Our Monumental Desire for the Binary Gender System

Ms. H. and Jay captured in a wide closeup. Shot with a Canon 60D by Jay Sennett
Playing around with a wide angle lens. Shot with a Canon 60D.

We all need the binary gender system

All of us, from non-transgender to gender queer to transsexuals, need the binary gender system.

Trans people especially need the binary gender system.

How else can we know our own gender stories?

What do we fight against? Confront? Seek to uphold or dismantle?

Who we are happens with others

People standing in front of an escalator at Gallerie Lafayette. Shot with an iPhone 6 by Jay Sennett
People standing in front of an escalator at Gallerie Lafayette. Shot with an iPhone 6.

I believe very much our identities exist in contexts. As humans much of how we understand privilege, diversity and oppression happens in our relations with others.

We also create and recreate ourselves as we interact with and confront systems (call them ideologies, if you like) that come at us as ideas. These ideas exist without common agreement about definitions.

Just ask five strangers at a party for their definition of gender. You’ll get five different definitions. Some might sound similar but each person will have a different idea of what gender means to them.

Seeking permission

Birds leave trees. Shot with a Canon 60D by Jay Sennett
Birds leave trees. Shot with a Canon 60D.

As a transsexual, gender for me means a system of science, religion, sociology and psychology that makes my life really difficult. Most of my difficulties, because I am white and upper class, have stemmed from seeking permission.

During a seemingly prehistoric time compared to today, this permission seeking happened in the late 1990s and early aughts: Extensive psychological testing to obtain hormones; further extensive psychological testing to obtain surgeries to obtain a letter from the surgeons to request permission to change my birth certificate, and so on.

I hated the binary gender system and decided the whole thing a farce and good riddance.

If it had been so easy.

I love the binary and love to hate it.

Storm clouds open up in front of a power line. Shot with a Canon 60D by Jay Sennett
Storm clouds open up in front of a power line. Shot with a Canon 60D.

This thing I claimed to not want actually thrived within me as a moving target. I wanted to be a real man with a real man’s body. Real operated, and sometimes still operates, as an ill-defined but quite hard psychological cudgel I use to beat myself.

Even more than the therapists and psychologists and physicians and insurance companies I claimed to despise, I needed the binary gender system.

 piny made this devastating comment in 2005:

There’s gender-benders and there’s trans. The gender-benders claim to destabilize and satirize the gender binary but really just support and worship it. The trans claim to act independently of it but actually need it to survive. Sometimes, the two categories are completely different, and sometimes they inexplicably melt into an undifferentiated whole.

Just so, twelve years later.

Of course, all of us in the transgender communities can do without the bathroom terrors, the notion that we cannot be normal, the legal and social disdain, and, for trans women of color, the realities of daily violence that have reached the level of obscenity.

Without the binary gender system how would I live?

A statue sits bathed in light surrounded by darkness. Shot with a Canon 60D by Jay Sennett
This statue lives with us. Shot with a Canon 60D.

As a transsexual I can’t imagine my life without it. The system provided a goal. That sounds strange, like the binary gender system resembles a self-help methodology. But I knew what I wanted: To live as a man, age as one and love as one.

The idea of a gender binary appeals to me. I know my feminist and anti-patriarchal activists card will now be revoked.

I don’t care.

Feminine, feminist women attract me. I like having additional body mass, no menstruation, a beard and deeper voice.

I love suits and ties and underwear with pouches.

Guess that makes me reactionary. But I am a happy reactionary, and glad to need the gender binary.

Read » » If You’re Transgender, Are You Unnatural?

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