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.
4/8/2014 06:14:54 am
i fully agree with you .im female butch ,maybe if i was younger would have consider a gender change but as this point in my life im so glad to be a butch female and get disturbed by the ideas that one thing is not butch and another is.i am not less butch then someone who claims to be more"macho" as i find the idea ironically sexist.it is not up to trans community or other butches to define my butchness based on their percieved views of masculinty or feminity for that matter.ive been called sir,fag,and dyke many times so i just embrace the parts of me that i enjoy and loose the rest.
Being agender, I don't get the deal with why so many social concepts are "gendered". In terms of the binary, I understand there is an innate quality that some people born with penises see themselves as women, as some with vaginas see themselves as men (and some like adult entertainer Butch Angel are fine with <a href="http://www.out.com/entertainment/michael-musto/2013/11/25/trans-buck-angel-documentary-broadway-macbeth-godot">what they were born with</a>).
Hi Charli--I read many nonbinary and genderqueer blogs on Tumblr and elsewhere. I hope it was clear from the article that I am not the least bit bothered by nonbinary folks identifying as such. I also understand the difference between being agender, being nonbinary, and being two-spirited. I think all of those identities are completely valid. My problem is not with the identities, nor the people who claim them. Rather, my problem is with the ostensibly supportive dialogue around these concepts in the media, which often ends up--perhaps inadvertently--underscoring the idea of a binary and effectively erasing or calling "other" people who are "feminine" men or "masculine" women.
4/8/2014 11:24:33 am
And I totally understand what you mean, also, about not "feeling" male or female. I do not experience a desire for an agendered body, but I do find myself wondering whether I "feel female," and exactly what that would mean, anyway! Maybe that makes me less "female" than other females. I don't think so, though. But if I'd been born with the same brain and a male body, maybe I wouldn't experience any dissonance then, either. In any case, Charli, thanks again for your interesting thoughts.
4/8/2014 08:10:45 am
bravo chica. i think that we encourage (or as some might have it, exacerbate) the gender divide by the way we scrutinize it. People are so multi-faceted there is literally no -- and I truly believe this -- no simple bell curve with wholly 'feminine' people and wholly 'masculine' people. If you layer on all the so-called gender-specific characteristic bell curves over each other for a particular person, you will get a slightly bumpy, maybe slightly tilted line. And that is only when you get the person to self-define. If you ask a random person to rate another person, the curves for each layer might be totally different -- witness the really 'femme' or really 'butch' self-defined person whom others dont think are particularly femme or butch, respectively.
"this person likes pink AND blue. omigod clearly this deserves a whole other category" said reporters, in no less subtle terms.
4/8/2014 10:38:50 am
You. Are. Awesome.
4/8/2014 01:53:35 pm
Just wanted to say that your paragraph about your gender describes exactly how I feel about my own gender. I just feel happy when I come in contact with another person who identifies the way I do. I makes me feel less like an alien :)
4/9/2014 02:36:14 am
Exactly!! I have a problem with the whole MTF and FTM trans community because I think that they are upholding notions of binary gender. I believe in gender queerness, being agendered, multi-gendered, whatever you want to call it, but I feel that binary gender is mainly a social construct and that many trans people unfortunately buy into the whole masculine = male and feminine = female outlook which I think is wrong. A person can feel more butch/masculine, for example, but that has nothing to do with being male or female. I would say that I am agendered genderqueer and am a person, not a male or female, despite having a female body. I don't identify with a female body but also have no interest in changing it to a male body, which I also don't identify with. So I just see myself as a person who was born with a female body.
4/9/2014 03:48:51 am
It doesn't seem fair to judge the trans* community for upholding notions of binary gender. While I agree with you that too many people (people in general, that is) buy into masculine = male and feminine = female, I have NO problem with the trans* community. As someone who has the luxury of feeling comfortable in my own body, who am I to tell people that they *should* feel comfortable in theirs??
4/9/2014 03:57:46 am
I understand what you are saying, but isn't it contrary to being genderqueer to want to have your body match your identity? I think it's truly genderqueer to live with the contradiction. I'm not going to tell people what to do or not to do with their bodies but I just feel that people who make the choice to transition to "male" or "female" are just buying into traditional conceptions of gender, gender presentation, etc... Transmen talk about their new "masculinity" for example, transwomen ask "what kind of woman do I want to be?", etc... They are the same person they were before so I don't understand how transitioning would make a difference as far as these issues are concerned. Again, people can do what they want with their own bodies and identities, it's just my outlook on the topic.
4/9/2014 08:38:22 pm
It is a difficult situation - I'm trans* myself, and it is hard to define what that means using vocabulary that people are familiar with without referencing the binary that is so prevalent in this particular culture.
4/11/2014 03:25:36 am
*hugs* I agree with you. Masculine and feminine (and everywhere in between!) women exist, and masculine and feminine men exist, and masculine and feminine other/genderqueer/nonbinary people. If you're female, then simply liking things coded by society as "boy things" or "girl things" doesn't make you any more or less female. Likewise, really effeminate men exist, and are still men, and being effeminate doesn't make them women.
4/22/2014 01:09:17 am
Wow this article is really timely for me! For the past few months I have been exploring my masculine side. I know for certain I'm not trans, I'm happy with my female body. It's just nice to feel handsome and wear stereotypically male patterns, cuts and colours. Also I have a large androgynous build and sometimes mens clothes are easier to get into. Like shoes. Oh my god buying women's shoes when you have 11-12wide (inwomen's sizes) feet is horrible! Also jackets. Large shoulders and women's jackets don't mix. Anyway, all this is to say that Iève pondered identifying as genderqueer and adopting non-gender-specific pronouns but I feel the way you do. It's cool if other people do it and I get how it can be empowering but for /me/ it kind of goes against my feelings towards gender. It's all constructed and making this third category reinforces the other two. We should all just do what we want regaurdless of our gender identity. Anyway it's complicated and I think I want to identify instead as a gender-rebel. or gender-pirate, yeah I like that better. :D
4/22/2014 01:19:38 am
Gender pirate - I love that!!
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