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the gender binary

With a few exceptions, most cultures do not actively encourage gender variance.

Males are to refrain from displaying what is perceived to be weakness by embracing their feminine side and, while women have a little more latitude in their dressing, they are also discouraged from appearing too masculine.

It seems we love our gender binary and feel reassured by it.

But nature is made for variations. We see them at every level and there are mutations and permutations for just about every facet of creation; so why not gender as well?

It’s certainly not hard to prove that gender fluidity is simply part of the anomalies we are also expected to find.

There is biology involved of course because the male has the role of protector and the female desires certain qualities in her man that embodies those traits which encourage strength and virility. Early man counted on these qualities for survival and for propagation of the species.

However, with the transformation from hunter/gatherers to creatures of leisure who work in offices and factories, our expectations that these traits remain rigid are, arguably, less based on need and more on convention.

The percentage of people who display gender variance is relatively small and it’s not as if it’s contagious. In other words, people will not line up to become more gender fluid by virtue of increased societal tolerance. But people fear what they do not understand and, as creatures often programmed with rigid religious dictates and parental expectations, we take many years to undo the pressures of those early demands.

I was reading a short article in the Washington Post yesterday where a pastor of a fundamentalist Christian church talked about being transgender almost as a flaw to be corrected and offered up to God. What struck me once again is how often people who do not experience or understand gender disphoria in a personal way feel perfectly comfortable advising those who do. Repent for your sins and you will be saved.

This is a view that I myself espoused when I thought that my own disphoria was due to a personal weakness or character flaw. The older I became and the better I understood myself, the more I grasped that I was simply one of those variances of nature who simply wanted to behave in a way that was natural to me; even if that inclination went against what I was taught as being normal.

Being my own worst enemy, I fought the good fight against those inclinations but, since coming out as transgender to friends and family, I have realized that all of that angst and turmoil was nothing more than wasted energy. No one has disowned me nor have I lost friends over it; in fact I have been lauded for my candour and my courage in sharing this side of myself with them.

I don’t need to conform perfectly to the gender binary; I just need to be myself.

Comments

  1. "But nature is made for variations."

    Well...not necessarily. Variations occur but they are not the norm. 'Nature', however you might define that to fit your model, does not encourage divergence from the norm. In fact it punishes it.

    You personally seem to have a somewhat myopic and privileged view of Man's existence on Earth. I can assure you that the vast majority of humanity does not live a life of leisure in air-conditioned offices in "progressive", (read permissive), environments.

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  2. well not everyone lives like a king or queen but there are far more people on this planet than ever not living directly off the land or hunting for their food. We are a different species than we were thousands of years ago.

    Nature is ripe with variations which vary from the norm and yes they are in the minority. I am very much aware that I myself form part of a very small minority of the male population and I find models of myself almost everywhere on this planet which is something that deeply surprised me when I first discovered the web and started to read very similar stories to my own.

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  3. Nature thrives on diversity. Evolution depends on it. For most traits it's hard to say they are strictly female or male. Some are more likely to follow gender lines but there will still be sizable overlap.

    There are also other cultures across the globe that recognize a 3rd sex. Three that come to mind are American Indians, India and Thailand. Most of these aren't living leisurely lives or are they necessarily permissive.

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  4. Is that what you would like to see happen here? A third sex? What would you call it? Neither, Either, or Both?

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  5. I'd call in Transgendered/Transexual

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  6. I call it insane! Unless of course your goal is to be othered/speshul/separatist.

    http://gendertrender.wordpress.com/2013/04/05/mtv-true-life-transgender-teens-change-their-minds-as-adults/#comments

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  7. You know AQV you're talking about yourself. It amazes me how you can ignore that fact.

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  8. Joanna, it sounds like you are stating that because of variations, mutations, and diversity break down the gender binary making gender "fluid" or one's gender is a some point along the gender "spectrum". You assume that there is a gender binary. However, gender is not binary; it is singular. Yes, there are men and women but the opposite of a man is NOT a woman and the opposite of a woman is NOT a man. Men and women each have their own "spectrum" of characteristics and attributes but these two "spectrums" do not and cannot intersect no matter how diverse they are. The most masculine woman in the world is not more "man" than any man. She is just a very masculine woman. Likewise, the most feminine man is not more "woman" than any woman. He is just a feminine man.

    As far as a third sex goes, science has proven that there is no such thing except maybe in some people's minds. Logically thinking about it, if there was a third sex in nature, there is no role or purpose for it. Men and women have specific complimentary roles in nature that are complete. There is nothing missing or nothing else needed by nature such as a third sex.

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  9. Robyn I agree very much with the concept of a spectrum of fluidity of behaviour; the idea that not everyone need be constrained by strict societal rules. You are right in that we already have masculine women and feminine men and we all know someone like this.

    I am not a proponent of the concept of a third sex but merely pointing out the rigidity that exists in society vis a vis people who "break the rules". We have seen this improve dramatically in my lifetime where transgender people are recognized as just being part of the fabric of society much like other cultures (think Samoan or Thai) already did.

    People like us are part of a small statistical norm which exists now and always will. We just need to be able to live an breathe and not be persecuted for it.

    Think that much is what is considered permissible is completely society defined and is not based on tolerance, logic or reason. Much of our world is like this where things are set up just for convention and most of us adhere for fear of breaking those artificial rules..

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  10. Lindsay I forgot American Indian thanks for reminding me. The idea that these people are understood to be part of the fabric of these societies and are more than tolerated proves that this concept is very possible. Our western culture is highly intolerant and does not appreciate diversity very much but that does not mean this is an ideal model to follow by any means.

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  11. AQV I don't understand your objections given the fact that by allowing people to be who they are you are not increasing the likelyhood that people are going to run en masse to become trans any more than a hetero person will change orientation simply because society now accepts gays.

    This is not radical thinking I am simply preaching the idea of tolerance for those of us who are different.

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  12. and again I am referring more to gender expression than to actual biological plumbing here. In other words, one can be a feminine male and dress more female or conversely a masculine woman and dress more male. In my case my expression is not rigid and when I want to express myself as Joanna I do. There are other times when my male side dominates (such as when I am with N) and I want to express that side. Most people (example my brother) do not understand this in the least and are not interested in such variation of expression but for some unknown reason I am. I should be able to do this on my own time without society caring one iota...

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  13. My interpretation of a third sex is that other cultures have made allowances for TG/TS people long before psychology, hormone therapy and SRS. They observed that some people were different and adjusted their societies to make them more comfortable.

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  14. I actually agree with much of what you are saying about the fluidity of gender.
    I do disagree that society is highly intolerant of this gender fluidity. However, as Robin has pointed out, there is no "sexual fluidity" and there is no role or function for such a non-existent sex in nature.

    The issue, the conflict if you will, is the conflation of those two concepts and the blurring of those definitions for political purposes.

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  15. But AQV you yourself are an example of sexual fluidity. Your brain didn't align with your body so you used plastic surgery to give you a semblance of being female. I'd agree that before SRS there was no sexual fluidity, but not any more.

    I don't see any politics involved in this discussion. Just people trying to get to a point where they can cope. It seems to me that you're the one who's trying to bring politics into this.

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  16. AQV I do agree about no sexual fluidity. Of course there are two biological genders and that needs to continue. I am focusing on gender presentation and expression which would alleviate a lot of struggle for gender variant people.

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  17. Noooo.......There are two biological SEXES, Gender is fluid.

    "But AQV you yourself are an example of sexual fluidity." "Lindsay"

    Nope. But feel free to believe whatever you want, if that is what makes you feel better. However, I doubt you would find much support for such a speshul, 'othered', 3rd sex status or identity. But like I said; whatever ruffles your skirt.

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  18. @aqv, so you're saying you've always been a biological female. Sounds like someones in serious denial. Would you care to explain this in more detail? The way I understand it, you were born male, knew in your heart and your brain that you were female, went through hormone therapy and then had plastic surgery to make your body agree with your true self. Did I miss anything? Did I get anything wrong?

    Also, I'm not claiming there is a 3rd sex. I'm merely stating the fact that there are cultures that have created a special category for the TG/TS that is equivalent to a 3rd sex. So not everyone is as restrictive or narrow minded as our western society. I think it's great that there are now hormone treatments and plastic surgery so that we don't need to imagine such things as 3rd sexes.

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  19. "@aqv, so you're saying you've always been a biological female"

    Nope. Never said that. Feel free to correct me if I err.

    So let's look at these other cultures, ostensibly "less restrictive or narrow minded as our western society."

    Pakistan? Give me a break! They have 'othered' the hjira as something less than dirt.

    American Indians? Essentially extinct except for casino drones. Prior to the coming of the White Man, it was excellent form to pillage, rape and plunder neighboring tribes.

    Samoans? I have no opinion as I lack sufficient knowledge or understanding.

    How about we stop with all these red herrings and try to understand the simple significant distinction between TS and TG.....or simply sex vs. gender.

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  20. @Robyn
    "As far as a third sex goes, science has proven that there is no such thing except maybe in some people's minds. Logically thinking about it, if there was a third sex in nature, there is no role or purpose for it. Men and women have specific complimentary roles in nature that are complete. There is nothing missing or nothing else needed by nature such as a third sex."

    I don't know if by saying this you want to give vent to your own denials and frustrations or you just want to be deliberately bigoted despite your true inner feelings and experiences.
    Do you realize that it is because of views like your's that countless men and women and also transgenders across ages have been oppressed by our patriarchal societies, blinded by numerous cultural and religious myths? I don't know what "science" you refer to here, but I have not come across any such science which has established there is no such thing as third-gender. If at all any exists, it is likely to be only a biased view similar to the autogynephilia rant of Blanchard.
    And yes, men and women have no such thing as "complementary roles". Such roles have been created by culture for the benefit of civilization and progress of human race. That does not mean it is natural. It may be a civilizing force, but it is not necessarily natural.There are countless species where such "complementary roles" you have mentioned are played by only a minority of males or females. And the third-gender as a member of a species which has both male and female mental staminas or attributes is not just common, it is very likely universal among many species.

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