On this week's episode of "Braless," Laci Green responds to Miley Cyrus’s recent statements about gender identity. In an interview with Out magazine, Miley said that she doesn't hate being called a girl, but rather "hates the box she gets put into." Miley also said that she ultimately doesn't identify with one single gender at all.
Laci thinks Miley might be onto something, or even part of a much larger revolution. Check out these 9 reasons why we should all start questioning everything we know about gender in 2015.
Gender identity, biological sex, gender expression, and sexual orientation are all completely separate.
These things might all be related, but they definitely aren’t dependent on each other. According to Itspronouncedmetosexual.com, “Gender identity, gender expression, biological sex, and sexual orientation are independent of one another (i.e., they are not connected). People’s sexual orientation doesn’t determine their gender expression. And their gender expression isn’t determined by their gender identity. And their gender identity isn’t determined by their biological sex.”
So it’s possible for someone like Miley to have been assigned one sex at birth, identify as neither gender, present her gender as female, and cite her sexual orientation as bisexual. Humans are complex. It’s kind of obvious when you really think about it.
Gender is taught to us, and policed, from the moment we're born.
According to Genderspectrum.org, “Gender is closely monitored and reinforced by society. Practically everything in society is assigned a gender—toys, colors, clothes and behaviors are just some of the more obvious examples. Through a combination of social conditioning and personal preference, by age three most children prefer activities and exhibit behaviors typically associated with their sex. Accepted social gender roles and expectations are so entrenched in our culture that most people cannot imagine any other way.”
If you’ve been through middle school, you’re well aware that anyone who doesn’t fit into these expectations is likely to face ridicule, discrimination, or even violence -- all of which are ways that society “polices” gender in an effort make sure that we all play by the established rules. As Miley said, “Being a girl isn’t what I hate, it’s the box that I get put into.”
We’re not the only animals f--king with gender.
Ok, sex is related to biology while gender is a social construct, so animals can’t actually “f--k with gender” the same way humans can. Regardless, there are plenty of non-human animals that have both female and male organs or characteristics, or can switch back and forth between the two based on available partners. For example, Rana Rugosa frogs can dissolve their sex organs and grow new, different ones if there’s an uneven number of males and females in their group, and all clownfish are born male with the ability to transition to female later in life. Can’t you hear the next Nemo sequel calling?
There are also more than two sexes: People born intersex are way more common than you think.
People born intersex are born with either genitalia that is neither completely male nor completely female, and/or with a genetic makeup that is part male and part female. Statistics on the number of intersex people born annually vary widely because there isn’t full agreement on all the conditions that constitute intersexuality, but estimates range from 1.7% of the population to about 1 in every 2000 people. Since most of us never undergo genetic testing, it's possible to that we could have both male and female DNA and never even know about it.
Traditionally, doctors in the U.S. have performed “normalizing” surgeries to modify the baby’s genitals--sometimes with parental consent, but sometimes even hiding the baby’s medical history from parents. Oftentimes, these babies grew up to identify differently than their doctors (and/or parents) chose for them without their consent, and intersex people have cited both physical and emotional trauma as a result. We’ve begun to shift away from these types of surgeries being the norm, but we still have a long way to go.
The idea that there are only two genders is relatively new.
Many Native American tribes had “Two-Spirits” in their communities -- people who embodied both male and female gender expressions and roles. Two-Spirits were revered as spiritual leaders because it was believed that they’d been specially blessed with the gift of having both the spirit of both a man and a woman, making them more spiritually gifted than those with just one spirit.
Not all Native American tribes had rigid gender roles, but within the ones that did, some also recognized four genders - masculine men, feminine men, masculine women, and feminine women. Indigenous populations throughout the world have embraced similarly fluid relationships with gender, from the Bugis of Indonesia, to the Hijira of India, to the Kumu Hina of Hawaii.
Most non-English languages don’t use gendered pronouns.
As any transgender, agender, or bigender person can tell you, navigating pronouns can be a major pain. As it turns out, most languages in the world (57%) use a gender-neutral word that just means “person” rather than using some equivalent to “he” and “she.” The list of languages that emphasize humanity over gender is long and includes Finnish, Hungarian, Armenian, Japanese, Swahili, Turkish, and Korean.
Other countries recognize more than two official genders.
As Laci mentioned, “In other parts of the world, there are three genders, four genders, even fve!” According to Mic.com, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Germany, New Zealand, and Australia are among the nations that allow their citizens to select categories like “intersex,” “transgender,” and “other” on official paperwork, whereas in the U.S., we are limited to “male” and “female” selections.
In the US, changing your gender on government-issued ID and documents is insanely difficult.
According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, “The name and gender change process is complicated and sometimes prohibitively expensive...Many state and federal governments have intrusive and burdensome requirements—such as proof of surgery or court orders—that have made it sometimes impossible for trans people to update their IDs.”
As a result, according to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, only 21% of transgender people who have transitioned have been able to update all of their IDs and records, and 33% haven't updated any of them. The survey also pointed out that having a gender listed on your ID that’s different from your gender presentation “exposes people to a range of negative outcomes, from denial of employment, housing, and public benefits to harassment and physical violence.”
64,378 people have asked the White house to recognize non-binary genders on legal documents.
Last year, a petition asking the Obama Administration “to legally recognize genders outside of the male-female binary, and provide an option for these genders on all legal documents and records” appeared on We the People. The official White House Response said, “we believe proposals to change when and how gender is listed on official documents should be considered on a case-by-case basis by the affected federal and state agencies.”
In other words, their answer was “not right now,” but the response also acknowledged, in a major way, that the gender revolution might really be beginning: “We know how important this issue is, and we understand the profound impact, both symbolic and otherwise, of having official documents that accurately reflect an individual's identity. These documents play an essential, functional role, but also demonstrate the measure of dignity and respect afforded to our nation's citizens. We cannot overstate the care and seriousness that should be brought to bear on the issue.”
To learn more about gender identity and expression, visit LookDifferent.org