The notion is that women have vaginas, breasts, ovaries and a uterus. Men have a penis and testicles. This is what defines their sex. However, it is the socially constructed gender that dictates that it is women who wear skirts and dresses, men wear suits and ties; that women are instinctively driven to have children and men to have sex. Those who are pushing for society to understand the notion of gender distinction insist that these ideas are complete fabrications of a community with outdated standards. Those who want to do away with or redefine the gender distinction see the human body as an incidental factor in the human experience. If a person has the female physical form, but feels that a suit is more appropriate, or even wants to take on a mans’ name and lifestyle, it should be permitted and accepted.
Those who find themselves feeling that they have been born in the “wrong” body are provided with a series of choices. Many remain secretly conflicted or “closeted”. Others may seek and received psychological help, believing that they have had a childhood trauma or are in some way ill for wanting to live or act as the opposite gender. The third choice is to allow oneself to live with the way one feels and adopt a lifestyle that feels natural, sometimes going as far as to undergo gender reassignment surgery and actually become the other gender.
Whatever the personal choice, the movement is underway to gain recognition for the authenticity of the idea that we are more than our bodies. Gender distinction has been thought of by many, as the subject becomes more and more evident, as a growing “trend” or a “new problem”. In reality, the evidence that this is nothing new goes back a long way. The Native American culture long appreciated and celebrated the berdache (two spirited) among them. This is an ongoing tradition, and the berdache lives as whatever gender he or she chooses while being seen and treated as a shaman.
During many wars women have dressed as men, and though this has been written off as misguided heroism, it may be said of many of these women that they continued their lives as men long after the war was over. One such woman fought in the Civil War for the north. Jennie Hodgers enlisted, fought, and was honored as Albert Cashier. It was in this new identity that he remained until being hit by a car and discovered by a physician in 1913. He then lived out his life in a hospital for the insane where he was forced to wear a skirt, though he pinned it up to feel like pants.
There are countless anecdotal tales such as these to illustrate that gender is what the community feels it should be. It suggests that left up to the individual gender becomes ambiguous. It should be recognized that gender identity has no louder a voice than those who were born ambiguous and whose parents were forced to reassign their gender. Many now in adulthood wish their parents could have had the option of leaving them as they were born, rather than choosing an identity, and a physical path for them to take. This may be the new civil rights movement of this generation, and the work is cut out for it.