You can almost hear the swell of frailly constructed ego through the computer screen as thousands type with satisfaction phrases along the lines of “Stop trying to be a Special Snowflake” and exploit transgender struggle and oppression for laughs from their Reddit friends with copy and pasted ‘jokes’ such as “I identify as an airplane, ARE YOU ASSUMING MY GENDER?!”
Enforcing the notion that the gender exists in a binary system, and in turn, is determined through one’s genitals, is not only scientifically false and culturally insensitive, but contributes to the western eurocentricism of knowledge and history.
Let’s first deconstruct the most common argument against the existence of multiple genders:
“Your genitals show what your gender is. There’s only two types of genitals, therefore there’s only two genders.”
The term intersex, as defined by the Intersex Society of North America, is a “general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male.” It is estimated that every 1 in 2,000 babies has a genital variance, that is, different from the commonly represented anatomy of a penis and vagina. A greater number of individuals are born with variations in their sex anatomy that do not appear until later in life, as according to the Intersex Society of North America. Approximately 16 variations in sex anatomy, resulting because of varying forms of chromosomes, have been medically recognized, but the possibility of an existence of a greater number is not slim, for children are born everyday, and many exist globally who have not had access to medical documentation. So, if one is to support the aforementioned statement of “There’s only two genders!”, it would be scientifically incorrect; for if we are to believe that sex equates to gender, then there would be over 16 genders.
But, the argument in which one equates gender to genitals would also be scientifically and socially incorrect.
Gender exists on a spectrum, and gender identity is constructed, for all genders, within the brain. This fact has been proven within multiple studies, and is most prominently displayed in the recent research conducted by the Medical University of Vienna. Within this study, the researchers at the university declared that “while the biological gender is usually manifested in the physical appearance, the individual gender identity is not immediately discernible and primarily established in the psyche of a human being.” The university further went on to explain that “the very personal gender identity of every human being is reflected and verifiable in the cross-links between brain regions”, with the identity being specifically discovered within variances of the brain’s white matter.
The experiment, led by Georg S. Lanz, included utilizing an MRI to track particle diffusion across brain matter for 23 cis women, 23 trans men, 21 trans women, and 22 cis men. The amount of particle movement in white matter regions of the brain lowered for each participating group in the order in which they are described above, and through interpreting these results, one can recognize that trans women and trans men’s chemistry was found to be in the middle of the spectrum and different from their biological sex. In turn, this supports that, since gender identity is found in the white matter of the brain, gender does exist on a spectrum, and eliminates any backing of the opinion that genitalia equates to gender.
Let’s break down another common colloquial phrase against the existence of multiple genders:
“These millennials are making these genders up for attention.”
Proclaiming this phrase would not only be both historically ignorant and culturally insensitive, but contribute to the Western Eurocentricism of knowledge. The presence of individuals has been globally recognized in numerous areas for centuries. The examples are too vast to describe in one article, so below I will detail a few:
- Waria is a term utilized in Indonesia to describe those who are born with ‘male’ genitals, but exists on a spectrum of gender identity and expression.
- Over three centuries ago, Mahu, or individuals who, despite the genitals they carried, had a gender identity that existed within the feminine and masculine societal structures, were recognized in Hawaiian culture, specifically in the Kanaka Maoli indigenous society. These individuals were viewed as sacred, but when European colonization occurred, they faced immense persecution and continue to face oppression today by white Eurocentric constructs around gender.
- Nadleehi and Dilbaa are terms (the former used for those with ‘male’ genitals, the latter utilized for those with ‘female’ genitals) to describe those who contain both genders, or the feminine and masculine spirit, in Navajo culture. These individuals are highly honored within their tribes.
- Within the Bugi culture of Southern Sulawesi, the people recognize three sexes, that of which being male, female, and intersex, and three genders other than male and female: Calabai, or those who have male genitals and carry a feminine gender identity; Calalai, or those who have female genitals and carry a masculine gender identity; Bissu, those considered to have a transcendent gender that either encompasses all genders or none of them (common to the term agender). The Bissu are highly esteemed and are equated to priests.
Therefore, the increased appearance of multiple gender labels within Western and European society is not a cry for attention, but an increased awareness of one’s identity apart from Biblical and Eurocentric conditioning. Though religion has the power to connect the human soul, it is important to be cognizant of the fact that facets of human identity, whether that be one’s gender identity and sexuality, or even one’s talents or favorite music, is independent of religion. If one was raised in a Christian household, they may contain the passion to create, just one might who is Bugi. This is similar to the reality that as one may identify as agender in a Christian household, similar to how one may be Bissu.
Often times the rejection of another’s identities and reality occurs because that reality is not one they have experienced. We must remember that if an aspect of someone’s identity and existence does not occur within your life, that does not mean it is not valid, and if you believe your experience deserves validation, you must give others that respect as well. There is a living, beautiful entity within the existence of loving others for who they are, for that love will always be reciprocated in one form or another. So, instead of fueling one’s hatred towards a beautiful part of what makes one human, perhaps time would be better spent in this fleeting life working towards a more loving world. Acceptance is so much stronger than hatred, and it’s something we all deserve.