The gift of "Trans..."
The societal normative image of the gender binary does not apply to everyone.
Intersex. Transgender. Transsexual. Transvestite. Transhuman. Gender Queer. Gender Fluid.
These are some of the terms that may be chosen by someone to identify one's self. The all too standard response is to view people as they relate to the gender binary, as a reaction or an alternative.
(You are either male or female. If you are not male/female, then you must be...?)
However, this tendency overlooks the most basic frame of reference - that of a person's choice of one's own definition.
(I am .... because that is who I am.)
The first definition is a labeling process by the group, in which the individual is told the terms of one's existence. The second definition is who we hold ourselves to be.
The first definition is the most common framework. Call it the "you are who we say you are" definition. It is also called mob action, bullying, intimidation to name only a few. For people that make choices that the mob approves of, this bullying is invisible and not worth consideration. Why? Because 'most people' won't complain. Meaning, nobody wants to argue with the mob. The mob threatens people into compliance, using ridicule, shame, violence, hatred, moral persecution, vilification, ostracism and death.
Looking at this in terms of the 'gender binary', some people line up in a hetero male/female slot effortlessly. They may go their entire lives without venturing out. Others will find it difficult to fit in exactly, but will not buck the social structure for fear of negative consequences. They will find a way to cope with any anxiety from this.
Human beings are not static, neither are our identities.
These definitions can change from day to day, minute to minute, very slowly or a combination of these. Our self-definitions change as we live out our lives from infancy to geriatric infirmary. Our sex drive does not exist as toddlers. If and when it does arrive, each person will develop a unique identity for one's own sex, gender & body. So, we are - all of us, changing throughout our lives.
Even hetero males change. The by-product of that particular groups bullying stranglehold on societal definitions and its resulting denial of self-determination and change leads to the "mid-life crisis". If this group wasn't so busy bullying society into a gender binary as a means for power, control and domination - they would have practice at navigating through and living within a life of changing identity.
Which is why I believe individuals among us who identify themselves in the spaces and movements of "trans" / intersex / etc. are a gift to society. It is a bit of a misnomer to refer to 'they' or 'them' in general, but particularly when I am talking about individual identity. So, I just want to reiterate that I am talking about individuals and how they identify themselves in their own terms for their own reasons.
So...why do I say 'gift'? Because in the 'gender binary' relationships of society, it takes decades and even centuries for the questions of identity to be worked out. 100 years ago, women could not vote. 50 years later, Women's Liberation began to occur. What wave of Feminism are we on now? Each one seems to take 20 years to give way to another. The work of removing Patriarchy and Sexism moves very slowly. The relationships between a male and a female perspective, the understanding of each other and the assimilation of traits passed from one to another are accomplished very slowly. - In the 'gender binary', that is.
This costs society the mind power of women, the toll of poverty, sickness, violence and the devaluation of literally half of every society. The one proven method for breaking the cycle of poverty is the education of women. The 'gender binary' is a toxic system. It is a system of false ideals and it is a system of inequality enforced by mob rule or individual acts of violence. The mob rule at the very least being the tacit approval for this imbalanced, unfair and toxic system - as the status quo.
We - all of us, need for the 'gender binary' to be exposed for the failure tha it is. Male and female are not bad or wrong. But a system that denies a person their own identity as means for one part of society (hetero males) to brutally dominate and oppress the other half, this system is suicidal. So, we need these lessons to be learned. Inside the 'gender binary', change comes slowly.
To my point (at last, I'm sure you're thinking), a person living a trans / intersex / gender fluid / etc. identity goes through those experiences, perspectives and realizations - daily, often from one minute to the next. Questions of what it means to be feminine or masculine, male or female or any other point(s) on the gender / sex identity spectrum...are worked out by one person. This is pure gold and an untapped resource.
Where it can take one man or woman inside the 'gender binary' a week or a month to understand the perspective of a person of the other gender; a 'trans' person may get both simultaneously or in rapid, alternating succession.
Rather than lumping individuals into targeted groups as undesireable, to be vilified or attacked - we could be embracing each person as a human being. When we encounter a trans / gender fluid / intersex person, we could ask them to describe themselves and identify themselves in their terms. Then, we may welcome each one into society for our mutual good.
It is not only the language of change along the gender spectrum that our society needs. It is also the ability to become a society of individuals defined by themselves in their own terms.
We are either going to embrace our changing nature as a society or perish by denying it. One very good way to find our way would be to embrace those among us who are fluent in the vocabulary of this existence.