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So, I guess first off I should probably define what I mean by gender, and how that relates to sex (for my somewhat rambling thoughts on feminism, you should totally check out my other piece, later in this issue). At this point, many of you will no doubt be expecting me to trot out that tired old truism about sex being about physical bodies, and gender being a social construct and therefore about minds. As Asher Bauer argues in his 2010 piece ‘Not Your Mom’s Trans 101’ (ironically now somewhat dated itself; four years can be a long time in activism) however, this is in fact bullshit; given the existence not only of intersex people, but of cis people whose chromosomes do not match those conventionally associated with them, sex is just as much a social construct as gender, and can best be understood as gender applied to bodies. This still leaves the term ‘gender’ undefined, though, which is a problem. How about this: gender is what you self-identify as. Yes, even if you’re cis. That just means that your self-identified gender happens to coincide with the one some overworked doctor looked at your freshly born, red and screaming body and decided you were (or in far too many cases, performed surgery to make you a ‘better fit’ for). So a female body is simply a body that happens to belong to a woman, a male body one that belongs to a man, a genderqueer body… well, you probably get the idea. Oh, right. I forgot to mention the part where not everyone identifies as either a man or a woman. Now, in a ‘typical’ Trans 101, this would be where I say that gender identity is a spectrum, with men and women on opposite ends. Actually, it’s more complicated than that: gender identity is a huge complicated three-dimensional thing.
How do I see feminism interacting with gender? Well, being trans, I obviously have very little sympathy for the view held by some radical feminists that gender should be abolished in toto; not only is this view largely contradicted by their going on to claim that biology is destiny when it comes to accepting trans people, but it rests on a very Eurocentric, binarist model of gender. I would argue that it is in fact gender roles and norms which need to be abolished, and that a good place to start would be ending the often toxic masculinity taught by society as ‘average Kiwi blokehood’ (the man/woman dichotomy I mentioned earlier). I’m sure most of you will know what that references, but for those of you who don’t, I’m talking specifically about the whole macho ‘boys will be boys’ shit that encourages so many men, young and old, to bottle up their emotions and turn either to drink or to violence as a way to avoid actually dealing with their problems. As for how to do this? Well, that’s complicated. One place to start could be improving sex education in schools; I can’t speak for exactly what it’s like these days, but ten years ago there was barely anything on gay sex, and nothing about trans people.