I often contemplate gender. Being a trans-woman myself it’s hard not too. Right now I am questioning my gender and if I am instead of being a trans-woman, if I might trans-feminine and as such closer to considering myself non-binary? I’ll figure that out over time. Maybe I’m genderfluid? That kinda brings us onto the point of this. Fluidity and range of gender:
Gender is often likened to a spectrum, much like we have political “left and right”. On this spectrum, I can be “left” or “right” or some mixture in between. It’s a one-dimensional space. Putting this with gender, you have “woman” and “man”, putting it with traits, characteristics and more you can have “masculine” and “feminine” which, are two different things. You can be a masculine woman or a feminine man. Both of those are independent.
Take the 2d political compass. I consider myself a mix of Labour, Liberal Democrats, and Green in this case. Taking a more central economic stance with a more libertarian social stance. Maybe where Plaid Cymru sits here. Either way, that’s beyond the point. In this 2D landscape, I have much more freedom to express my political views and even then, it’s basic when politics such a multifaceted issue.
I do believe this works quite nicely for gender. Imagine the Y-Axis had masculine and feminine and the X-Axis had Man and Woman. Make sense? Cool. Now, let’s leave that for a little bit. I’m going to ask you a few questions now:
- What man/woman stereotypes do you feel do not apply to you?
- Have you ever felt like being a man/woman has stopped you from taking part in activities you would have liked?
- What does it mean to be a man/woman to you?
- Growing up, what important figures showed you what it meant to be a man/woman? How has that influenced you today?
I’d list more but I hope you get the point. It’s not a straightforward question and you likely don’t conform to your gender in every way. Humans are very nuanced individuals. Not all men like bodybuilding and weaponry. Not all women like salons and makeup. You likely have physical attributes or personality traits that don’t conform entirely to society’s definition of “man” or “woman”. Likewise, I’m sure you might enjoy sports or spa days. Or have those traits that are straightforward to your gender.
Men, does every person you meet answer the questions above the same as you? Women, does every person you meet answer the above questions the same as you? Have you overcome society’s standards about your gender? Men being able to cry. Women being able to say no. Being a stay at home father. Women becoming industry leaders.
After all of this, all of these nuanced unique things that come together to make the wonderful person reading this post, are you still confident that you are a man or a woman? Even though you likely don’t conform in every situation? It’s quite likely that you do.
Trans people, however, are often criticized when they enforce the gender binary upon themselves. If we enforce binary genders that best matches us. We’re seen as predators. The trope of a trans person knowing they were trans by preferring Barbie over GI Joe is pointless. Just look at your answers and see how your gender is varied, exciting and unique. What it means to be a woman, to be a man, will invariably vary from person to person. From the 4 questions above we will see a divergence from one another. Fill out a form with those 4 questions here. In a month, I’ll do something on those results.
Trans people also condemned when we to fork ourselves away from the gender stereotypes that are typically easy for cis people to “read”. If a trans woman decides a crew cut top and jeans is what they want to wear, they’ll be seen by some as not trying hard enough. If a trans man decides not to use a binder or uses makeup, he’ll be seen as a girl using gender to get out of sexism. If a trans person puts a label on their gender which is as unique as all genders are, we’re snowflakes.
Someone who’s cis can pick from the box of conformity and the box of non-conformity and their gender won’t be questioned. Their gender expression can shift and nobody will bat an eyelid. A cis woman can not shave their legs and be considered fighting against the patriarchy. A trans woman would rarely be seen the same. A cis person can have that unique, varied and personal journey of gender and never have to explain it to someone else. Trans people, on the other hand, are put under a microscope and examined whilst we have to defend and fight for our gender to be real.
Let’s take our 2d compass from before. Imagine the Y-Axis had masculine and feminine on the top and bottom. The X-Axis had male and female on the left and the right. For masculine we’ll consider traditional traits (Dominant, Strong, Independent, Assertive, etc.) and the same for feminine (Emotional, Nurturing, Vulnerable, Caring, Humble). For “man” and “woman”, I struggle to find traits in the same way. It’s much more how you feel, you “know” where you are. If you a man, are you firmly in the top left? If you are a woman, are you firmly in the bottom right? Your Y axis most likely fluctuates. Maybe your X-Axis does a bit too?
Want to know one of the key differences between trans people and cis people? Our X-Axis is more on the other side than our assigned gender at birth. Take me. I most likely sit in the bottom right quadrant, close to the bottom of the Y-axis and close-ish to the center on the left. When we call you cis, all we mean is that you conform with your gender at birth, are happy with where you sit on the axis. Being cis doesn’t mean your journey with gender is less diverse, unique or important. Your gender is yours, accompanied by your own experiences and feelings. It likely matters to you a lot.
Trans people are the same. We’ve had that same journey as you. It’s just well… our position on that graph diverges so much from our assigned gender at birth that well, we transition. We have explored gender like you and decided on a path.
What is your gender? What does that gender contain for you? What does that gender mean to you? Do you feel like your gender? What does it mean to feel like your gender? Trans people ask these questions and more to figure out where we’re going. You might not have and your position on that compass graph might change ever so slightly.
Your gender could include what clothes you wear, the music you listen to, who you admire, how you see your role in your family, how you feel in your body. It could also contain none of those. Maybe it’s when you look in a mirror, read a book or color your hair how you want. Gender is what you make it. Nobody should judge you for what makes you feel like you.
People have probably made assumptions that were wrong based on your gender. Maybe you were mistaken for a person of another gender by how you speak or look at one particular time. It’s part of knowing what your gender is. How you react to those moments. Trans people have had a lot of this. I found out who I am by understanding those wrong feelings, the assumptions made against me and well, here I am.
By this point, I hope you realize that your gender is likely complicated and multi-faceted and not merely determined by the reproductive organs you had given to you by the genetic lottery or the length of your hair or something else utterly trivial. It’s contradictory, complicated and ever-changing but it’s part of what makes you unique. It’s yours.
Trans people don’t mimic a gender stereotype. They are not running away from an old identity. We just have our own experience with gender that is no more false or simple that a cis person’s. And despite how confusing each trans person’s gender might be they are just as much that as you are yours. We’re not confused. We’re not making it up.
Gender isn’t binary and it’s more than a spectrum. No method of trying to classify gender works because of the sheer divergence we can have from one another. Not even my 2d graph analogy. There’s nearly 8 billion of us here, are we all the same? My experience with gender is one of a kind and so is yours.
Note: I’m not here to police what gender is. This is all subjective from myself. You do you and rock on. If you want to fill out my little experiment form, here it is: https://forms.gle/Du3SWp7W7nHa1mYh8 if you wish to follow me on twitter, my twitter is here