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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Column: Gender is not binary

Restricting people to an assigned role in life is not acceptable

Sept. 2, 2014

The opinions expressed by The Maneater columnists do not represent the opinions of The Maneater editorial board.

When a baby is born, they are assigned a specific sex that is determined by their genitalia: males have certain parts and females have others. As they grow older, society begins to assign the baby a gender based on their sex. If the baby is assigned male at birth, society treats them according to masculine societal standards (gives the baby ‘boy’ toys to play with like cars and trucks, paints their room blue, etc.) and vice versa for females. Later in life, these labels appear on important documents and solidify which restroom they use.

Now, imagine for a moment that a person does not fit into any of these rigid rules set up for us at birth. Imagine their struggle and insecurity throughout life.

For many transgender, intersex and non-gender conforming individuals, this is the case. With the emergence of new laws that bring greater equality to a variety of minorities, it is time that we tackle the gender binary problem. It is no longer applicable in today’s society. We need to remove these engrained notions of sex and gender and work toward a more open and comfortable way of life for all kinds of people.

There are many noticeable issues with the gender binary. Foremost is the fact that humans assign specific gender and sex roles to babies as soon as they are born. Humans who have barely even taken their first breath are expected to live up to gender norms in a society that they do not know anything about. They are often forced to play with certain toys and like certain colors, as if to solidify their sex and gender to the surrounding world. When did objects become so essentially important in the identification of oneself?

Another problem with our current way of thinking is how close-minded it is. It is strange to think that we can sort seven billion people into two even groups. There are so many different people leading so many different lives that this labeling seems impossible. Yet, we still attempt to force people to fit in one of these categories. It would make more sense to let people live their lives as they see fit, playing with whatever toys they want to and using whatever restroom they consider appropriate.

Eliminating the gender binary would also save countless lives. Nearly half of transgender and non-gender conforming people have attempted suicide just because they did not fit into the overly precise gender roles we enact. It would be so much easier if everybody could live without fear of being prosecuted for how they identify.

In reality, eradicating these engrained notions is next to impossible. Humans have been taught these century-old principles from birth. Removing a whole way of thinking from billions of people is an often difficult and dangerous task. However, there are ways to make the lives of transgender, intersex and non-gender conforming people better. Enacting equal laws for all genders, creating more unisex bathrooms, and, most importantly, recognizing that there are more than two genders and sexes are just some of the ways that we can look to equality.

The gender binary has been around for a very long time. Nonetheless, as our world is changing and becoming more accepting toward different types of people, it is time that we turn our attention toward the issue of gender acceptance. Although it may take a long time for change to be established, it will be worth the wait to have a more equal world for future generations.

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