What i meant to say…

OK. So this is going to say what the last post was meant to – only in plain English.

Imagine a world in which.. . the gender binary really, really didn’t exist.

Oh: you think you can, I’m sure. But really? Because its so deeply ingrained in our society and so many of the things we assume, we don’t even notice.

So, imagine. Hard.


If there was no gender binary, we probably wouldn’t put gender on our cv’s, app forms or a hundred and one other places we put it now. People would stop greeting us as “Sir” or “Madam”. We wouldn’t bother having separate loos. Or changing rooms.

We’d all dress the same…

Or would we? Because that presumes that without the binary, we’d all metamorphose into one shapeless grey lump of a society, when, in practice, some people would continue to express their self through clothes: others would just put on the same old pair of jeans every morning and slouch unshaven to work.

Some people would dress ultra-femme: the very re-incarnation of Barbara Cartland. Others would dress as pirates.

Heck! This is where even my own imagination starts to fail. I mean, without the gender binary, we’d still, mostly, have the private bits we were born with and…some would prefer to do things with people with opposite bits, some with same and…the whole orientation issue starts to fall apart, too.

Without the binary

As does what happens in the street. Cause right now, whenever I walk down the road in any town, I run the risk of meeting a passer-by somewhere who will go: “that’s a bloke in women’s clothes. Equals deviant. Equals target for humour/ abuse.”

Take that away. Take away the very idea that such a perception could be non-normative (to use an awful bit of jargon) and what are you left with?

The funny thing is: in the last week I’ve been reading theorists who seem to think that if only we could get rid of the gender binary, we’d all grow up and realize that we (as in trans men and women) didn’t need surgery after all.

A brave new world?

I beg to differ. Take away the gender binary: accept that this thing, this condition is about feeling right in one’s body, turn it into the small thing it is when stripped of all the social baggage – and I wonder if the demand for re-adjustment won’t be far greater.

Because, in future, those who don’t belong to one side of the gender binary will feel that much freer to re-adjust where they sit along the continuum and surgery will just be one aspect of how they bring about that re-adjustment.

First off, there won’t be anything like the need for psych services. On the one hand, people won’t need the hand-holding which is essentially to help them get over social disapproval. If no-one points and laughs and goes “look at the weird tranny!”, where’s the need for therapy to get past the trauma?

If playing with body morphology is OK…why ask a psych before you start hormones? Or grow your boobs?

Ah, but, if the gender binary really, truly has been consigned to history why would anyone ever need surgery? That sounds plausible, until you look at stuff from the other side: the space where I’ve got to now. Which is that the psychology of the op is now a very small thing indeed. I have next to no regard at all for my male anatomy…leading, oddly, to the next question, which is: “so why bother?” Or “why bother to have a full-on op, with neo-vagina and the works?”

You know: I don’t know, beyond feeling that that is right and everything else right now is wrong. And probably, possibly, that is how it would be if there was no binary. Those who “transition” – though that word would then be meaningless – would do so because it was what felt right for them. Period.

An impossible dream

Enough. My head is spinning. I have two out-takes from this. First, how amazingly difficult it is to imagine a world without the binary – which therefore underlines how far we are from achieving it. Perhaps, too, how impossible a dream it is.

Second, that the idea that transitioning would just melt away with the binary is possibly very wrong: it would carry on, perhaps happen far more than it does now, though no longer seen as transition. Adjustment, perhaps? And the only limit would be the cost and society’s preparedness to support intervention to help individuals feel at one with themselves.



1 Response so far »

  1. 1

    Julian said,

    We’ve possibly been reading the same theorists. I disagree with them but find it difficult to articulate why. I think the most convincing thing I’ve read has been Julia Serano’s definition of “subconscious gender.”

    I also like the part of Cordelia Fine’s book “Delusions of Gender” (which is brilliant, by the way), where she points out that even where we think we’re beyond the gender binary it is constantly reinforced, and suggests another universe where in response to “Do you have any children” someone might answer “Yes, two right handers and a left hander,” and teachers would greet their classes “Good morning left-handers and right-handers!”

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