there are lots of things to be confused about as a result of the fact that some people don’t fit into a neat gender-binary model in which we are all “one thing or the other”.
classically, those of us with that experience have had to be deemed to be “sick”, deformed… victims of some defect that relegates us to a category of Human Beings who are not granted the status of full legitimacy by our fellow Humans. these fellow Humans of course harbor within their ranks members who also experience the dreaded “symptoms” but are either able to hide and lie and so fool themselves that they don’t or they are just good at hiding and lying to the rest of us, like i was when i was a “Man”.
since the late 20th Century (Gregorian), science has developed to the point where the data do not allow us to be simply disregarded as “sick” anymore. Science has begun to develop theses that show various things, inconclusively so far and controversially still, all based on biological determinism i.e. we are not just sick, we are like… mutants i guess, 100% Human but significantly deviant for biologically identifiable reasons from some “standard model” which is easily classified as… “one or the other”.
i see that this development is kind and permits me to exist on a much healthier level socially, and i certainly do appreciate that!
but being me… i’m uncomfortable because my new “freedom” to be what i am depends on what i see as being intellectual compromises. it’s like we are being given “what we want” (dress up, change our bodies chemically and surgically, be regarded as and live as members of a gender not assigned to us at birth based on our genital arrangement) in exchange for agreeing to settle down and quit tugging at the curtain behind which is hiding The Man again, pulling the levers and ensuring that His way of Division and Atomization of Nature survives the apparently major alterations caused by the new rules.
the new and happy world gives us that each of us exists as individuals, by biological composition, on a “Gender Spectrum” with two distinct and essentially divided poles, albeit no longer separated by an abyss. now those poles are separated by the dozens of emerging forms of gender being elaborated to fill that spectrum in.
the new rules don’t challenge or alter the gender-binary system which is integrally related to the same “Modern” view of Nature and our relation to “it” (say, since the Greeks maybe, 3,000 years or so). that paradigm has been elaborated over the millennia by famous thinkers from Plato and Thucydides through St. Thomas Aquinas, Thomas Hobbes, Emmanuel Kant, René Descartes and on and on… all Men by the way, which is not an insignificant feature of how our culture has developed its sense of itself over this “Historic” period of time.
the significance of the prominence (dominance) of Men in Historical elaboration of our culture is essential, not accidental nor neutral with regard to the maintenance of power relations among us.
certain members of “Modern” societies enjoy privileges that allow them to live vastly more secure and wealth-endowed lives than others. this was not the case in Human societies before “history”.
these “Great Men” are the architects of a Social Nature distinguished by its voracious exploitation of all of Nature including ourselves in the pursuit of material comforts and space to develop further intellectual advances free from the limits of harsh necessity under which our prehistoric ancestors lived.
an understandable imperative indeed, to escape the limits of necessity and so escape being chained to endless constant threat of disaster if all social effort is not dedicated to the business of subsistence under the conditions that Nature presents us. the Human development of a “higher”, conceptual Nature allowing us to change the conditions that Nature presents us is a vast advance in Human intellectual development and has vastly improved the lives of many of us living in historic times… but not all of us.
our advance is based on the idea that Nature is made of myriad discreet “elements” animated variously by “God”, or simply “Spirit” and yielding a world of competing life-forms subject to the principle that “the weak are meat, and the strong will eat”. this is a significant departure from previous concepts the Humans had of themselves in the Cosmos. our ancestors believed that they were literally inseparably related to all other living entities and natural forces. this sense of mutual dependence ad integration precluded the exploitation of Nature or each other.
exploitation cannot occur in a society that does not arrange itself under a framework of Division. to use a thing, there must BE a “thing” which is not ourself. i am, the other is not. the other is what i make of it. the other is “Object” and only i am “Subject”.
this is the basic design which yields the classic historic concept of discreet and divided “opposite sexes” – the Gender Binary, Man and Woman.
but just because this conceptual reality has allowed our intellectual development to achieve incredible things doesn’t mean that it is”true”. the Gender Binary has never existed without enormous effort expended to enforce it, which is necessary since if it isn’t enforced, it tends to evaporate as a means of controlling how Humans live and behave.
control is the goal of our conceptual reality… and to control one must divide. but Nature is not divided. the contradiction is acute to those of us living our various gender non-conforming lives under the rule of this psycho-social regime. we experience something that doesn’t fit in the model of divided sexes and genders… our sense of integration is attempting to express itself socially.
all of the above has taken me decades to come to understand, and to arrive here i’m grateful to thinkers in many disciplines, particularly theologian Mary Daly, biologist Lyn Margulis, historian Gerda Lerner, psychologist R.D. Laing and philosopher Murray Bookchin. these thinkers have helped me keep going past the acceptance of a mere readjustment of the paradigm of Division and Dominance.
i won’t settle for being split off from myself in Nature and in my fellow Human Beings. i won’t settle for a readjustment that leaves us all competing, ranked, apart, poised to conflict with and exploit one another while failing to see ourselves in each other as an integrated Whole.
so what do i think then?
i understand that:
a.) i am a male
b.) i am significantly more than just “happy” to dress and behave in a fashion that society calls “feminine”: i spent an entire life attempting to deny the urge to do so and transformed myself into a sneaking lying guilt-ridden miserable-in-secret Man, seeing myself as a “pervert” while denying and suppressing what i now know were essential aspects to my self, my personality and my being. how i have come to express those stunted and undeveloped aspects of my being is a work in progress. i am working with the tools that i understand based on my situation… a male born into a culture that divides Men and Women based on their sexes of male and female. my intuition keeps telling me to go further… my imagination has fleeting glimpses of a me not limited by the need to be “either/or” male or female, much less “Man” or “Woman”, my intellect struggles to communicate this with my fellow Human Beings..
i guess it seems complicated to people but to me at least this much is simple: just because i am a male doesn’t mean i can’t find my most joyful and fulfilling expression of myself in ways that society claims are “off limits” to me because… society DEMANDS that all males identify as MEN. i refuse. it isn’t me.
at the same time, i never claimed and would never claim to be female. in our divided social reality, to be female is to have been abused and exploited mercilessly in ways that have resulted in traumas and scars which i cannot fathom except as ideas… not experiences. so i can’t honestly do that. i do however identify with and adopt the forms of speech, of motion, of sensibility and dress and any and other attributes that are considered to be the province of “Woman” in our society. i am careful not to confuse my adoption of these “feminine” forms for the reality of being female. since i am a male, i consider my behavior instead to be a legitimate expression of my maleness. i’m no longer bound by the social constructions which dictate that males have to act like Men. i am delighting in the creativity that freedom is unleashing.
i’m fortunate to live in a location where society accepts me as i make this change, but i am also aware that if i don’t accept a new form of limitation that i’m going to be ostracized and criticized and implored to conform to taking my place in a new static spot on a Gender Spectrum… divided we rise and divided we stay.
why is this so? what’s the big deal about me dissolving my “identity” into the Whole and being someone uncategorisiable in binary terms?
perhaps the threat that society feels from Trans Women-Men/Gender Non-Conforming /Non-Binary people is that we assert that being male or female doesn’t preclude rejecting entirely the personas that conform to the idea of “being a Man” or “Woman”…
now why is that so important? my feminist Mom taught me that it has to to do with the division of first human society and then the natural world into dominant and submissive hierarchies by and for the benefit of tiny minorities of individuals as discussed above.
this model of social reality is strongly motivated and well-equipped to defend itself and has evolved identities, ideologies and institutions to that end. in our epoch, we are organized socially under authority of many of these, particularly the State.
the State defends the Dominant paradigm of Division by imposing itself on our bodies and identities… we are split to pieces and conquered, each against the other and all for the few.
the State does not easily or lightly tolerate it when people begin to ignore the artificial, ideologically driven and economically motivated constraints that society places on them, be it by dressing in the clothes of the “wrong” gender or having an abortion or being queer…
these forms of rebellion pose a potentially existential threat to the veneer of “natural order” that society cloaks itself with. society claims that it has authority because it is based on “natural law”. in fact, cultural norms are as diverse as species on this planet… patriarchal, hierarchical western civilization and its values and assertions are not the only way human beings can or do identify or organize themselves.
if people begin to elaborate ways of living that depart from strict adherence to Division and begin to create social relations based on integration and mutuality, the Dominant Order is at stake. the State and other institutions function as the Palace Guard defending the Divine Right of Kings to Lord it over us all.
in my dissatisfaction with being forced to choose a place on a spectrum or a label or a box to lock myself into, i am her-etic and dangerous to the chimera of “Truth” that the Divided social order claims as the basis of its authority. but i can’t avoid it. i can’t accept that the Cosmos exists as an atomized, divided collection of competing things, that the Cosmos is a “Universe” which necessitates the separating of the Whole into conceptual categories such as “living” and “inert” matter…
by rights, given the obvious trouble the planet and all life on it is in due to the effects that the culture of Division and Hierarchy has had over such a short history, Civilization as we know it and its whole paradigm must be left behind. it has been an obvious mistake. something isn’t right about how we as Modern Human Beings see the world. we have to do better. we have to evolve again, like the “cave-people” did at the end of the last ice-age 10,000 years ago.
being trans or gay or lesbian or whatever kind of queer flavor of the rainbow you are has the potential to expose the illusion that the Emperor is wearing any clothes.
it has to be either that we are who we say we are, beyond the divisions of hierarchal society or… we are what the Dominant say we are, separate isolated individuals acting in pure self-interest with no inhibition against abusing each other save the limits of our violent power to do so…
but we know we aren’t that. so those who claim authority are wrong about “human nature” and “natural law” which undermines their claim to legitimacy or authority to rule over all of us.
this is why we are hated, killed, defamed, ridiculed and prohibited by law etc. our form of rebellion can be deeper than any simple struggle between competing ideological formations which all faithfully maintain the reality of Division at their heart, however different they may be from one another.
so whether anyone is doing it on purpose or not or realizes it or even agrees with me about all of this, being Trans is an act of insubordination. it has the potential to challenge the basic fundamental belief of our dominant social order and represents the equivalent of a jail break.