Being a user of the internet, I frequently come across statements such as ‘But why do you say you’re a boy? You’re obviously a girl’ and ‘No other animals are born in the wrong body. You’re just making it up.’ The magnitude of ignorance in such statements never fails to amaze me, and so I am writing this to explain why it is that some human beings, unlike any other species, are transgender, genderfluid or gender neutral, and how the reason for this is one that affects everyone, even those who identify as cisgender.
To begin, and summarise my article in short: biological sex ≠ gender.
Even if you identify as cisgender, these two aspects of you exist in such a way that makes them connected yet separate.
In order to explain, I am going to bring in that lovely word up there: interpellation. This is a Marxist philosophical concept that stems from Louis Althusser’s Essays on Ideology (1970 edition), and, in short, is the concept that we are fed ideas about our identity from the media, and that this has been going on for so long that few of us are aware of it, and that few of those who do rebel against it, because it is such a deeply ingrained aspect of human society.
So, what does this have to do with the topic?
Well, gender is one of the most prominent areas of interpellation. It is one of the key ways in which the media targets audiences. For instance:
Women are defined as having, or needing to have:
While men are defined as having, or needing to have:
Now, as you read this list, you may be thinking ‘But that’s not right! What about homosexuals? What about aromantics? What about muscular women? What about plump men? What about businesswomen? What about male beauticians? What about women with short hair? Men with long hair?’ There are, of course, very few people who fit those media portrayals perfectly, because the criteria listed above exist because of the media and social conditioning, and have nothing to do with whether you were born with a vagina or a penis, and that is the difference between biological sex and gender.
A biological women might fit none (or few) of the expectations of women and all (or a lot, or at least more) of those of men. A biological man might fit none (or few) of the expectations of men and all (or a lot, or at least more) of those of women. In other words, the gender that they identify with is the opposite to the gender typically associated with their biological sex. Such people might identify as such. These people are transgender.
Other people might fluctuate, fitting more of the expectations of women one day and more of men the next, and therefore, their gender identity might fluctuate. These people are genderfluid.
Other people might fit each list of expectations with an equal ratio, or not fit either, and therefore identify as neither or both genders. These people are gender neutral.
The reason, therefore, why humans, unlike any other species, may have a non-binary gender identity that matches their biological sex, is because they are the only species with a gender - that media construct that has nothing whatsoever to do with the circumstances of birth.