Thesis and Intro
Attack of the Gender Binary: The Clone Wars
Growing up in Connecticut, it dismayed me greatly that I had no local Major League Baseball team. Posited squarely between New York and Massachussetts, most of the people I knew were either fans of the Yankees or Red Sox. These two teams represented both the history of the league as well as the prestige of two ancient cities. Because each team played in the American League East, the rivalry grew even greater. Because there was so much attention given to these teams, it seemed that every baseball fan was forced to choose a side. In spite of this, I followed in the footsteps of my father, and dedicated myself to rooting for New York’s other baseball team, the Metropolitains. I stuck with my team but will admit it was not easy to defend them. While the Yankees and Red Sox have spent the last decade in a virtual Cold War, the Mets have become marginalized, cast aside by players and fans alike. The Sox-Yankees binary may have been arbitrary and generally inconsequential, but for a young man growing up in Connecticut the debate was very real. It was acceptable to fall on either side because there would be any number of like-minded individuals around you. It was only when you fell outside the binary that you were alone to stand against the scorn of Red Sox and Yankees fans alike.
Much of western thought exists in binary opposition. Our clock is divided into night and day. Our folklore designates good characters and bad characters. Even gender, established by arbitrary signification, becomes distinguished in terms of what it means to be a man and what it means to be a woman. While it made sense that a majority of people in Connecticut would root for either the Yankees or Red Sox, the public perception was that it was not alright to like any of the other twenty-eight teams. In much the same way, modern opinion shuns those that fall outside of the gender binary. It is implied that to be a man is to be attracted to women, and inversely. We have also come to expect that being a man or a woman relies solely on biology. There are many cases where sexual preferences as well as anatomical distinctions blur the expected social duality. These individuals often find, like a Mets fan in Connecticut, that they cannot explain why they don’t quite fit with the rest of the people around them.
Oftentimes, transgendered or genderqueer individuals talk about some aspect of themselves not fitting in with their perception of themselves or the world around them. Two stories, Allie Lie’s “Passing Realities”, and Stacey Montgomery’s “Twenty Passings” are examples of people in the midst of transitioning their gender. They constantly feel as if they are running against some unseen grain. As a Mets fan, I understand this pain in some way. Because these two people fall outside the gender binary, they are forced to account for their behavior, curb their behavior, or attempt to pass as either in hopes of avoiding confrontation or embarassment. Only through their example can we deconstruct the gender binary, though, and in so doing find a comfortable middle ground where someone can fall anywhere on the gender spectrum and be a functional part of society.
Stacey Montgomery’s story is comprised of twenty short episodes in her life in which she was confronted with issues of passing. Because she falls outside the gender binary, she must try to pass in many situations as either a man or a woman. Though the context of her scenarios changes frequently, her dis-ease is a constant. If she is seen as either a man or a woman she sees the comfort of a stable social situation. However, as someone who wants to be able to operate between the gendered construct, she is never being true to the situation if she simply passes. As a young male, for instance, she was not allowed to be a princess for Halloween, but instead was considered a space monster.
Allie Lie’s situation is similar, but most definitely complicated by the fact of having children. This is unique because a child can bring an innocence and tolerance to a unique situation where an adult with their opinions and experiences already molding them.
(I am going to go into further detail and extrapolate some quotes from both of these stories. I lost my book over the weekend though, and haven’t been able to find it. I’ll either borrow someone’s or get a new copy to be ready before the next deadline.)