Rethinking gender

Bobbie Szabo

What if I said there are more than two genders?

There are; in fact, there is an infinite number of genders. There is also an infinite amount of ways to express one’s gender.

First, let’s define a few concepts.

According to the American Psychological Association and World Health Organization, sex and gender are two separate aspects of the human existence. A person’s sex refers to their genitalia, and a person’s gender refers to how they self-identify.

Gender, however, is not only a form of self-identification.

Gender is also socially constructed. Before a human being is even born, the people in the child’s life are already thrusting gender roles upon it. If the child is supposed to be a girl, their room will be painted pink. If the child is supposed to be a boy, their room will be painted blue. The parents will throw a gender reveal party to announce to the world their new baby boy or baby girl. Friends will give the soon-to-be parents fun gifts, like sparkly barrettes for a baby girl or toy trucks for a baby boy.

When we are born, we come into a world where we are expected to follow a script. A child born with a penis is a boy. That child will be assertive, a natural-born leader, outspoken, dominant, masculine, a lady’s man, rational and confident. A child born with a vagina is a girl, where the expectation that she be emotional, dependable, nurturing, loving, quiet, submissive and eager to find a good man.

How ridiculous does that sound?

Studies show that by the time children turn four years old, they have a fully realized concept of how they should perform under gender role. They may not know exactly what gender is, but they know how they should be acting as a boy or girl. Little girls purposefully raise the pitch of their voices. Little boys isolate themselves from anything feminine.

We grow up in this dichotomy between the genders, talking about the “opposite gender” as though every human being falls into one of two polar-opposite categories.

The truth is that we don’t. Very few people fall perfectly into either the binary categories of “man” or “woman”—although many individuals still feel comfortable identifying as one or the other.

Sex is not binary, either. People are born every day with characteristics found in either males or females. A person’s gender is not their genitalia, although society tries to enforce synonymy between gender and sex.

A person’s gender and sex also do not determine sexual orientation. We have socially constructed divides between genders, but there is no reason a little boy cannot like the color pink. Similarly, there is no reason somebody with a penis cannot identify as a female.

Ultimately, we need to tear down restrictive gender roles. They serve no purpose, only limiting people’s right to live without the unnecessary burden of arbitrary social norms.