Does the label “transgender” actually reinforce the gender binary?

Penis and vagina! Can you believe these things divide and conjecture the behavior and actions of human beings? I can because people love categorizing! Sexual organs hold the answer to the only difference between the male and the female. But over many, many years, society has attached certain traits to the genitals and as humans, we can not seem to sever them. Gender roles are so engraved in our lives that when a person has typical attributes affiliated with the sex opposite to theirs, they feel as if there must be an explanation. The explanation, for some, is transgender.

Sex

Scientifically, the difference between men and women is only within sexual organs. Thaddeus Baklinski, a blogger from Life Site News informs us that, “Cosmetic surgery will not change the chromosomes of a human being in that it will not make a man become a woman, capable of menstruating, ovulating, and having children, nor will it make a woman into a man, capable of generating sperm that can unite with an egg or ovum from a woman and fertilize that egg to produce a human child.” This sounds harsh, but it is reality. The terms male and female gives explanation for our genitalia, which gives most humans the ability to make babies. It is not attitude, personality, or superficial.

Gender

We all have a biological sex, gender identity, and a sexual orientation. Biological sex is what a person is born with. Sexual orientation is what sex a person is most attracted to, either being lesbian, gay, straight, or bisexual. Gender identity is the way we express our sex. Planned parenthood’s definition of gender identity states, “Our gender identity is our deepest feelings about our gender. We express our gender identity in the way that we act masculine, feminine, neither, or both. Some of us are transgender — which means that our biological sex and our gender identity do not match up.” Gender identity is, in a way, supposed to give a person a choice of how they act, but it is more of a constraint. It is putting male and female in a box and saying this is how they are meant to act. Sex refers to the biological difference between male and female, but gender refers to the cultural difference expected in society of men and women. Celina Durgin, a Collegiate Network fellow at National Review, explains, “If sex and gender are truly independent, the gender identity of transgender individuals should be properly thought of as a social construct, distinct from biological sex. Transgender persons who do not receive hormones or surgery often manifest their gender identity solely with social markers.” Being transgender is ultimately just a socially constructed way of looking at the male and female.

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Gender Binary

The definition of transgender from google states, “Denoting or relating to a person whose self-identity does not conform unambiguously to conventional notions of male or female gender.” The key word in this definition is conventional. Although society has progressed immensely, some people still have the idea stuck in their heads of how women and men are traditionally supposed to act and dress. There is no logical reason to subjugate anyone to a gender, other than comfort of how society have always addressed genders. Celina Durgin again says in the National Review, “the real problem is heteronormativity and cis-gender privilege. The gender binary, they say, is oppressive, because it leaves no room for the sense of some individuals that their gender identity and biological sex are mismatched. So, the gender binary should be deconstructed and eradicated.” If there was no gender binary, there would be no such thing as transgender. The Dictionary.com definition of gender binary is “a concept or belief that there are only two genders and that one’s biological or birth gender will align with traditional social constructs of masculine and feminine identity, expression, and sexuality.” The gender binary has been so inscribed in society that it has become normal. A man or woman can dress, act, and express themselves however they choose. It may not be socially accepted, but that is our human right. The act of being transgender is almost like going against that right and agreeing to the terms of gender binary. A lot of transgender people say they were born trans. If we get to the core of it it is not that they were born trans, it is that they were born seeing beyond gender roles because they innately went against how their sex is traditionally “supposed” to be like. They are freely expressive! 

Brain Difference

Some believe the male and female brain are also biologically different. Whether this is true or not, a man can’t change their brain to be like a woman, nor a woman to be like a man. Kate Wheeling from Scienemag.org denotes that theory anyways in her article about the brains of genders: “Depending on whether the researchers looked at gray matter, white matter, or the diffusion tensor imaging data, between 23% and 53% of brains contained a mix of regions that fell on the male-end and female-end of the spectrum. Very few of the brains—between 0% and 8%—contained all male or all female structures. ‘There is no one type of male brain or female brain,’ Joel says.”

Example

Los Angeles Times has a story of a male born child who transitioned to female. Author Sonali Kohli writes, “The 9-year-old is growing up. She used to play with Barbies. Now she’s the class treasurer of her West L.A. elementary school. She plays girls volleyball, and paints her nails. She’s also transgender.” Notice how they talk about “girly” activities. They do this to assert her femininity. Many people tend to coin their identity with superficial things like what they wear, their mannerism, makeup, but it does not change a person internally. This child (who chose to have their name blocked out in the article) is a male who chooses to do what they are interested in, and that happens to be typical things a female does. I’d never want to devalue the hardship of someone who is transgender though. It is the most painful experience to try to act like something that does not feel correct with your heart’s desire. Gender is expression. It’s expression that has been put into two distinct categories which is why they feel so unbearable to fit into. But expression should be generously free with no explanations.

Why Choose?

Sex is what a person is born with, gender is what a person chooses. But what’s the point of making that choice? Why does a person choose to call themselves a woman over a man? Because they feel like a woman and vice versa. What does feeling like a woman mean though? Me, being a woman, I tried to find the answer and simply couldn’t boil it down to something a man couldn’t feel too. Only difference is having a vagina and experiencing the beauties that tend to come with it like periods and giving birth. Both of those things have to do with sex, what a person is born with. 

We’re All Just Humans Expressing Ourselves!

There is no such thing as transgender because gender isn’t real! It is just transcending from the long-established, societal restraints that have been passed on and taught for all these generations. A woman can be buff, have short hair, and be aggressive. A man can put on makeup, be emotional, and wear dresses. There is male and there is female for the explanation of our sexual organs, but our human expressions do not need explanations or to be put into gender categories. At the end of the day, people are entitled to call themselves transgender, but in theory, there is no need.


Featured image from Pixabay / Wikimedia Images

4 thoughts on “Does the label “transgender” actually reinforce the gender binary?

  1. This article would be a good read except:
    Not a single source if from a transgender writer. Being transgender is complicated identity to navigate. Understanding it impossible if you don’t read sources straight from trans people themselves. As a transgender man, I can tell you for certain that not every transgender person will agree with the definitions you used in your article.
    You mention that gender isn’t real, which I completely agree with, but seem to latch to the idea that sex is something that is important. I’ve been on hormones for over 6 months and the gender marker on my doctors chart is “M.” The sex I was assigned at birth is only medically relevant to conditions concerning reproductive system. I do not menstruate, my fat distribution is nearly identical of a cis man with my height and weight. Of course I would let a doctor know what my genitals were if I was for example, catheterized due to a UTI, but there are very few chances where the sex I was assigned at birth would come up on a regular doctor’s visit.
    Also regarding the idea of biological sex, intersex conditions are found in 1 out of 2000 babies born in the world. As I am not intersex myself, I have not done much research into the many intersex conditions and how different cultures and doctors interpret these conditions, but when doing an article about a sex binary, they should not be left out of the discussion.
    Another thing to mention is that the concept of other genders has been relevant in many cultures around the world, the document Kumu Hima talks about how what would now be considered a “transgender” identity, has existed in a culturally significant way, long before white settlers came and implemented a western gender binary.
    This article also doesn’t mention dysphoria, the most important factor in determining whether a child is transgender. Dysphoria is loosely defined as a sense of discomfort with the sex you were assigned at birth. This often manifest as discomfort with secondary sex characteristics, genitals, or typically gendered traits. The reason many trans people conform to common gender roles is so that that they are validated by society. A trans man like myself could have an interest in wearing skirts and painting their nails, but avoid this because people would question the validity of their transition.
    Gender is a social construct, that everyone in society needs to question. People should be able to express themselves freely without having to worry about to call themselves, or what other people will call them. I understand that a cisgender view of trans indentites might make it seem like we enforce the gender binary, but I guarantee it’s from a lack of understanding, and that’s on you.

    1. First off, thank you for sharing your experience. I was reluctant to write about this since gender is so dynamic and complex, but it is something I have been questioning a lot. I am well aware of intersex and dysphoria but didn’t include it in my blog, honestly due to lack of effort which was a poor choice on my part. I do understand I’m in the place of a cisgender person talking about the transgender community. This might have come off as me dismissing being transgender as valid, but that wasn’t my point at all. It is the fact that the gender binary must be eradicated. Obviously, that isn’t an easy task. I have read many stories and writings by people who are transgender, I wouldn’t go into this close minded. But no matter how much I read, I’m not experiencing it, so I also see how I could never understand it in the same manner as you. I also agree many transgender and even cisgender people wouldn’t agree with the definitions I put in this blog because there is not one clear cut definition of the things I was speaking about since they are complex, like I said before. Those were just the definitions I most agreed with so I went off of them. My point wasn’t that sex is important, but that it holds the only divide between male and female. I wrote this as a personal way to try to get a grasp on the concept of gender and it turned into this. I didn’t go into all layers of the transgender identity like I should have. The overarching point I was getting at is the fact that gender doesn’t truly make sense. “A trans man like myself could have an interest in wearing skirts and painting their nails, but avoid this because people would question the validity of their transition.” this statement was very helpful though. By not addressing this factor, I was being ignorant. With knowing these things, I still stick to how I view all of this because it’s how my brain is making sense of it, but I do admit, my analysis was quite poor in this blogpost due to it being a very confusing topic. I appreciate your comment.

      1. Thank you for your response!
        In all honestly, this blog post comes across as mildly transphobic. From calling a trans girl a “male,” saying “being transgender is ultimately just a socially constructed way of looking at the male and female,” to saying that the words of a doctor, who calls transgender people mentally ill in an article you linked, the “harsh reality,” it’s difficult as a trangender individual not to find this post unsettling.
        Gender and sex are definitely controversial and complex topics. I’m glad this is something you want to learn about because it’s very important especially in relation to other topics like LGBT rights and feminism. You are exactly right in saying that gender doesn’t make sense, but trans people are only trying to live their lives the way they want to. Transitioning is often accompanied by therapy because of just how confusing it is. You seem like a very educated person and glad that people like you and willing to learn about things like this!

        1. I’m incredibly sorry this felt like an attack, that was my biggest worry with writing this. But I see how it looks that way now. I wrote this blog as a thought space for myself without the consideration of others feelings, which is irresponsible. I thought no one would read this, so I didn’t choose my words as well as I could have. I went about these topics at a scientific standpoint because it made the most logical sense to me. With calling the girl child a male, that was to further advance my point in the blog. Never at any other time would I purposely use the incorrect pronoun for someone, which is something I should have mentioned as well. I would never want to add to the discomfort of people not being accepting, there’s definitely enough of that. I wanted this writing to come off as welcoming in an odd way, but my intentions were not executed properly. I believe everyone should do what feels right and makes them happy. Thank you again. It’s all a learning experience and I’ve gained more from this.

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