Ever notice how over time some words get a little fuzzy round the edges? How slowly over time they get overused and diluted to the point where they’re no longer truly applicable in any meaningful way to any concrete meaning? Isn’t it interesting how over time they erode not only their own meaning but adversely influence others as they go? Lets take a controversial example word that all my readers will probably be completely familiar with by now , and if not they can’t have been reading much at all, let’s look at gender.
At this point if they saw me in person a lot of people would probably tell me gender has a clear or obvious meaning, but does it really?
To radical feminists Gender is a system of roles and oppressions forced upon a person against their will, a framework of conditioning socially constructed around a person who does not consent to them, but is forced and coerced into compliance with for the duration of their lifetime.
To a Transsexual person on the other hand gender is how we as individuals perceive our bodies, a gender not matched to the persons body is like phantom limb except not only one part feels wrong but all of it , the body screams out for correction. The social model has nothing to do with this until society steps in and coerces them into the role it assumes we should have, based on the body that feels fundamentally alien. Then the roles model of gender becomes a prison to be railed against while the body remains unfitted on a very basic level. To a trans feminist the social model of gender is a paradigm we work very hard to oppose and a group of stereotypes we work hard to dismantle often to the detriment of the speed of our transition itself. We agree with the radical feminist perspective of gender roles as tools of opression and sterotypical behaviour as immensely problematic and struggle to oppose both.
To gender therapists gender is something like a sausage casing, if a client is Transsexual they must be made to fit this one size doesn’t fit anybody mould before they can be given help to correct their bodies. If a person does not fit the roles they will be reconditioned and reprogrammed by the therapists to fit the stereotypical roles that do not truly fit anybody. This is done in an effort to make a person “pass” , this meaning to fit into the polite socially acceptable illusions of men and women which have been used to oppress women for millenia and still are.
To a government official gender is a convenient little politically correct version of the sex checkbox, A neat little pigeonhole into which everybody must fall, A or B? come on are you a boy or girl? it isn’t that complicated a question is it?
Try asking a neutrois, a person who seems to fit neither box, because regardless of which configuration their body takes it will feel as wrong as the transsexuals body feels to them. To a neutrois Gender is their own personal hell, a permanent limbo of a or b , one or the other with no option for none of the above.
Then we enter the realm of other categories of transgender, to a drag queen gender is a performance, a mask to be worn to entertain, a set of roles and cliches to be pointed out so their hypocrisy becomes clear to all and the entertainers point can be made. To a crossdresser gender can be very complex indeed, or it can be simply a second skin to be worn to feel comfortable. The categories go on forever, and I hope nobody will feel I erase their lived reality by any of this , or if I do not continue through every category, as I get the feeling that by the time I did this wouldn’t be an article, it’d be an encyclopedia.
The result of overuse of this word should be clear by now, gender is too complicated to be simplified down into a single word. Yet it is used for so many different circumstances. As a result gender means a lot to a lot of people, but what does it actually stand for? Absolutely nothing, it tries to be everything and as such is diluted into meaninglessness, isn’t english an evolving language? Maybe it’s time for the thinkers of our world to dream up new words, so we aren’t all constantly at odds with each other over a single word that truly stands for about as much as a politician who just learned he won’t be getting reelected. Words that evolve beyond meaning everything and at the same time nothing.