I’ve been talking with a few people recently about the labels and definitions we all feel like we’re pushed in to and there is one thing all of these boxes have in common. Transsexual, transgender, cisgender, gender queer, transvestite and all the other identities which people feel define them fall somewhere on the spectrum between 100 percent male and 100 percent female. An identity can be fluid, fluctuating or fixed but from what I can see these labels just serve to divide people into smaller and smaller boxes.
Gender variant is a phrase not used enough in my opinion, the majority of people in this world have never had to think twice about their gender but the fact of the matter is that most cis identified people are not binary in their gender expressions. Men who society would call ‘in touch with their feminine side’ still fall on the male side of the spectrum but display gender variant behaviour, the hundreds of thousands of transvestites and crossdressers who identify as their birth gender fall under this definition too, the same goes for women who some people would call ‘tomboys’ and a multitude of other behaviours which go against the traditional stereotypes.
When we as a community talk about trans rights and acceptance I can’t help but feel that we are missing a trick here, using words like transgender and transsexual creates an ‘us and them’ mentality, it excludes the millions of people who are by definition gender variant. When I explain to the people I meet about gender being a spectrum instead of the male versus female binary system, it’s like a light bulb has been switched on in their heads, they get it, they finally understand why I say that I never felt like I was a woman trapped inside a man’s body or any of the other misconceptions they have about why a person transitions.
I truly believe that the whole of society is on the cusp of a gender identity revolution that will be on the scale of the sexual revolution of the sixties and seventies, more and more young people are freeing themselves from the binary handcuffs of the traditional ideas of what it means to be a man and a woman. One of the reasons which held me back from attempting to transition for so long was that I just didn’t feel that I fit into what was expected of me to be transsexual, up until a few years ago I just thought that the word queer was just another gay insult and as I have learned more about the complexities of gender theory, my own identity has evolved.
I’m not knocking the people who identify as totally male or female, it’s their right to be true to themselves and I understand the merit of medical based definitions but I can see in ten years or so words like transsexual and transgender being viewed as old fashioned and exclusionary, while the conversation about gender variant people evolving and whilst it is yet another label, it’s one whose meaning is wider and helps society to understand that the fight for acceptance and equality isn’t one of a tiny minority but something that is relevant and means something to millions of people.