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20 July 2009

God Created Them In God's Image


As a post-colonial scholar I have learned to be critical of binaries – two opposing views, positions or categories that sum up any idea or experience, including physical manifestations of gender in the human species.
Things are not either black or white, right or wrong and people are not only not just gay or straight, but also neither are they either male or female.
The world is complicated and complex. Are so are the people who inhabit it.
People have come into this world with indeterminate or multiple expressions of gender from the beginning of humanity’s sojourn on this globe. At every level of scrutiny from genital to genomic, there are more than two types of human body configurations. (This doesn’t even take into account all of the internal physiological variety among individuals – everything from where the aorta branches to where the internal organs are in the body.)
Along with the false notion that people are either female or male is the cultural assumption here in the West (and to varying degrees in other parts of the world) that there is a way to be male and a way to be female. And that way in each case is single and the polar opposite – or complement – of the other.
I am reminded of this when I hear some – certainly not all – trans-persons, persons in the process of changing their gender discussing why their new gender is who they are. Many rely on stereotypes that articulate single ways of being female or male: I like baking, I love football, I never/always played with dolls. It does not surprise me that there are some trans-folk who eventually seek to have their surgery reversed as much as possible and return to life as a person of the gender identity the lived previously, from birth.
This is not to say that there are no folk who have legitimate gender identity issues which are appropriately resolved through therapeutic means including pharmacological and surgical means. I am not making that claim.
I am interested in those folk whose expressed gender identity does not conform to an idealized norm. They may be living a gender-neutral life as much as they are able, they may be living a gender identity that is at odds with their biological gender but feel no need for surgery to fell complete as a wo/man. They may simply be lesbian or gay.
There are so many ways to be fe/male. I simply get nervous when I hear people making life-altering decisions for them and for their children based in part on stereotypes. And I know that most responsible surgeons work with therapists and that gender transition takes time by design.
I just wonder how some folk would understand themselves if they weren’t limited to two options.

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