And it’s not often I sit in an absolute position. But I really believe this so strongly that it’s hard for me not to be. I guess I should probably go into some definitions first though.
Gender is a social construct of roles and identities built upon a foundation of biological sex. Sex is more complicated than it at first seems, with there still existing a spectrum of sexes depending on how your define (chromasomally, genitally etc). There is more than just male and female, though broadly these lines make sense for a lot of people.
On top of that physical set of potential differences, society projects a number of additional expectations and understandings. Boys love blue and girls love pink. Men love football and women love needlework. Masculinity is competitive and femininity is emotional.
We all know people who don’t fit into these boxes. We all know people who don’t do what is considered the norm. We’re actually moving towards a society where less norms are considered vital. But it’s not enough yet. There’s still assumptions everywhere about how people should behaved, buried deep enough that people consider them common sense. There seems to even be an industrial output of bullshit evolutionary theorising suggesting that it’s all totally natural. On the plains of Africa the men would hunt and the women would stay at home and raise the children, so it’s normal.
Not only is there little evidence of this not based on our own assumptions (which means they can’t be used as evidence for our assumptions) but it’s an absolutely ridiculous notion to base the way you live your life.
We have choices about how and what we are, as individuals and as society. There is no part of our world that says ‘it makes the most sense to act like we did thousands of years ago’. Nothing in our world is that similar to that world. We are dealing with a different set of assumptions. We can’t use ‘nature’ as a basis for our decisions when we are eating food off plates and paying strangers we’ve never met to make clothes for us. To make everything for us.
Gender is something that has been constructed. Largely unintentionally. I think it’s time to spread the options out wider. Let everybody know that they can be anybody. Fuzz the boundaries between masculinity and femininity to the point where they aren’t expectations thruts upon people who don’t know who they are yet.
I’ve never really felt normal. I never really felt comfortable until I stopped trying to narrow myself into someone else’s idea of what a person with a penis should be. Once I started noticing the artifices I was trapped in, I fought harder. Now I feel, finally, somewhere in the middle. You can see this in my dress. By differently expressing, I rebuild my own norms and make myself free.
And want everyone else to feel that too.
Open up the spectrum. Challenge expectation.
Be anyone, everyone.
Illustration by Rosie