Spectrum of confusion


The collection of sounds and symbols that I have chosen to represent me. Those sounds represent me better than anything else ever will. Photo: “Sign Specturm” by Leon Wilson is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Call me by my name. Not the one my parents gave me, not the one society tells you to. Call me by the name I ask you to. The collection of sounds and symbols that I have chosen to represent me. Those sounds represent me better than anything.

Names are important to social identity, and that is vital in identifying a person. Names transcend languages, times, places and cultures. What a person chooses to identify as is important, and there is no other option than to identify that person by the name they ask of you. Why are pronouns any different? Pronouns are how someone is referred to: she, he, they and them.

Someone asks me to refer to them as “name” and “he.” I will do as asked. It doesn’t matter whether they ‘look’ otherwise, whether I’ve been told by others they are a girl or their “real name” is this or that. They asked me to call them this. This is what they are.

Some people have strong opinions towards this concept, and so do I. So I am willing to see the other side. I understand people believe in the gender binary.

“There’s only two sexes, two genders,” they say, but wait. I know we aren’t one to believe in science sometimes when it doesn’t fit our agendas, but I really must say that fact over fiction is an important distinction, and science has told us the gender binary is not true.

What we know as truth is important, what I have seen with my own eyes matters more to me than what someone has told me should be. Quick side tangent in order to better visualize my point here- Sally says Martha stinks. Everyone who hears Sally then believes Martha stinks because Sally said so.

But Mary Jane sees Martha later that day and notes passingly that Martha does not stink. Mary Jane tells everyone Martha doesn’t stink. Everyone then believes Sally is a liar. Oh dear what a situation we have. Just because someone said something doesn’t mean it’s true, from either Sally or Mary jane. Make your own conclusions and don’t assume people are lying or telling the truth simply because you heard one thing before or after another.

Conclusion of story, go find your own Martha and see if it stinks for yourself, ( apologies to anyone named Martha, I am sure you smell like fresh dewy roses), then come back and tell the world what you find and hope they also go find their own Marthas.

This opinion of mine is my Martha. I’m not telling you to believe me, or to argue with me. I am simply sharing facts I have found to be true according to my standards and what I believe in. And thus, for those who do not believe in science, I will hear your claims, and then I will go find my Martha and see for myself whether science is fact or fiction.

My claim- my Martha, if I must- is that gender is not binary (meaning two distinct genders/sexes, with no possibility of an in-between) but in fact, a spectrum that ranges between two waves of gender with lots of possibilities in between two undefined ends.

I know, it sounds so fancy and over-explained, but we have to be careful with wording here. Even gender and sex are two distinct ideas that which we must define.

My facts here start with a Vox article titled “Gender is not just male or female: 12 people across the gender spectrum explain why” by German Lopez. The article covers a lot by interviewing 12 people, but I will summarize the main idea relevant to my own point.

Gender is a concept, subject to ever-changing ideas, “These groups [people who do not conform to normal gender standards] are known by a variety of names — gender nonconforming, genderqueer, gender nonbinary, genderfluid, and much more — but they tend to share a trait: They totally reject the traditional conception of a “gender binary.”

This leads us to a question. If there is no gender binary, what is there? What is a spectrum and why? After reading up on what the 12 people had to say, I came to realize that the titles these people were assigning to themselves were for themselves, not others. Some didn’t even need a label, it was only about understanding yourself. So definitions are important.

In the next article I pulled information from titled, “The Gender Spectrum: A Scientist Explains Why Gender Isn’t Binary” by Cade Hildreth on the author’s personal blog website, we find some more biological information.

In the article, Hildreth begins with a basic comparison between the gender spectrum being a “understanding that gender is not binary, but rather a spectrum of biological, mental and emotional traits that exist along a continuum.” while the gender binary is a “belief that gender is composed of two distinct and opposite genders (women/men) in which there is no overlap.”

Therefore, Hildreth then follows up immediately after, “Gender can’t be binary, because it is a personal identity and is socially constructed.” Gender and sex are not the same things, something most learn in advanced biological science when we begin differentiating the biology of the human body. “Sex, which refers to one’s biological characteristics, also exists as a spectrum, because intersex people exist… which can present as an infinite number of biological combinations.”

Simply because one known, identified, “in-between” exists in the ‘gender binary, we then can disprove the definition of the gender binary as scientifically false. There is an in-between (intersex) which in itself are all variations and differences. Intersex is not just one single physical diagram. They vary in presentations, shapes, sizes, internal or external. This is explained better by Hildreth.

He begins with the analysis of external genitalia being an inaccurate representation of sex because “the penis and vagina do not exist as a binary, but rather, as a spectrum”. There are many types of external genitalia, and pair those with chromosomes, the typical diagnosis of sex, being varied in of itself.

He presents us with 14 different natural variations in chromosome pairs that present as not only intersex children but ‘normal’ presenting children who are biologically contrasting their physical appearances. Many will live their lives without even knowing they have this internal, genetic variance because on the ‘outside’ they are just fine.

Finally, Hildreth presents us with this statement- “While sex has traditionally been assigned based on the external genitalia, this approach neglects that there are at least 10 biologically relevant markers of sex (and likely more).” The 10 biological markers are listed as “Chromosomes, gonads, hormones, secondary sex characteristics (puberty), external genitalia, internal genitalia, skeletal structure, gene expression, brain structure, and hormone receptor sensitivity.”

Any combination of these 10 main markers could result in a human who is not fully on one end of the spectrum as female or male. In fact, it is entirely more likely that you do not fall into one side perfectly.

You may outwardly be presenting as a male in all aspects, but internally, you find yourself more receptive to male hormones, allowing you to find male hormones attractive, therefore you might identify as bisexual or gay due to this.

Then one day you find yourself attracted to a woman who happens to present male hormones but is a female in every other aspect. This does not negate your sexuality, it is simply all a spectrum with infinite possibilities.

The worst part is it is not commonplace to find these specifications, leading to a lot of confusion during puberty. There’s a lot of things to figure out about yourself throughout your entire life. Forcing yourself into one category might never work, and you might just have to be a floating blob of uncertainties with no fundamental truths or labels.

And that is okay.

On the other hand, you may have found yourself the perfect corner of definitions that you adhere perfectly in every way, and that is equally fine, including if you one day find yourself not to longer identifying with that label, or there’s a new label that defines you better.

“You also have to add an 11th marker, which is personal identity. Personal identity is how a person self-identifies.” This means that you are always doing this for yourself and no one else. No one else can subject you to a label if it’s not for your own comfort. And if none of this makes you feel comfortable, and you want to fall back on what is stated on your birth certificate, then by all means you are entitled to that.

I only wish to spread the information in hopes of making it a commonplace idea. Spectrums here and there and everywhere! We are all floating blobs of confusion 24/7. Let’s help each other figure out this confusing world. Also, call people by their names, by their titles, by their identifying pronouns, by what they want no matter anyone else.

Call yourself by the name you want to be called by, and we can all live happily on the spectrum of confusion together.