The Unreality of Gender

Note: This post was previously published to a different blog I ran and am not longer using on September 4, 2015.

“If we scale up as far as we can while maintaining human significance, gender is pretty meaningless.”

This is a Facebook statues that received a few affirmations from exactly the people I expected to like it. Beyond that, it went mostly ignored. This isn’t exactly what I wanted to post.

What I wanted to post, which would likely have had a more negative response, though it would have been a silent one, was this:

Gender is not real.

I am not the first person to say this, but I would not have been able to describe what I meant by this concisely, and I was not prepared to. But it’s been nagging at me, so here I am.

I’d like to admit this first and foremost: I am not sure of my gender.

What am I sure of?

I am not cisgender, and my strongest dis-association is with womanhood.

That’s not to say I’ve never been sure.

I was sure I was a woman, in my own, liberal feminist way for a long time. I was positive of myself despite occasional feelings of slight discomfort.

I was sure, almost a year ago now, that I was not cisgender, that I was non-binary to some extent. Scared, but sure, deep down, underneath the baggage heaped into my mind from the outside. I was afraid of how sure I was.

I was sure, recently, a few months ago, that I was a demi-boy. This word, not even the definition, but the word as a whole and the feeling of the sound of it was right in some way. I looked at other people who identified this way and felt more kin to them than I ever had to a single woman in my life.

Six months of being sure I was at least not cis, with an obsession with cutting the lumps off my chest and not being pegged as a woman by strangers, I was fully out. My friends were great. My family was totally mediocre. I fought hard and unsuccessfully about pronouns. I announced new pronouns to all my college professors for the upcoming year. I found a new name, twice (first neutral, then more masculine, and I have kept both).

I became terrified because I felt the shift happening again. I didn’t allow myself to recognize the shift, only the mounting anxiety over every new determined and confident statement I made about my identity.

The fact is, my gender identity is shifting. I am using the word genderflux to describe myself. Genderflux is a change in intensity of gender, meaning for me that sometimes I feel so little of my gender I would easily call myself agender, and other times I feel myself as a demi-boy.

This could change, and that doesn’t matter.

If you’ve forgotten: Gender is not real.

Gender is many things.

It is a social concept. It is something prescribed to every human, whether they like it or not. It has an effect on every single person’s daily life and interactions. People are given privilege or oppressed based on their gender identity, or their perceived gender identity.

Gender, as such, is a concept carrying a lot of weight and meaning. It is a complex interlacing of many different aspects into an identity. It matters to very many people, and it matters in our society. It is a core way in which many people understand themselves, an identity that people can determine a “right” answer, for them.

But gender is not real.

Gender is not some “thing” that exists inside a person as its own entity, or even a plurality of entities. People do not “have” a gender inside them that exists somewhere in their souls or the chemicals in their brains. Gender is not its own, real, independent thing that exists by virtue of its own reality.

I think understanding this takes off a lot of the pressure to pinpoint one’s gender.

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