April 6, 2010
Sexuality and Gender
Sex and Gender Binary Problems
Transexuality and the Sex/Gender Binary Problem
Sex and gender categorizations cannot be based on a binary system of classification. Male and female are not the only two distinctions of sex. The dictionary places individuals into two distinct categories, which is not always the case for some. The Merriam Webster definition of sex is “female or male especially on the basis of their reproductive organs and structures.” The gonads, genitalia, and hormones in the body define biological sex. At birth you are labeled a male or female and there is a box that is check that stay with you the rest of your life.
Sex is different than gender; sex is biological while gender is characteristics that are ingrained in the norms of each and every society’s culture. The way a person walks, talks, and dresses is a message of how they have been gendered in their own respective society. Effeminate males, masculine females, broad shouldered women, and longhaired men are not a usual sight and oftentimes bring about glances of surprise and intrigue. Gender is a personal choice that has been influenced by the culture that surrounds the individual. This deep-seeded impression of cultural distinctions between the two sexes and genders results in a binary system.
There are many whom do not fall directly into the sex and gender characteristics that make them female or male. Transexuality according to Wikipedia as those people who identify “with a physical sex that is different from their biological one.” This difference between physical sex and biological sex leads to transsexuals having to cope with living under the binary scrutiny of society. Transsexual people fall out side of this normal perception of sex and gender. These people are confronting personal and external sexual identity pressure.
Allie Lie is one of the many who do not fit perfectly into the box of sex. Allie Lie was born a male and is transitioning to a female she has written about many of her experiences. Allie Lie has experience living under the pressure of sex and issues confronting her own personal sexual identity. In her essay “Passing Realities” Allie talks about some of the issues that she has faced as a transsexual. Allie has to cope with trying to pass as a female in many of her personal interactions with people outside of her close-knit friends. In one encounter she asks a receptionist for the key to the rest rooms because she has to go pee. Allie is dressed “in her only polyester power suit, in burgundy with matching jacket and skirt” (attire usually associated with the female gender). The receptionist hands Allie the key to the restroom, and “hurries to the room marked “W” She tires the lock but with no luck, the second time as well with no success. Allie realized that the receptionist has given her the bathroom key marked with a “M”. In this example Allie failed to pass as a woman, the gender she is trying to portray with her physical sex. The receptionist is a perfected example of the ingrained stereotypes that culture has generated to label individuals to a specific group. There is a conscious grouping that happens when you see a new person. Is this person as male or female? The receptionist in this case was forced to make a snap judgment. The receptionist placement of Allie in the male category was one that conflicted with what Allie’s personal visions of her own gender and sex identity.
Stacy Montgomery has similar experiences as Allie. Stacy is a transsexual dyke. She transitioned from male to female and is sexually attracted to women. Stacy also like Allie has written about her experiences as transsexual. In her writing twenty passing she talks about how other react to her undistinguishing sex characteristics. In the ninth story she tells about visiting a convenience store at night. At this hours she is unshaven and casual, on her return trip she is walking towar several men. Because of her appearance so she thinks that the men will reader her as a boy so she starts to act like one straighten up her spine and walk if I don’t care. As she approaches one he men says “Hey, young lady!” As she walks under a street light the man can see her more clearly become completely silent. As she passes she hears the commotion of the group talking she cant hear what he his saying but by the tone of voice she knows that he is angry. She hurry on as not to draw any attention once she gets home she starts to shake. Stacy’s story shows how the preconceive notions of sex and gender have place a burden the transsexuals who do not conform to this identity.
Allie’s and Stacey’s stories illustrate the pressures that people who fall outside of the gender and sexual binary feel. Stacy feared for her own life because of her identity. Allie had to endure a sex and gender test by others day in day out. These stories encompass some of the sex and gender and issues that arise when people are outside of the binary idea. Transsexuals have to know that others might place them in conflicting sex and gender roles that differ from their personal perception of their own sex and gender identity. The social binary leads people towards a closed minded philosophy on sex and gender. The knowledge that there is other people who are not within the idea of only two sexes and genders is a true test of culture. These individuals have to face constant pressures to rethink who they are and the concept of cultured gender and sex binary on a daily basis.