Image credit:The Independent
Three is greater than two. Do you “agree”? (chuckle) I know, I know. It’s not an “agreement.” You either understand that three is a larger number (greater than) two, or you do not understand. But whether you understand it or not, three is still greater than two. Three is greater than two if you understand it, and it’s greater than two if you don’t understand it. Anyone who does not ‘agree’ is either delusional, ignorant or dishonest. Facts are facts.
There is a lot of fussing lately about “gender binary,” “there are only two genders,” etc. But, those positions are easily rendered as delusional, ignorant or dishonest. They are simply, and demonstrably wrong. In order to demonstrate, we must understand two important words: “gender” and “binary.”
Binary is the simpler of the two so here is the OED, weighing in on what binary means.
1. Relating to, composed of, or involving two things.
2. Relating to or using a system of numerical notation that has two rather than 10 as a base.
We can discard the second definition, since it clearly only applies when you are delineating binary number representations (01110011010) from the standard 10 base counting system (10, 100, 1000).
Binary is relating to, composed of, or involving two things. So, in other words, if there are more than two of something then it would be inaccurate to use ‘binary’ to describe it.
Now let’s look at the definition for “gender.”
1. Either of the two sexes (male and female), especially when considered with reference to social and cultural differences rather than biological ones. The term is also used more broadly to denote a RANGE of identities that DO NOT CORRESPOND TO ESTABLISHED IDEAS OF MALE AND FEMALE.
(There are admittedly two long worded secondary and tertiary definitions that I have not included as they are only in reference to word adjustment in languages that modify words by gender suffix, etc, such as “la” and “el” distinctions in Spanish that modify words with the suffixes ‘o’ or ‘a’.)
Read the underlined part of the Oxford English Dictionary definition. It’s important. Here is a quote from Wikipedia’s description of gender. “Gender is the RANGE of characteristics pertaining to, and differentiating between, masculinity and femininity. Depending on the context, these characteristics may include biological sex (i.e., the state of being male, female, or an intersex variation), sex-based social structures (i.e., gender roles), or gender identity.”
A simple way to summarize these concepts is that gender is “how people perceive sexuality (including their own sexuality) and sexual identification within the context of any culture.”
Yes, the traditional way that the vast majority of people in most cultures “gender identify” is as “male” or “female.” And yes, looking at only the traditional choices, there are two. So, you could even get away with a modified statement such as “traditional gender ID is a binary.” But, as you can see from the definitions, it’s a RANGE of PERSONAL IDENTIFICATION and people are NOT BOUND BY TRADITION.
Another critical point is that we are talking about HOW PEOPLE PERCEIVE THEMSELVES. It doesn’t matter at all if you (say, for instance as a random bigot) choose to “not recognize” the way they are gender identifying, just like it doesn’t matter whether or not you acknowledge that three is greater than two. Gender IS how THEY identify, not about whether or not you personally recognize that identification. If that choice is acknowledged by and recognized within a culture, then it IS a gender.
And, people in cultures around the world identify in more than two ways. The Hijras of Indian culture do not gender identify as either male or female. Neither to the Muxe of Zapotec culture. These are just two of many non-traditional ways that people around the world gender identify. And again, it’s what THEY say they are. If other people are saying ‘that’s not a gender,’ that doesn’t matter, what gender is – is how THEY choose to SELF-identify within a culture that also acknowledges these IDs. Muxe are a recognized gender within a culture. It’s a gender ID whether you like it or not.
So… we have many. But, we only need three to put this “binary” thing to bed. Let’s use hijras as our one of many, and count. Here are some culturally recognized gender IDs:
How many did you count there? Did you get three? Me too! Yay, we are good at counting. Is three greater than two? Yup. It is. The number of acknowledged genders we have listed is greater than two. Gender is not a binary. Now you know.
The “there are only two genders” people are trying to tell you that the only two ways that people identify their own sexuality is “male” and “female.” They are trying to delegitimize the ability of people to choose anything other than those and say “you can’t choose that.” But… again… it doesn’t matter if they don’t like it or not. Gender is how THEY identify, not whether or not a random bigot recognizes their identification. That is not part of the definition. Three is greater than two whether you recognize the number three or not. Those bigots are simply announcing their ignorance, delusion or dishonesty.
I was having this discussion with a friend of mine last week who was asking it as an opinion question, and used the argument “it’s like asking whether you agree that 2+2=4, that doesn’t make sense. It’s not an opinion question. 2+2=4. You know it, or you don’t.” I was using the wrong math there. It’s NOT like 2+2=4. In fact, it’s something even simpler than that. It’s 3 > 2. It just IS. Male + Female + Hijra = 3. Binary tops out at 2. Therefore, it’s not a binary.
It’s not a debate. You just know that there are more than two. Or you do not know (ignorance). Or you’re delusional (you think that three is not greater than two, and probably also think that Elvis is your boyfriend). Or you are dishonest (I’m going to pretend like you haven’t identified a third gender, because I prefer lying about it).
Three is greater than two whether you like it or not.
And no matter how YOU SELF-IDENTIFY, you should know that I love you just the way you are. > HUGS! <