The gender classifieds
Most of us know that the world is too complex to be divided simply into black and white, but it does seem to be divided quite distinctly into blue and pink, however. Gender is a definitive factor in our social structure, perhaps the main characteristic, trumping even in other categories like race or economic status. Races can be mixed, economic statuses can be hazy, but gender remains a rigid measure of how we identify and classify other humans. Separation from the norm isn’t taken very kindly, either. You are one or the other. You cannot be “mixed gender,” and you better damn well adhere to the social expectations that exist for the gender that matches your genitalia.
Sex is biological (separated into those that have XX and those that have XY chromosomes), but societies throughout history have ascribed different characteristics to the different sexes that are erroneously assumed to be inherent, but that actually are not connected to biological factors at all. Thus, what we call “gender” is primarily built on a social construct. For instance, the desire to watch football, eat red meat, play with GI Joes, like women, and have problems with communication, are not attached to the Y chromosome, yet those are characteristics we view as typically “male.” Likewise, the double-X chromosomes do not neccessarily mean the person is going to like sappy romantic comedies, aspire to be a wife and/or a mother, enjoy the color pink, be weepy and emotional, or to want to have sex with men.
So, basically, gender? Yeah, we made it all up. Everything you think you know about gender that is not biological is a social construct, and most people probably attempt to live up to that ideal, thereby reinforcing these gender norms.
This is the post-modern world, though; gender roles are outdated. A woman isn’t tied to the home because of her breast-feeding schedule and constant pregnancies while leaving the men to hunt for food. Today, the capacity for muscle mass rarely plays a leading role in daily life. Yet, we still care so much about gender that we’ve created an entire classification system for those that fall outside the traditional male/female guidelines: transvestites, transsexuals, transgender, gender identity disorder, gender dysphoria, intersexuals, butches, femmes, androgynes, etc. – all to try to fit people into categories since we can no longer identify them by typical gender standards.
What really bothers me, however, is not our continued effort at classification, but at the diagnosis of someone that does not fit into his/her stereotypical gender role as having a disorder, ostracizing, or even damning him/her. Classifying someone as having a mental illness, or pronouncing a fiery eternity for someone because he feels more like a female, or like a mixture of both, is ludicrous.
The religious argument that a god made them “male” and “female” is always brought up, thereby inferring that a god actually ordained gender roles. If this is true, please explain to me why intersexuals exist; they do not have the external genitalia to “measure up” to their chromosomes due to hormonal over-production or insensitivity. Others have extra chromosomes, not enough, or even have both ovarian and testicular tissue in the same body.
Either this is some kind of “mess up,” or gender isn’t as important as we think it is. I’m going to go with the latter. So those that don’t fit neatly into the gender molds that humans have fabricated, whether it be biologically, socially, or psychologically, aren’t freaks, nor are they mentally ill. They don’t need to be “fixed.” They’re differentiations of the “norm” that has been created, and a refreshing difference at that.