Community Conversation > Non-binary talk

[rant] "Reifying gender"


In the course of wandering around the Web to avoid doing what I should be doing, I ran across mention of a transphobic trope: "Trans people [=trans women] reify gender."

FWIW, reification is the fallacy of treating something abstract (i.e., an idea or a concept) as if it existed in the real world.  A classic example is IQ: it is nothing more than a score on a test, but many people assume there must be something in the brain that corresponds to "IQ."  But lots of things are reifications: money, the language, and the Republican Party.  People act as if they existed in the real world, but unlike things like rocks and rivers, if everybody stopped believing in them, they would vanish without a trace.  The coins and bills might remain unchanged, but they wouldn't be "money."

Anyway, when I saw this, I was pretty irritated.  The whole society I live in (including the transphobes who parrot this particular trope) has been "reifying gender" since long before I was born.   Whenever people talk about "what men are" or "what women are," they're reifying "man" and "woman."  My experience of gender has been that it's this crazy system of stuff they claim you are or are not based on what the obstetrician wrote down on your birth certificate, which everybody around me kept forcing on me but otherwise didn't have anything to do with who I am.  IMnot-soHO, it's a social construct (and a pretty miserable one, on the whole) -- that is, a concept (or set of beliefs) which everybody acts as if were part of the natural world, like gravity.  Of course, they also expend a lot of energy forcing people to act the way the construct says they are "by nature," and punish you pretty severely if you don't.  (So much for "by nature.")

It's a system I have to deal with, whether or not I believe in it or like it or what.  In reality, I'm just me, and whether I wear a dress or trousers or build storm windows or sew or use and Easy-Bake oven, I'm the same me, but as long as I'm seen as "male," people expect the trousers and the woodworking and get weirded out and tell me I'm doing something wrong when I wear a dress or bake.  I much prefer giving myself out as "female," even though it doesn't really define me, either, because there are women out there doing all of those things, so I'm not looked at as a violation of the natural order if I do them.  I'm not "reifying" it any more than any cis person does by simply living their life, and a lot less than the ones who do "gender reveals" and talk about "man cards" do.  It's simply my compromise between what society demands and what fits me.

tl;dr -- this trope is simply victim-blaming.

I agree with you Asche.  Gender is something that everybody navigates and negotiates as part of being in society.  One has to be in a position of massive cis priviledge to suggest that trans folks are making some kind of intellectual error because we feel our gender differently from how it was assigned to us.  Some of us feel gender really strongly and some of us don't really feel it at all.  I actually really like and appreciate that trans culture has so much warmth and inclusiveness towards both those ways of experiencing the world.  Anyway . . . pretending that gender is something that could just be ignored is kind of like when people who had never experienced discrimination used to claim to be 'color blind'.

It's nice that some people don't feel gender deeply and are "Colour blind" to their gender and the gender of others. They are most likely to sympasize with a transgender female or person.

I am extremely gender colour blind. I assign no meaning to it whatsoever. Wether I am interacting with a girl or a boy doesn't cross my mind at all.

I might take some heat for this, but it's Ok...

I understand being angry about Society trying to put you (meaning everyone) in a box... Especially if you don't like the box you're being placed in that doesn't fit who you are.  I've Been there.
But It's not all a construct either. Biologically there are reasons why the genders and roles have developed as they have literally over hundreds of thousands of years and many of them are what has allowed us to survive and be the current dominant species on the planet (not saying the smartest or most evolved here, just dominant) instead of being a part of the fossil record.

Now I'm not blasting anyone, but the biggest issue that I see is the fact has caused the most harm is Society (read People in General) Not wanting to Accept that very few things are truly Binary... Gender (including both psychological and physical), Politics, Religion You Name it.... And we all are guilty of it, or have been at different points in our lives.  It's like Right and Wrong.... Most people categorize things this way especially in youth, with no middle ground, then as we age and grow and experience the world what we find is that this thin line between them grows and keeps growing with millions of shade of grey in between.
IMO It's much the same with Gender and Gender Roles... Most people think Binary and have to learn that there are millions of shade of grey in between, with the hard part being that the middle ground is sparsely populated so learning both by Individuals and Society as a whole is a Slow process... We will get there, but it's frustrating for those of us who are there to wait for the rest of Society to catch up, often taking small steps with each generation.
I'm Older, in my late 50's. Growing up Gay/Lesbian was not tolerated and Gender / Gender Roles were very fixed when I was a small child.  I witnessed and Saw the changes with Women taking on more Masculine roles and later more men becoming Homemakers and have witnessed it becoming much more Ok to be Gay / Lesbian to where it's pretty much accepted and not even thought about in many areas.  The same thing is happening with just what you are talking about...

So I understand the Anger and Frustration because most of my life it was much worse and there was no place to even know that you are not "Wrong", should not be Ashamed and perhaps worst of all you had NO ONE to talk to, NO PLACE you could go for any kind of validation that you were Not Alone... There was No Internet and unless perhaps you lived in a large city where there was some Group, so Yea... I understand, and a lot of people who fell outside the box didn't survive and either imploded or committed suicide without anyone ever knowing why.  So please take Heart.. It is getting better, and the best way to continue the process it to try and embrace people, get to know them, and if you feel they will listen open up to them and attempt to get them to understand. You won't and can't reach everyone, but those that you can you will leave a lasting impact on that they will pass on to their children and the world will be a better place for it.
Just my Opinion FWIW.


[0] Message Index

Go to full version