Editor's Note: Zythyra is an acoustic musician, writer and activist who lives in rural NH. Zie has had considerable practice over the past few years trying to construct sentences without using any gender pronouns.
We all do it. We meet someone, and automatically categorize them as being male or female. We add up both obvious and subtle cues to figure out which sex they are. Maybe we have good gaydar skills, and further identify them as gay or lesbian. This is a useful skill, especially if we're single and looking for a potential partner, or perhaps a date for this weekend. Maybe we also have good transdar skills and can even identify the person as having a transgender history- someone who has lived as a different gender in the past.
I don't know whether gendering other people is human nature or just learned so early on that it seems natural to us. But then, once we go into the processing department, we clearly have sets of cultural assumptions that are assigned with each gender. These assumptions have been conditioned in us since childhood; we expect certain traits, mannerisms and behaviors to go along with the gender that we think we see. We're also conditioned to respond to the person and perhaps act in different ways, depending on which gender we think we are relating to. This is what I wish to explore further today.
I am a person with a transgender history. I transitioned, did what is known as the Real Life Test for a year or so, and came to the realization that I am neither gender- or somewhere in between. I decided at that time to not go any further with HRT, hormone therapy, so I inhabit an outwardly appearing male body with a psyche that isn't male. In a perfect world with no discrimination, my gender expression and clothing choices would lean closer toward the feminine, however I also like to eat and have a roof over my head, so I wear male clothing to work.
A few years ago, I started meeting other people who also don't identify as either gender; some are androgyne, genderqueer, bigender, two spirit, neutrois, etc. Some of these people's gender expression is androgynous, or a mix. Others appear more as their birth gender, and thus are invisible to others unless they out themselves. I also have friends who are transsexual, but for various reasons, haven't transitioned. As I've gotten to know fellow gender variant people, I realized that if I didn't know their transgender status, we could meet on the street and not have any idea that we were family, so to speak. This really got me thinking.
We cannot see someone else's subconscious gender identity. This macho looking guy might really be M2F transsexual. This woman with long hair might be a non transitioning male identified androgyne. Who knows? We're not all wearing signs that announce our preferred gender to the world. Or even name tags. I can see mine now, "Zythyra, male bodied, female identified androgyne".
Maybe if we had a secret handshake so we could recognize each other...
I dislike when people make assumptions about me based solely on my perceived gender. Because of this, I endeavor to relate to other people in a gender blind manner. It doesn't mean that I don't see their physical sex characteristics, but I don't want to act one way toward someone who is perceived as female and another way to someone who is perceived as male. I want to treat everyone the same, simply as human beings.
Here's the cool thing. Sometimes, when I don't talk to the macho guy as a "guy", he surprises me, and perhaps himself, saying things that allow me to see the true humanity inside. We get past our differences and see each other as real people. My ongoing challenge is to continue throwing away my own assumptions of who people might be- regardless of their perceived sex or gender.
I wonder what the world would be like if we all tried this.