Last year, Australia made it legal for people to register their gender as "nonspecific"--that is, neither male nor female. Other countries, including New Zealand and Nepal, have similar laws. I support this, because I think people should be able to "identify" however they want, or to not "identify" as anything at all.
My concern isn't with the third gender movement itself, but with how people understand it, and how they understand gender as a result. Articles like this one from Sunday's NY Times adopt language that, despite their apparent inclusiveness, actually reiterate the gender divide. In part, the article details the gender-related travails of Norrie May-Welby, an Australian who was designated male at birth, but by age four, "was drawn to the world of girls, playing with dolls..." Later in life, Norrie underwent gender reassignment surgery and identified as female. Although this development was gratifying, she found she did not want to "dissociate [her]self from aspects... simply because they were labeled masculine" (she now IDs as gender nonspecific, though she's fine with female or nonspecific pronouns).
I have zero problem with Norrie's personal decisions or (quite courageous) journey. My problem is in the way this story is told, and in what this telling means. The story, and others like it, suggest that Norrie's doing "girl things" as a kid was a clue to her female-ness, but that her refusal to let go of "masculine" things later meant she wasn't "fully female," or that part of her was "truly male."
In other words, much of the "third gender" discussion equates "masculine" things with maleness, and "feminine" things with femaleness. It reiterates the gender binary by trying to oppose it. That is, when you say that a third gender exists because some people like "boy stuff" and "girl stuff," you're still adopting the idea that "girl stuff" and "boy stuff" exist as categories. And I don't think they should; I think it's stupid for the categories to exist at all.
If you want your gender to be butch or nonspecific or agender or neutrois or anything else, I think that's awesome and that you should go for it. But I also think it's important to fight against the idea that people are necessarily something besides male or female simply because they don't fit into society's ideas of typical masculinity or typical femininity.
Starting in 2004, the Lesbian, Gay, and Queer Research Foundation (LGQRF), has been keeping track of queer sub-populations in the U.S. They have ALL kinds of quantitative data, both about self-identity and lifestyle. They don't list "butch" as a self-selected category, but do collapse several indicative variables together, including sporting activities, reading habits, car ownership, occupation, and more, and end up with a startlingly accurate picture of the butch population throughout the U.S.
If you're like me, you're a little hesitant--after all, there a thousand ways to measure the "butchest" towns and cities: butches as a percentage of the queer population, butches as a percentage of the general population, or degree of butchness (that is, how "butch" are the butches there, even if there aren't very many of them?). The GLQRF actually breaks it down in seven different ways, but I'm just going to highlight the top 5 in the categories I think are the most interesting. (The GLQRF lists 50 in each, and that's just waaaay too many for me to include here.)
Butches as a percentage of the queer population
1. Sudbury, Massachusetts
2. La Honda, California
3. Dixville Notch, New Hampshire
4. New York, New York
5. Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Butches as a percentage of the general population
1. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
2. Northampton, Massachusetts
3. Oakland, California
4. Provo, Utah
5. Abilene, Texas
Butchest Butches (without regard to # or % of butches)
1. Tracy, California
2. Highlands Ranch, Colorado
3. Friday Harbor, Washington
4. Mitchell, Nebraska
5. Lafayette, Louisiana
Least Butch Butches (without regard to # or % of butches)
1. Seaside Heights, New Jersey
2. Sunnyvale, California
3. Scarsdale, New York
4. Los Angeles, California
5. Frankfort, Kentucky
Most Attractive Butches
1. Portland, Oregon
2. Galena, Illinois
3. Greenville, South Carolina
4. North Decatur, Georgia
5. Eliot, Maine
1. YOU, if you're still reading this. April Fool's! Heehee. Hope you enjoyed scouring the fictitious stats above. I just made 'em up! Have a terrific day. Love, BW