Gender is the range of characteristics pertaining to, and differentiating between, masculinity and femininity. Depending on the context, these characteristics may include biological sex (i.e. the state of being male, female or intersex), sex-based social structures (including gender roles and other social roles), or gender identity.
Let’s talk about this for a minute.
First of all, when we’re talking about gender we’re not necessarily talking about sex. And by sex we’re not talking about the act, we’re talking about the plumbing.
Indeed most of us were born with our sex determined already. Yes, some people are born with both ovaries and testes. But for most of us, our biology somewhere along the way, picked one before we were born. We didn’t get to choose that, our DNA and our chromosomes did.
Do you know what else we don’t get to choose? Our hormones. Some males are born with more estrogen than others. Some females are born with more testosterone than others.
Most of us fit squarely in the middle, though. Our sexes were determined, our hormones cooperated and here we are. Feminine and masculine. Women and men. Indoor plumbing and outdoor pluming. Boobs and hairy chests.
And everything in between.
That’s just the thing, you see. I don’t think any of us are all one or the other.
When males are children they’re dressed in blue. Their parents offended when someone asks, “Boy or girl?” They’re handed building blocks, toys with wheels on, cars and trucks, bulldozers and excavators, tool belts and drafting tables.
When females are children they’re kitted out in pink. Ears are pierced to make it obvious. Parents still equally offended when sex is questioned, “Boy or girl?” “Can you not see the pink stroller? The earrings? The bow in her hair?!?” Girls are given dolls and tea sets, kitchens and play food with pans to cook, aprons and tiny high heels.
Left to their own devices children of both sexes choose to play with any number of things from both groups of toys. Boys playing with dolls, girls playing with construction equipment. They don’t see gender, even if they see sex.
When I was a wee girl I preferred playing in the dirt, building forts, climbing trees. Being perfectly honest, I don’t remember what toys I had. My most vivid memory of having a girl specific toy was when I begged my mother for a Barbie doll. It was simply because my friends had them. When she found her face down, naked in the mud, hair matted beyond recognition, she told me to never bother asking for another. No worries. Clearly I didn’t care about it.
I did play girl things, too, though. When we built forts we played house. We cooked, alright. We made food out of mud which we pretended to serve up and eat. The boys and the girls, equally enjoyed this make believe realm. It wouldn’t do for the girls to have all the fun of cooking. Not with mud. The boys needed to get in on it, too.
When we’re all grown up men get labeled as incompetent nurturers and women get labeled as incompetent business people. Men are rational, logical beings. Women are emotional and irrational. Women can’t be trusted with money and finances. They’re shopaholics. Men can’t be trusted to “babysit” their own children.
I’ve heard there is some truth in every stereotype.
I know men – many men- who are excellent caregivers. And women who are horrible at it. I know men who cook and clean. And women who burn water and leave a trail of dust following behind them.
I know many women who are financially savvy with fantastic business acumen. And men who fritter away their last dime on junk. I know women who are calm, cool, and collected, with ice water running through their veins. And men who are emotional and *gasp* even irrational at times.
Yes, there are feminine traits and masculine traits. I’m not sure there would be any point in denying that. Rarely have I encountered anyone who possessed only one or the other. The people I have encountered who do seem to be overcompensating. For what I don’t know. Perhaps to guard against being called a ‘Nancy-boy’ or a ‘Butch’.
As it is the case that there are people with a myriad of physical and biological traits that fit the very broad spectrum between male and female it should come as no surprise that there are men who prefer to dress in feminine attire and women who prefer to dress in male attire.
And why should that matter? What shame is there in being human?