When I talk about gender, I’m not talking about sex or genitalia. I’m talking about how you present yourself. How you dress, how you act, how you talk to other people in social situations. Gender is extremely important in this society. It’s the first question people ask when you’re born. Is it a boy or a girl? They aren’t asking whether you have a penis or a vagina – though it’s implied – they’re asking whether they should buy you a blue shirt or a pink shirt. By the time you are two years old, you’ll decide which gender you think you belong to. And if you pick wrong…
The problem with deciding that the binary system of gender doesn’t work for you is that it’s tied to everything in our culture, especially with how we relate to each other. If you become genderless, then how do you talk to people? Gender gives us a framework for communicating with each other. Without that framework, you’re on your own. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, think about how men and women talk to each other. Think about how two women talk to each other, or two men. Each one is different. These differences in communication are enforced everywhere in the media. Our trouble communicating between the genders is blamed on biological sex differences, which is ridiculous. Your genitalia have nothing to do with how you talk to and communicate with the people around you. Belonging to a gender is like belonging to a club. You know how to communicate with the other members of that club, so that wherever you go, you can pick up visual cues about a person’s gender and establish a rapport based on nothing but the fact that you are part of the same gender, the same club.
What if you’re transgendered and your genitalia don’t match your gender? What if you’re intersexual and your genitalia don’t match either gender? What if you’re genderqueer; you don’t feel like you belong with either gender? You’re just floating somewhere in between genders, never belonging to either club? Which public bathroom do you use? How do you introduce yourself? What pronouns do you use? Do you approach people aggressively or passively? Do you enter gendered spaces, such as a locker room, knowing that others will be confused or threatened by your presence? How do you establish a rapport with a stranger when you have no framework for communicating with them?
How do you talk to someone in a non-gendered way? Can we have genderless communication? What does genderless communication look like? Should we get rid of gender entirely? Create new gendered clubs? Do we have other gendered clubs already? As always, I have more questions than answers. And the answers only reveal more questions. Such is life.