Veronica Nocella's 2fer Revision

During human life, there are many different oppertunities people have to conflict with themselves, all of them having to do with fitting into a specific category of person. Questions about identity are incredibly common, due to the discomfort one receives when feeling abnormal or different. It’s natural to feel such a way, which is why categories are established- to feel normal, and to be able to simplify others to feel comfortable with them. These different categories/binaries include race, class, interest, occupation, and one of the largest, gender. We see gender in every social system; whether it be in schools, at work, or simply when having to use the bathroom. The gender binary pressures individuals to classify themselves as one gender or another, specifically the gender that pertains to their sex,  leading to misconceptions about the existence of genderfluidity or any exploration of gender.

Monique Slusher, the author of an article explaining what it means to be “genderfluid,”  uses a metaphor of three cups: one labeled “woman,” another “man,” and a third with no label at all. One some days, they say that the woman cup will be completely full; because they feel like a woman completely in every aspect. One other days, the man cup will be full, because they feel like a mix of both a man and a woman. And on some days the unlabeled up will be full, because being “man” or “woman” doesn’t describe how they feel at all on that day. (The Pacific Index.)  The idea of genderfluidity is having a completely flexible and ever changing gender identity. The fact that this concept is extremely uncommon and at times causes lots of distress and discomfort proves the oppressiveness of the gender binary. The pressure to simply be “man” or “woman” and to completely live as man or woman puts pressure on individuals to identify themselves specifically as one gender or another.

A Sand Creek high school in Colorado Springs  caused quite an uproar when they crowned a transgender student, Scarlett Lenh, to be homecoming princess. One parent had even said "I'm very sympathetic that he's transgender, but he should be on the boy's side, not the girl's." A high school junior also stated that  “I think it’s wrong because he’s actually a guy, he’s not a girl, and he hasn’t been doing this his entire life – he’s only been doing it recently.” ( Because Lenh identifies as a girl, she is still part of the binary. However,  both of these statements prove in multiple ways the negative effect of the gender binary, because of the automatic use of personal, masculine pronouns to describe Lenh, only because she was a boy at birth. The idea one must stay on the “boy’s side” because they were a boy is language that clearly states the discomfort in anything that doesn't completely cooperate with the binary that has been established, which is therefore why so much pressure is put on individuals to classify as one specific gender for their entire existence, and that any exploration of gender cannot exist.

When asked, people who aren't directly affected by the gender binary might say that only the trans community, genderqueer, genderfluid, and other individuals that identify outside the binary are affected, but on closer inspection, every social institution built around the binary that accommodates cisgender individuals directly causes the oppressiveness of the binary, such as same gender schools, camps, sports, and even bathrooms. These are the things that more deeply ingrain the binary into people's subconscious, and leads to further distress and judgement towards others who simply cannot follow or participate in these social institutions, and can therefore not live a comfortable life. It is important to understand that sex and gender are two completely different things; just because someone was born with specific body parts doesn’t mean that they must do everything according to the gender society assigns those body parts for the rest of their life. It is much more important to acknowledge and appreciate one’s being, instead of always trying to classify it.

Comments (2)

Veronica Nocella (Student 2016)
Veronica Nocella

But, see, you're describing the sex of a person: which is whether or not you are biologically a male or female. Gender is completely different from sex. Gender is not biological; it is in fact a social construct. Though homo sapiens are predominantly cisgender, meaning that a person who has breasts and a vagina identifies perfectly fine with dressing, acting, and feeling like a woman (and vice versa for cisgender men), it is very important to acknowledge the minority, and realize that the gender binary is in fact oppressive to them.

Alexander Wroblewski (Student 2016)
Alexander Wroblewski

But are not the classifications part of what give us identity? Most humans are social animals, and they want to "fit in". The binary is a necessity, most people aren't happy being different. Scientifically, and biologically, the binary exists, no matter what. Is there anything wrong with sorting by biological gender? Sure, we should not oppress those who don't want to participate in the institution of gender, but the system is what gives people identity and is based on biological, objective, fact. Genderfluidiy and Transgender is subjective, and there really isn't a reason to make special bathrooms or other accommodations for them. Binary gender is not a social institution, but rather a biological fact of life.