Well, today’s XKCD was enough to make you go “eeeek”. But they’re generally awesome. I just love it when people get it.
Gender isn’t as simple as male and female. Even purely biologically speaking there is more natural variation than that. Sex seems to be more of a spectrum rather than two neat categories. And it’s a social construct. Nature hasn’t given us clear distinctions, obvious characteristics of what should be considered male or female. Instead, we’re presented with a great variety in reproductive and sexual anatomy. It’s humans who try to fit this complexity into two groups.
Intersex conditions are then defined as natural variations that deviate from cultural norms concerning male and female bodies, including variations in chromosomes, hormones and sexual organs. Take these ladies on the right, for example. Would it make any sense to say they are men, just because they have XY chromosomes? Of course not. It shows how amazingly diverse human bodies really are, and how silly it is to insist sex is a simple thing. We should recognise it for the sociale construct it really is.
And that’s just biologically speaking. Gender is so much more than that. Part of it is gender identity, whether you feel like a man or a woman or maybe neither or both. Gender identity is a personal thing, it’s how you feel about yourself, how you perceive yourself. Your gender identity can match the cultural norms associated with body characteristics, so for example I feel like a woman and my body looks like what we call female. If I felt I was really a man, I would be considered transgender and perhaps I’d feel the desire to change my body to match my gender identity.
And then there’s gender expression. The way we’re supposed to look, how we are supposed to present ourselves to the world, is deeply connected to ideas about femininity and masculinity. People want to know, when they look at me, ‘what I am‘. If I’m a man or a woman. If I felt like a woman and my body matched what we call female but I would get a short haircut, stop removing facial hair and would wear clothes we associate with men, people get… confused. Annoyed, Angry, even. Because I’d be messing up their nice boxed up ideas of how you’re supposed to look, what a woman is supposed to be.
I love it.