Gender Is Not What You Think It Is

CW: Gender deconstruction

*** Audio Recording temporarily not available, but it will be back ***

Validity Disclaimer

Let me preface this with the statement that all self-determined genders are valid and that dysphoria of any kind is valid and all this remains untouched by the reasons we find and the explanations we give and how they might be wrong/problematic. It’s also explicitly about the eurocentric concept of gender, which informs the discourse in the western meta culture.

Frame Of Deconstruction

This is not about deconstructing people, this is about deconstructing the way we think and talk about people — including ourselves.

The concepts and vocabulary we know are essential to what kind of ideas we form, including the idea of who we are.

The concept of gender that we talk about in the western meta culture is inherently eurocentric and we have to acknowledge and consider that when talking about it.

But let’s get started.

Apparent Dimorphism

A binary exists in some form or another all across the globe. That’s only natural, as during the development of our capacities for abstract thinking, the physical reality of human “sexual dimorphism” (which is miniscule in humans already) inevitably lead to assuming a binary in genital configurations and reproductive function.

It is important to note that this dimorphism is about the empirical correlation of certain physiological properties that coincide with reproductive function. It is not by itself a valid proof, basis or argument on the topics of “sex”, “gender”, or a binary in this context. The term is used in quotes because there’s no other other widely known name for this phenomena that was not created and is not used in context with the arbitrary concept of “sex”. More on that in a linked article at the end.

Whatever is layered on top of that and what importance or standing is associated with this mostly binary physical reality and how physical configurations that are not distinctly assignable to it is dependent on the cultural context. That’s not “gender” yet, though, it’s just the reality people were confronted with before more abstract and nuanced ideas of what people might be and how they may be similar to or different from each other. Acknowledging a — for the most part — binary physical reality is not yet attributing anything but the obvious (physical make up and reproductive capability).

Eurocentricity And Colonialism

And that’s where eurocentricity comes to play. The eurcentric concept of gender is not necessarily comparable to concepts of gender (under whatever name) in other traditions. This is obscured by the effects of colonialism, which were forced upon colonized and dominated traditions and people, often in combination with erasing their concepts and their gender related culture. So the eurocentric concept of gender is not universally applicable and we simply cannot talk about it as if gender was something that essentially meant the same thing around the globe, aside from most of the globe being forced to frame their reality in eurocentric terms.

Eurocentricity has the habit of seeing certain concepts as separate from one another. Like “culture” and “religion”. Culture as such is a term that needs to be deconstructed on its own, as it didn’t even really exist until the germans made up in the last few hundred years (around the time of peak colonialism) to counter the french concept of “civilization”, which essentially just was a way of rationalizing a feeling of superiority over people that were not “like them”. So you see, even the terms/concepts we use to talk about the way people live, express themselves, interact and see the world are eurocentric. Our very tools are eurocentric.

When europeans started colonizing, among many other places, Africa and the whole (and initially really, really, really racist and eurocentric, obviously) idea of anthropology came up, the “explorers” and “scientists” didn’t realize that their perspective wasn’t valid. They tried to distinguish between the religion, the “culture” and the community of the people they met and got it all wrong, because for many of them, it was one and the same. They were inseparable from one another and applying eurocentric perspectives on them could not lead to any other outcome as a complete destruction of all of them. While considering my own inevitably somewhat eurocentric perspective, I’d rather say that it would better be described as “shared concepts about the world”. The eurocentric shared concept of the world was one in which these things were separate, but since eurocentricity means that you are largely unaware of your concept of the world not being universal or absolute, but rather one framework among many, other people’s concepts were seen as existing within the eurocentric framework, instead of being different frameworks altogether.

It’s also a reason why the western meta “culture” *loves* “science”. It’s essentially free pass to tell other people what’s wrong and what’s right.

The eurocentric concept of gender essentially constitutes the highest and broadest archetype one can align with, and eurocentricity forces such an alignment upon you. That can be found outside of eurocentricity, too, but again, often times because of colonialism and destruction of other people’s concepts.

That’s So Archetypical!

Archetypes as such are neither inherently bad or good, but necessary tools for people to navigate social interaction and organize social life. You have those in one form or another all across time and location. They can be used to give a name to certain dynamics, attributes and behaviors, allowing people to communicate their alignment and what roles, responsibilities, actions and responses can be expected from a person without exchanging detailed descriptions. Common forms of archetypes are, e.g. often certain roles in society or professions: Smiths, hunters, ceremonial/spiritual guides, king/queen, parents, warrior, fool, healer, shaman, dancer, scribe, etc. They embody certain attributes and dynamics that have a relation to each other and can be found essentially all across time and location.

In the eurocentric understanding gender is the primary archetype. It determines your social standing, the roles that are open to you, the attributes, interests, behaviors and expressions that are allowed to and expected of you. And it is tied to your genitals. As such, it’s a mess, since none of those things are commonly in alignment in nature. Eurocentricity, being ridiculously unaware of its completely arbitrary nature, projects its perspective upon reality and acts like this binary was not an arbitrary concept it made up, but just a name given to something that actually exists. Suddenly all the things are no longer concepts of their own, but expressions of a fem/masc binary. One is not a person in alignment with certain traits, attributes, dynamics, behaviors, interests and archetypes, but a fractured mess of parts that are either fem or masc. I would argue that it’s essential for any conscious being to feel somewhat coherent and whole, so this binary schism running through reality causes people to purify themselves to feel less fractured. Due to how human consciousness works, this might be rationalized as “just being who you are” or perceived as an act of free will and natural tendency. That’s because framing it as you doing what you want instead of succumbing to pressure (from social dissonance and being made to feel fractured/not whole). Social acceptance due to conforming is a strong resonance and can guide your decisions subconsciously by punishment/reward dynamics. And if you don’t have a concept or understanding about what is really happening or in which arbitrary framework it’s happening, how could one find a basis to object?

And if all things are binary, everything becomes self-referential and circular reasoning. Again, keep eurocentricity and the habit of treating ones eurocentric perspective as objective and closest to the truth in mind. So, gender is not based on your physical make up. Your physical make up does not determine your personality, interests, traits, alignment, behavior, etc. Gender roles as archetypes only exist for the binary genders and they are circularly held up by dividing all things a human can be into two groups (fem/masc) without overlap. Which means those archetypes are essentially pointless. The discourse based on that understanding of gender completely overlooks that it’s carrying the the binary into what it thinks are non-binary genders. Most of the common non-binary genders either consist of a mix of the binary ones or a (partial) rejection of everything associated with those binary genders. Some neurogenders come closer to being archetypes that are not linked to a fem/masc binary, but since the eurocentric gender concept is intrinsically linked to it, calling them genders destroys the idea that there’s gender as an actual thing independent of arbitrary human concepts entirely. Gender (in the eurocentric perspective) is a social construct that is so illdefined, so contradicatory, so completely warped and twisted in on itself that it would give Escher a headache. What is left of gender, if you remove all the parts that are eurocentric and binary? If gender is nothing you can conform to, because it doesn’t define how you are, if it’s not a valid archetype, then it’s just an empty label and all the things we really feel and are deserve new terms, concepts and archetypes, not related or built upon eurocentricity and the binary.

Conclusion

I’m at the point where I think that gender as a eurocentric concept is completely unworkable, unsaveable, counter productive and most often harmful and limiting, that it should be done away with entirely. It needs to be binned together with the binary, it needs to be reconstructed from the ground up based on the needs of people to facilitate social interaction instead of controlling it. We humans in our unique configurations of bodies, minds and need for alignment exist, but the eurocentric concept of gender is not equipped to serve us. As mentioned before the main text, this does not mean that people’s identities or dysphoria are invalid, just that the concepts used to describe and name them are doing us a grave disservice and trick us into perpetuating them in our need for *something* to describe our reality.

As an addendum, this also means that the trans/cis binary is again something that springs from eurocentricity, as not being assigned a gender at birth would also mean that there’s no trans and no cis. Transnesss is not universal around the globe, it only exists in the colonial context.

The deconstruction I started here some time ago kinda forks out from there and different aspects (namely the social implications and the biological essentialism) of it find a continuation in these related articles:

Just a polynary person (they/them) trying to make sense of the world and share their insights. @ purecatharsis on Facebook/Instagram, @puRRcatharsis on twitter