Gender is not a binary

Posted on November 9th, by James Joseph in Challenge The World, Gender. 3 comments

At Stylenoir we have already created two pieces around the individuality of gender, one entitled “Gender Is Not Over” and another based on “The Absent Connection of Gender and Sexuality“. On the 8th of November this week, Channel 4 have begun a series entitled “My Transsexual Summer” which you can catch up on here.

But we wanted to reflect not on the program itself, but on the reaction of the public and society. Even though only Episode one has been released, we spent most of last night scouring Twitter feeds at the intense number and volume of messages and views about the show. There are a huge amount of both positive and negative mentions, but one thing that really strikes me is the fact that Gender is seen as a binary. Male or Female, On or Off.

Comments such as “This is actually pissing me off. She calls herself a woman but wants to keep her penis. Some joke” really show that the majority of society, in the UK, see gender this way. Which is as far from the reality as you can get, even medically. It really is a popular misconception that gender, is binary.

Gender is actually a scale, of a number of factors. To explain with the most clarity we’re going to turn to medicine, because even though there are many philosophical and psychological view points, the medical angle is the most poignant. Chromosomes, Hormones and Identity.

Each one of these is a scale, for example a human being doesn’t necessarily have either Testosterone or Estrogen in their body, but an amount of it. Think of an empty glass, then pour in water and wine. There is a certain amount of each, in which there can be more of one than the other.

The same goes for Identity. If a human being identifies as female, their thoughts, actions, passions, emotions and experiences, everything that makes them truly human, but has a physical male form, this doesn’t suddenly create them onto one or the other, as if a binary chipset in a computer.

It shows too that culture is a very serious player in how society thinks. For example, we mentioned the United Kingdom earlier in this post, as that is where we currently sit, writing this article.
But take a look at the Eastern World. In India and Thailand, there are three genders not only in social minds, but law too. In Thailand there are even restrooms for the third gender, which they call “Kathoey”.

This just proves medicine and the theory, that it is how you identify, not what proportion of physical attributes you were given, that makes you who you are. The attributes that make up identity and infact gender are unprecedentedly complicated, and cannot be broken down into that binary thought. On or off.

Images of Andrej Pejic, Male Supermodel.

Written By James Joseph


James is the editor in chief of Stylenoir, he is currently obsessed with neo noir films and the wellcome collection's Death exhibition


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