Redefining Gender

April 19, 2018
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For the past thousands of years, humans have been trying though unsuccessfully to categorize our fellow beings into distinct groups on the basis of physical appearances. Ardent followers of phrenology, palmistry, and racism still endeavor to link people’s physiology with their personality and even intelligence. A modern definition of gender also is a far-fetched notion based upon the two different forms of sexual organs and thinking that this difference could account for the diversity of human existence. With the aid of modern science and critical thinking, however, the three former sets of standards have been proven wrong and pseudo-scientific one after another, testifying that human bodies are mere frames of our contrasting personalities and souls but not limitations of them. This conclusion has further prompted many people not to believe that people have between their legs corresponded with certain traits termed “feminine” and “muscular.” Gender therefore should not be an awkward garment which is ill-fit on most people in a dichotomous, physiological-based, and immutable way.


In the first place, gender ought not to be a dichotomy between male and female. Among the billions of human population on the Earth, many people, possessing incongruous gender traits and preferences, actually do not fall completely into the established category of male and female. There also are in fact many individuals who have only parts in common with their gender norms, resulting in an awkward situation of belonging to neither extremes of gender. For instance, a little boy whom I have known for years has an equal interest in practicing martial arts and applying cosmetics, two of the most gender-incompatible hobbies. Because of the traditional conception of gender, he was sad but compelled afterwards to abandon his makeups for the fear of being discriminated as “girlie.” This vivid example of an outlier of gender norms, which definitely abounds in number around everybody, illustrates that gender should not only exist at the two given extremes of the biological sexes but also lie in the broad continuum in between. Boys with certain “feminine” characters and girls with “muscular” ones should also be able to identify themselves with gender, which features a spectrum of diverse human beings rather than two parochial sets of square pegs in round holes. Their disparate sexual organs should not confine themselves from being expressed but constitute a continuum of social standards in which they can find their own niche. To sum up, the essence of gender should comprise of a range of ideal positions in society in between the two biological sexes rather than an aggravated polarization.


In addition, gender ought not to be based upon physiology. For every person, even though half of the people in this world share the same kind of reproductive organ with him/her, their similarity extends to almost no other areas. Under some circumstances, individuals even openly identify with the opposite of their born sex, claiming few, if any, conscious homogeneity with members from that group. A prominent example of the open disengagement of the given sex is American athlete Caitlyn (Bruce) Jenner, who came out to state her identity as a woman in 2015. Her courage to come out as a true and cognitive woman has since inspired many other people who have trouble with conforming with their physiological sex and accelerated acceptance of the new definition of gender based on self-recognition rather than physiology. In addition, her adamant rejection of physiological sex reminds people of the importance and necessity of a shift from a system of physiology-based to recognition-based gender. While this new conception of gender focuses less on the inbred quality of human beings, it also allows us to attain certain goals beyond the reach of our given sex. A Korean actor, Choi Han-bit, finally had a chance to pursue her long-carved-for model career after her embrace of a volitional gender. When her story was published in the Korean media in 2009, it attracted public attention and new waves of support for interpreting gender in cognitive terms. These famous figures, along with other victims of the conventional perception of gender who dare not to voice their own understandings, are a powerful attestation to the anachronism of biological gender. Therefore gender as a concept should be defined in terms of perception but not biological structures.


On top of not being dichotomous and physiological, gender also ought not to confine people to an immutable niche. It should instead deliver people from their bitter struggles against popular intolerance towards re-assignment of gender. As reasoned in above paragraphs, since people should be able to place themselves anywhere between male and female according to self-cognition, it logically follows that they should also be entitled to shift their gender whenever needed. Living in extremely diverse and colorful world, people each face their own challenges and opportunities every day, which once in a while would urge them to find a new and more suitable gender. A highly controversial study in America conducted on David/Brenda, who experienced numerous times of transgender operations, is a convincing example to support the case. Because David/Brenda had his male reproductive organ damaged during infancy, he was raised as a girl until an age of 15. Nevertheless, he had always entertained veiled perturbation throughout his life as a girl, so he determinedly transitioned back to a male after finding out his born sex. His choice to decide and later redefine his own gender should be respected but not curbed by how people perceive gender. Although David/Brenda’s experience has not been widely shared today, many other individuals certainly have desires to rebel against their given or even previously chosen gender. Their urge, although many of which not outspoken, to move freely along the continuum of gender also deserve attention and approval and thus substantiate forcefully the need of a flexible gender definition.


In conclusion, gender should be a continuous, cognitive, and flexible scale with which to evaluate our diverse beings. It should never serve as an obstacle in people’s self-realization that judges them on the basis of biological structure, thereby checking them from fully achieving their potential. As a result, understanding the essence of gender as a set of volitional and dynamic standards is an important step towards embracing the humanity and our diversities.






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