October 17, 2016
The Gender Binary: Manufacturing Our Identities
Society is quick to label, quick to decide who people are before they’ve gotten the chance to discover it for themselves. As soon as one is born, they are assigned a gender. “It’s a boy!” or “It’s a girl!”, they don’t make any other balloons or cards. The habit humans have of dividing things into twos applies not only to the world around them, but is at work intrinsically as well. As with many of such partitions, the separation of people into males and females runs very deep. It is ingrained socially, legally, and culturally with ubiquitous reminders that this is what is normal. It is such a constancy that it almost creates the illusion that it is natural. However, this binary construction of gender is an inaccurate representation of reality, possesses restrictive qualities that poison the human experience, and is a contradiction of the quest for human freedom. The gender binary is a cultural accomplishment rather than a natural order, and requires coercion. People are taught their place in the binary as they go through life through such influences as consumer culture. Examples such as toys, magazines, and film all serve to produce gendered identity which complies with the established system, and therefore are culprits which serve to exacerbate the problem.
The gender binary is a system that forces all people into one of two strictly defined gender categories, and it is treated as though it were a rule with no exceptions. By valuing the physical over the abstract, by focusing on the biological components of gender, freedom of expression is eliminated. Self-determination is often curtailed by the gender norms, the rules society has written that govern how a gender is supposed to look, act, dress and play. These arbitrary norms are pervasive but erroneous. One’s sex is not a direct and perfectly correlational indication of one’s gender. The consequences of such a system are vast. Because there are only two legally recognized genders, those who cross the boundaries cannot exist in either a legal or social sense, without denying a fundamental part of themselves. They are never free to be exactly who they are, but rather they are forced to play the role that society wants them to play. There are also people in such a situation that neither side of the binary fully represents how they see themselves. However, if they do not act as their legally determined gender, they are committing the biggest act of transgressing gender norms that there is. Society is flustered by such individuals, about what to do about those who don’t fit into the established order. There are people who identify with neither side, and people for whom there is no adequate encompassment all of their gendered identities. These people are made invisible. The legitimacy of their identities is ignored, and they are not represented. Legally and socially, their genders do not exist...