just in an age where transgender peeps are getting more news coverage and more research is coming on line to ascertain how and why it happens.

The Human Genome Project and similar ongoing scientific research will only continue to help us answer society's most fundamental question: what is a man and what is a woman? It is something that we need to know and doesn't need to be feared.


OII: said...

Thanks for your article. I agree with almost all of it. However, I do think that the need to answer the question of what a man is and what a woman is can end up being a dangerous one and that is being experienced right now in the intersex movement which is being controlled by people who are not intersex and are using us to find out the answer to this question. In order to do that, we the intersexed are being further pathologized as DISORDERED. To learn more about the intersexed response to this, we would love for you to visit:

Thanks for including us in your article which is very interesting and I have shared the link with others.

Kindes regards,
Curtis E. Hinkle
Founder, OII

Anonymous said...

Good article. Yes, and as to determining what causes male/female sexes and gender, we have to be very aware and careful of who is doing the research, especially when the likes of people like J. Michael Bailey are involved in the "research." Please see: