Note: In December of 2018, a reader submitted an in-depth question about a piece I had written, titled “Too Girly to be Trans?”. I wrote a series of deep dives into my thoughts on gender identity as a response. At the time, I was still in the closet — I came out as a transgender man, changed my name from “Mimi” to “Marty,” and started using he/him pronouns in June of 2019.
Radical idea: The notion of gender itself is dumb.
When I started writing the first part of the inquiry, “Inside the ‘Masculine of Center Femme’ Oxymoron”, I came to the conclusion that gender is aesthetic presentation and conformity to gender roles, all of which can vary based on context.
I get a lot of insights simply by writing my thoughts down, which was one of the reasons I was so eager to dedicate time to this inquiry in the first place. The writing of that article caused me to have a number of nuanced conversations with my trans, nonbinary, and cis friends about the definition I’d come up with, and whether or not it was problematic in and of itself.
I think it is. Gender, by definition, seeks to categorize people into ways of being and acting, rather than having them express themselves in whatever way they choose. The very act of identifying as transgender or gender nonconforming, then, reinforces the idea that there is a “norm” for how people should think, act, and behave based on their gender identity.
In my version of a perfect world, identifying as such would not reinforce any gender roles, because gender as we know it simply would not exist.
My vision of the ideal gender-equivalent society
To me, the ideal society from a gender-identity respecting point of view is a society where no human being is forced into appearance-based gender roles. That’s right — no gendered titles such as “ma’am” or “sir”; no standards of gendered appearance. I want a society that normalizes makeup and body hair for people of all genders. I would love to see a line — no, a whole fucking sub-industry — of dresses for people who are assigned male at birth. I want a society where gender roles don’t exist, one where people find their places based on their personalities and accomplishments. I want a society where no one is reprimanded for stepping outside of the prescribed norms for their assigned sex at birth.
I want a society where, from a gender perspective, everybody is truly fucking equal and not identified a certain way because of their looks.
Something something feasibility
Now, when I say this, a common argument that pops up is that this is unnecessarily complicated. P also points this out:
I mean, honestly, the only way that it seems like you won’t be offended in any situation is if it becomes customary for EVERYONE to ask upon having any sort of interaction with ANYBODY “Are you gender non-conforming? What pronouns do you prefer?” And, unfortunately, with only .5% of the population identifying as gender non-conforming and a tiny percentage of that being bio females who present as overtly feminine but identify as male but prefer feminine pronouns … not only is it not going to happen, but it also isn’t practical. [source] [emphasis mine]
If the insistence of referring to a person by the gender that they appear as is due to a desire for simplicity and cognitive optimization, wouldn’t it be more effective if we simply treated people as people? Rather than using “she/her” or “he/him” at all, have “they/them” (singular) be the default. Use “person” rather than “woman” or “man”. Eliminate the idea that one must be a certain way because of what set of genitals they happen to be born with.
Like I said earlier, that is an ideal. For now, realistically speaking, I don’t think it would be too impractical to simply ask people what gender they identify as and what pronouns they prefer.
If I don’t want gender to exist, why do I still identify as masculine-of-center femme?
This is something I’ve been thinking about for a while, too. The answer? Gender is a social construct, and I can’t truthfully say that I’m non-binary: aesthetically, I relate to one gender; behaviorally, to another.
For now, I identify as masculine-of-center femme.
I realize that the majority of people reading this are cisgender and do not feel the crushing weight of gender BS upon them each day. All of this — the articles, the deep dive, the fact that I used the word “gender” 33 times in this piece alone — may seem excessive. The thought of the world being genderless may seem radical to you, but I invite you to really think about the implications that this one tiny distinction has on everybody’s lives. Think of all the things that you’ve been encouraged to stamp out of yourself, simply because it didn’t fit what society deemed a “real woman” or a “real man” should be like. Think of all the small ways we continue to demean even cis people today for daring to act in ways that aren’t consistent with the gender roles associated with their assigned sex at birth. Think of all the blatant homophobia — which is a direct result of people policing what genders we should or should not be attracted to — that is present even now, in 2018.
Do you really want to keep living that way?
This affects everybody. Who would you be if gender wasn’t a thing? ♚