A promoted guest post by timberwraith on this comment, reprinted with permission. It was too good to leave in the muck of some of its surrounding nonsense.
I see a variation of the usual cis-centric perspective of, “We just need to get down to brass tacks and accept the reality of male and female!” being trotted out in the comments. This time, it’s all about which gametes a person’s body produces.
If only it were that simple.
Look, if societies treated one’s ability to produce particular gametes in ways as neutral as nose shape, eye color, thyroid function, or hemoglobin levels, then the designation of male or female wouldn’t be much of an issue. No one would care if some felt compelled to employ medical procedures in order to assume secondary sexual characteristics and genital configurations commonly associated with certain modes of gametes production. It would be akin to changing one’s hair color or eye color—a medically intensive process, but still socially trivial.
That is not the world we live in.
The ability to produce sperm and ova is simply that, but the political and social ramifications of having one’s person socially associated with certain modes of gametes production go far beyond any medical considerations. It affects the social spaces one is expected to occupy, the behaviors and temperaments one is expected to embrace, the political and vocational spaces made available to a person, the kind of people one is expected to form romantic/sexual bonds with, and a whole host of other associated social/cultural baggage.
Furthermore, the political and social ramifications of falling outside of the ascribed boundaries of the social binary associated with gametes production are dire. Trans people are marginalized, murdered, incarcerated, impoverished, and generally shit upon by much of the binary conforming populace because the minority fails to conform to the majority’s rigid social taxonomy. In much of the world, similar treatment is also focused upon people who engage in romantic/sexual pairings which do not involve people of differing modes of gametes production (i.e. homosexuality/bisexuality).
If male and female were just a matter of gametes production, we wouldn’t have parents and doctors freaking out over the birth of intersex infants who then surgically intervene to produce infant bodies which conform to social expectations of what binary sexed bodies should look like.
So, we can try to over simplify these issues down to the maintenance of a two label system of medical taxonomy but that only serves to obscure what’s really transpiring: the conformist majority is using medical and biological states—ones which actually fall on a diverse spectrum of possibilities — to enforce their preferred political and social orders. This isn’t about gametes production. That’s a convenient smoke screen born of political manipulation. This about social conformity. This is about maintaining the comfort and social sensibilities of a cishet majority (and in this particular case, it’s about maintaining the comfort and sensibilities of an ostensibly progressive cis majority who doesn’t want their rigid, binaristic politics challenged).
People’s lives—how they actually live them and experience them—matter more than the production of cells in one part of a person’s body but there’s an extensive social and political order which bases its system of control upon those cells. Violate that system of control, and people lose it because that violation destabilizes the preferred social order. Violate the sensibilities of that binary system of control and you are perceived as a dangerous, deluded, living force of chaos.
As a trans person, I’m well aware of what gametes I produce — at this point, I produce neither, actually — but that doesn’t stop me from living in a body and a social modality I feel more at home in. I have no respect for cishet people’s discomfort with my refusal to live within the boundaries of their fucked up social binary. I didn’t produce this system, I didn’t produce the clueless cis feminist politics embedded in it, and I refuse to respect the cis majority’s rules. Thinly veiled rhetorical, political, and social bullshit might satisfy some cis people’s need to assert control over the lives of those who rebel but at the end of the day, it still smells of cattle.