05 May 2010
The Gender Binary
The gender binary: the idea that there is a strict line that separates man and woman, which defines masculinity and femininity. However, there are not two genders. Gender is not a category--it is a spectrum.
Sex isn't even a category. If you've ever heard of hermaphrodites, then you understand that there are more than two sexes. In addition to men and women, there are all kinds of in-betweens for which we have no name besides the general term hermaphrodite.
In the same way, there are more than two genders. There is not only male and female; there are all kinds of gender expressions for both genders. Some females feel more masculine, and some males feel more feminine. These people are often quickly labeled "gay," even though their gender or gender expression has nothing to do with their sexuality.
Take me, for example. I am biologically a female, but my gender expression is not strictly feminine. I do not believe in girly dresses, makeup, jewelry, heels, or low-cut shirts. I may be shy, but I'm not passive and I'm not soft-spoken. I do not let the man pay for all the dates. Sometimes I look like a boy, and for this reason people label me a lesbian. Some people are just too uncomfortable around a girl that looks and acts like a boy. You wouldn't believe some of the nasty looks I get.
But why do people have this reaction? Why can't people accept that gender expression may be different from a person's biological sex? Why is there such an obsession with knowing everyone's sex? (I'm looking at Lady Gaga on this one--who cares if she's a man or a woman?)
The gender binary is largely to blame for this issue. Many people, especially from our older generations, believe that there are only two genders and that you should act like the masculine man or feminine woman that you are.
I am here to challenge this binary. I may be a woman, but I do not have to act feminine. I do not have to dress like a woman. If that makes you uncomfortable, good. We need to get over this notion of the gender binary so we can have some real progress in this country for women's rights and LGBT rights.