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This post was inspired by this video, which I’ve stumbled upon casually.
Seen it? Good. It won’t have much to do with my post, and I didn’t find it particularly enlightening on the matter, it was to give you some reference. I’ll definitely start from the same question, though.
Would trans people exist if gender didn’t? And what about me? Would I exist?
Well first and foremost: with certainty, I cannot fucking know. Partly because it’s a very difficult and highly speculative question, and secondly I’m not a scientist of gender, so all I can give you is my two cents. What I am, though, is a random non-binary freak. Right because of what I am, that question has long been interesting for me, both because maybe erasing gender could mean also the erasure of my non-binary one, and because fundamentally I cannot understand trans and cis people. Sure, I kind of get what they mean when they say that they feel like a man or like a woman. Well, I think so, at least. I suppose they have a sort of internal feeling of belonging to this or that gender, an inner voice of some kind which tells them “you are a man” or “you are a woman” (please note that I’m speaking about gender here, so not sex, not bodies). One day I’d really like to sit down for a couple of hours with some cis and trans people and try to get, with a lot of patient, what the heck having a binary gender means.
So, would their (and my) definitions of self mean something in a “genderless” world? And second and directly consequent question: is a “genderless” world possible in the first place?
I’d like to observe first of all that there doesn’t seem to be a widely accepted definition of transgender. Give a look at these three, from the Merriam-Webster dictionary, Wikipedia, and the Cambridge dictionary. It’s not clear if with “transgender” one indicates someone who only feels that their gender is the opposite of the gender commonly assigned to their male or female body, someone who feels that also their body should be different and coincident with the gender they feel they belong to, or both or some variation on the theme. Wikipedia even says that “transgender” is an umbrella term which covers also genderqueers, but personally I prefer to stick to the common meaning of the word (male to female/female to male) because it’s already enough of a mess as it is, also without non-binary people getting in the way.
If it was a matter more of body than of social norms and “mental gender”, that is if a transgender was such because they felt that their body wasn’t the right one, then they would definitely keep on existing even with the erasure of the concept of gender, I suppose.
Not all transgender people are the same, though. Probably there are as many ways of being transgender as there are transgender, and while all the transgender people I’ve personally met have decided to change their body according to their gender, some might decide not to. Or to change only some parts. Some might be perfectly fine with their body, and felt caged only by what society expects them to be on the basis of their physical appearance. This is valid also for me: I have a very good relationship with my body – which is a very binary body – and I feel nothing is wrong with it and its sex; at the same time, I am not what the majority of society would expect me to be having that body.
I don’t know if people comfortable with their bodies but not with their assigned gender would still call themselves genderqueer or transgender, were the concept of binary gender or gender altogether to be eradicated. Personally, I don’t think I would. Before starting to call myself a genderqueer – term which I particularly like because it contains “queer” – I started thinking about gender and its variations because most of the people surrounding me were lolloping around with this boys and girls thing. I started reflecting on the matter because I couldn’t understand what the fuck was going on – uh… I still don’t – and I started to realize there was a difference between me and most of the others about that. When I met other genderqueers, I found that they felt and thought similar things. Then one day I discovered the terms “genderqueer” and “non-binary” and decided to adopt them for myself because they appeared to describe me accurately. Were I born in a society were the concept of gender binary wasn’t so important, I probably wouldn’t have given it the slightest thought.
What about binary people, be them trans or cis? Would they exist? Which is another way of asking: is binary-gender one of the many things inherent to human nature? … As it’s the non-binary gender by the way; now don’t come and tell me that non-binary people come from Uranus or something. The idea of belonging to men or to women, is it something which is just there, in your minds? Well, I cannot know. I haven’t got the foggiest idea. You tell me. Do you believe that, in a society where binary-gender wasn’t so important, you would still feel like you belong to one of the two categories?
What I can tell is that most of the binary people I’ve met, who are really a lot, seem to be extremely convinced of their place in the world, at least regarding gender. There actually seem to be this something, this inner voice as I call it, which tells them that they are boys or girls. I have to admit that in the beginning I felt quite uncomfortable about it, maybe also because when the topic came out I got the clear message that only binary was the right way to be. Non-binary wasn’t easily accepted, and it still isn’t. Oh, incidentally: people, give it a break! Non-binary people aren’t here to destroy the world, they just want to mind their own business without you freaking out or feeling the need to repeat tirelessly how things are supposed to be. You’re a pain in the ass you know, and not the nice kind of pain in the ass. Whatever.
Now I don’t feel particularly uncomfortable any more. Actually, I think I feel fine about it. When someone tells me that they are this or that or do this or that because they are men or women, I cannot comprehend what they mean, but I accept it. Probably in the same way they cannot comprehend me, probably they cannot fathom what it means to not feel like a man or a woman. So I just nod and go on with the conversation. Sometimes I might pull a weird face, yes, but no worries, I’m not judging you: it’s just my neurons fretting about, trying to find the location of this mysterious “feeling like a man or a woman”, and failing splendidly.
Transgender and cisgender people, I don’t understand you but I believe you. You are the only ones who can tell what is going on in your heads, not me, not anyone else, and this is valid for everyone. I cannot know if this predominance of binary gender would keep on existing should society change radically, but at the end of the day, who cares.