I’ve been seeing this over and over in certain segments of the trans population and it’s starting to get on my damned nerves.Â Transpeople — 100% binary identified transpeople — claiming that gender is entirely a social construct.
This is a problem.Â Why?Â Because if gender were entirely socialised I wouldn’t exist.Â Nor would thousands of other binary identified transsexuals.Â If gender were solely an issue of socialisation it would be possible to train me to be a nice little girl.Â My parents tried that.Â It failed.Â Pretty miserably.
I don’t know if transpeople realise what they’re saying when they spout this stuff or if they’re getting gender identity confused with gender roles.Â Either way, something needs to be done.Â Society has tried claiming that all gender is devised by social rules and restrictions before, it was called the 1970s.Â This was the peak of egalitarian feminism, a time when women were insisting that the only differences between them and men could be traced back to early childhood rearing.Â If you raised your daughters to like trucks and swords instead of dolls and dresses they’d turn out just like any little boy.Â If you raised all of your children to like trucks and dolls equally they’d never prefer one over the other.
They were wrong.Â For the first proposal we have David Reimer.Â A young boy whose penis was cut off in a botched circumcision when he was an infant.Â His parents were told to raise him as a girl, that way he’d be able to have surgery and hormones as he got older and no one would be the wiser.Â Even better, he had a twin brother which meant they could be a perfect test case for the nurture over nature theory.Â Unfortunately for all involved, David had no desire to be a girl.Â As early as age three he was exhibiting frustration very similar to what transpeople go through.Â Ultimately David was told about his medical history and made the decision to live as his birth sex.
For the second idea there are so many individuals that I couldn’t begin to list them all.Â Most children I grew up with were given the option to play with any toys they wanted.Â Girl, boy, it didn’t matter.Â I knew boys who played with dolls and girls who played with trucks.Â There was no value placed on either, but each and every child still had a preference.Â The majority of boys preferred trucks and the majority of girls preferred dolls.Â There were exceptions and a good number of us would pick Lego over anything else, but the general rule remained.Â As far as I know, I’m the only transperson from the people I grew up with — and I was a doll kid.
So, now that we’ve established that no amount of socialising is going to change a person’s gender, let’s look at where people might be getting things confused.
One explanation I hear quite often is that transpeople only exist within the framework of a gendered society.Â If we were to remove all gender everyone would be at a happy medium.Â I’d be willing to accept this idea if I didn’t know people who were raised in almost entirely gender neutral environments.Â My elementary school, for example, didn’t have “girl” or “boy” bathrooms.Â We had one single stall per classroom (two per class in kindergarten and first grades) that anyone could use.Â Instead of lining up by girls and boys we’d line up by dark shoes and light shoes.Â My family was the only one in the neighbourhood that cared remotely about gender.Â It wasn’t until middle school that anything became separated, and even then it was only locker and bathrooms.Â Yet everyone I know from that time is binary identified.
My theory is that people are confusing gender identity with gender roles.Â Gender identity is an innate characteristic that cannot be changed.Â It’s a far broader spectrum than Western society would have you believe, but in most people it’s pretty stable.Â Gender roles, on the other hand, are how society expects people of a particular gender to behave.
For example, I am a guy.Â As a guy I am expected to have “masculine” traits.Â These traits are almost overwhelmingly aggressive and cold.Â “Men hunt, women cook.”Â “Men fight, women compromise.”Â “Men bully, women nurture.”Â “Men are good at maths, women are good at writing.”Â I’m sure we’ve all heard these and many more.Â The problem is, they’re neither true nor static.Â As society evolves so do gender roles.Â Fifty years ago a woman even running for President would have been unheard of.Â It simply wasn’t the sort of thing women did, politics was a man’s world.Â Yet today there are women leading countries around the world and no one bats an eye.
By the same token, gender roles change as you travel.Â In Japan sweet foods are considered “girly”, men aren’t expected to like them.Â In the US men are allowed all the sweets they want — though chocolate is generally seen as something women like more.Â In my Mexican-American family dancing was seen as something all people should do, even my macho, tattoo-covered, cholo uncles.Â If you couldn’t dance you were going to lose your wife to someone who could.Â This meant that at least twice a year my uncles would trade in their baggy jeans and A-frame shirts for the tight, sparkly outfits most people associate with mariachi bands and escort their wives to a night of folklorico dancing.Â It wasn’t considered gay or effeminate, it was part of being a “real” man.
Now, if we abolished all gender roles would there still be transpeople?Â Probably.Â At the very least, there’d still be transsexuals.Â Why?Â Because while being seen as a man is important to me, having a penis is pretty frickin’ important too.Â In fact, it’s more important to me than being seen as a man.Â If I had to pick between people constantly thinking I’m a woman, but having a penis and being seen as a man, but not having a penis I’d go with the penis every time.Â For one thing, it’s hard for people to argue if you whip it out.Â For another, it’d make me immensely more comfortable with my body.
Which is really what it all comes down to.Â The difference between transitioning due to a sense of being a man and transitioning due to a desire for a male body.Â It’s possible to want both (I do), but some people fall very much on one side or the other.Â Those who are fine with their bodies probably would do well in a completely genderless/gender-role-less world.Â Those who aren’t would still require some form of medical intervention.