Sex and Gender

This piece was first published on Righteous Anger.

On her Tumblr, Sex+, Laci Green captioned a cartoon with the following lines:

gender=how we feel about, see, and express ourselves

sex=genitals, chromosomes, hormones

This is the point I make so often when it comes to discussions of transgender. I’ve been called transphobic for it, but I don’t give a shit. I don’t believe gender is as cut-and-dried as many try to make it (i.e. there’s “female” and there’s “male”). I believe there’s a whole host of points along the gender spectrum, and that most of what is identified as female or male is socially determined. A quick study of anthropology will show that things considered “feminine” in the U.S. are instead considered “masculine” in some other cultures. For example, in some traditional African cultures, the men are the ones who adorn themselves with colorful make-up to attract attention.  In the U.S., women do this.  In some cultures, fishing is considered a “female job”, while in others it has always been a “male job”.  There is not one thing that makes any of these things sex-specific.  Instead, they are social concepts of gender.

So many times, I have heard people praise laws that gave people the right to put either sex on their state-issued identification.  They claim this is a blow for the rights of transgendered people.  To me, it’s just another drop in the bucket of traditional gender norms.  The only difference is it allows people to claim a sex other than that they were declared at birth.  Other times, I have read that an individual born male always “felt” female.  What the hell does that even mean?  To me, it’s just reinforcing the idea that there is a way to “feel” female and a way to “feel” male.  I think that’s patently false.

What if we were to accept that there’s a whole host of feelings, behaviors, experiences, interests and roles that can be experienced and enjoyed by people of any sex? Doesn’t that blow out of the water the idea of “trans” gender? What is wrong with simply accepting that a person with a penis might enjoy wearing a dress, and a person with a vagina might like to watch sports? Or a person with a penis might be into “emotion”, while a person with a vagina might get off more visually? Gender and sex are tied too closely together by the concept of “transgender”. There’s no “trans” about it. There’s just human individuality. If you want to accuse me of being “phobic”, feel free. I say, fuck off. I’m for the acceptance of all people experiencing the world in the way they feel comfortable, whether that way is typically considered male, female, or somewhere in between. Why the drive to assign out-moded concepts like “gender” to those feelings and experiences?

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