I ask you, how do you define the word “gender”? What does it mean to you to be ___?
If you answer that gender is based on your genitals or gender is based on yourself, you’re not wrong. The reasoning behind this is that at one point in time gender was based on if an individual had a penis (male) or vagina (female). Now, this ideology still retains relevance in the twenty-first century but the definition is being transformed as many individuals have difficulties identifying with female or male. Instead of identifying gender based on appearances or biology, it is now based on the individual.
It sounds confusing, doesn’t it?
Think about it: A doctor identifies your gender from birth. Your parents identify your gender during your childhood. Your elementary teacher separates your class based on gender so who can play what in the Christmas play, where the girls play the angels and the boys play a herd of reindeers. The application for your driver’s license asked if you’re a male or female. Do you see it yet?
Here are more colors to the picture: You walk into your favorite store that has many clothes for girls or guys. You auditioned for a part in a play based on how much confidence you have for the role. You joined football. You joined cheerleader.
Gender, defined by the twenty-first century, is based on you. Professor Block commented about how gender is defined by social roles and norms at the time, so if you were in the sixteenth century, your gender is defined by the doctor and then further defined by your skills as either a housewife or a scholar. In the sixteenth century, your gender is characterized by your biology from the doctor and then you are placed into many roles appropriated by the females at the time. If you do not uphold those values in the sixteenth century, you are considered not a member of society and outcasted like a second-class citizen or a slave.
However, we are not in the sixteenth-century. If you do not like what other females or males are doing, you are surely won’t be treated as a slave or outcasted to the woods. If you don’t prefer to be part of the norm for female or males, you are not rendered null and void like a credit card. You are still a human and gender can be defined by you and how you see fit. If you are a female yet you walk into Gamestop, a video game store, you are still human. If you are a male and like to put on makeup, you are still human. Biology does not defined gender nor validates your humanity. It is the individual who defines their gender. The individual who chooses to like boy things or girl things based on their perceived sex or not. The individual is validating their own humanity.
Often, the debate about gender can be destructive. For example, transgender people are barely recognized by society because they choose to go into a bathroom different from their perceived gender. Just because they are perceived as a girl and goes into boys bathroom doesn’t invite a beating. It does not invite a negative reaction like gay men are pedophiles or a transgender man is a sex offender. Transgender people are people who feel different from societal gender norms. Transgender people are people who identified their own gender. However, not many people believed they are not validated, they are not respectful members of society, they are not human.
This treatment of transgender people exemplifies an outcast in the sixteenth-century. If gender validates someone’s humanity, then who is human if they are many (not just transgender) who don’t prefer to identify by their gender or gender norms?
Block, Sharon. “Trans-Altantic Slavery.” Humanities Core, Humanities Core, 16 April 2017, HIB 100, Irvine, CA, Lecture.