Non-Answer #54128 to “But what is Gender?!!”

Guess what, gender is not (just) a construct.

If feminists believe that gender is socially constructed, then doesn’t that mean there’s no such thing as transgender people? Please pat me on the back for being the first person to expose this liberal hypocrisy.

Not so fast. Although it is surely true that believing gender is 100 percent socially constructed is not compatible with the view that transgender identities are 100 percent inborn, there are a great many ways to merge an understanding of the socially constructed aspects of gender with acceptance of transgender people’s innate desire to transition. As with most complex traits, there are likely genetic and environmental factors contributing to this thing we call gender. You have not blown anyone’s mind, and this is not an unresolvable conflict within liberal thinking. Next!


Answers to your questions about trans people by Evan Urquhart

If one more person tells me that “all gender is performance” I think I am going to strangle them. What’s most annoying about that sound-bite is how it is often recited in a somewhat snooty “I-took-a-gender-studies-class-and-you-didn’t” sort of way, which is ironic given the way that phrase dumbs down gender. It is a crass oversimplification that is as ridiculous as saying all gender is genitals, all gender is chromosomes, or all gender is socialization. In reality gender is all of these things and more. In fact, if there’s one thing that every person in this room should be able to agree on, it’s that gender is a confusing and complicated mess. It’s like a junior high school mixer where our bodies and our internal desires awkwardly dance with one another and with the external expectations that other people place on us.


Whenever I hear someone who has not had a transsexual experience say that gender is just a construct or merely a performance, it always reminds me of that Stephen Colbert gag where he insists that he doesn’t see race. It’s easy to fictionalize an issue when you are not fully in touch with all of the ways in which you are privileged by it.


Performance Piece by Julia Serano

Please follow the link to read Performance Piece in full. I cannot recommend it enough.

Gender is a complex and nebulous combination of too many factors. You don’t have to know exactly what it is to realise that each person is probably in the best position to understand their own gender. Surprisingly, it costs nothing to believe people when they inform you of their gender!

Luckily, you don’t have to know exactly what gender is to identify your own gender, either. If you are asking this question because you are questioning your own gender identity, here is my attempt to help. I have taken to comparing it to shoes. I have said this elsewhere but I love the analogy so much I am going to repeat it here: Gender is like a pair of shoes. Sometimes it’s obvious that those are not meant for you and will never fit, or you fit nicely into the pair you got assigned. Other times your current pair aren’t Great, but seem… fine, and you never had much cause to think about them. You could keep them, which is okay, or you could try something else for a while if that’s what you want. Maybe you’ll realise that the old pair still fits better and go back to that, or maybe a few months later you won’t be able to imagine how you had ever put up with them. Trying to pin down and explain where exactly it is that this pair fits better than the last is futile and pointless; it just FEELS correct, and trying it on and breaking it in for a while is the best and only way to know.

Cis and trans people and everybody: You don’t have to know why you are your gender. You can just be.



Non-Answer #54128 to “But what is Gender?!!”

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