In the last few years, there has been a lot of talk about gender and why we live in a world where the genders are clear and divided in most cultures. I do not have a big problem with the imagined separation between the genders, but I also don’t mind if someone doesn’t follow the “rules”.
But what is gender? We all have our thoughts, but it is pretty apparent in the western culture where I come from. When you walk in the mall or meet people, we all know from when we were young who is a girl and who is not. It is hard to deny this, and the times that you were in doubt are sparse. Everything screams man or woman, and if you take away the clothing, it becomes even more apparent. I can’t speak for the modern wave of gender confusion, but I don’t think that someone who calls themselves non-binary means that there are no differences.
Large parts of our physical bodies are either male or female. We are probably more alike than not, but there are some apparent differences. Our brain is a part of the body; there might be some differences, but not as much as you think. It inherits parts of its structure from our parents, but chemicals partly influence its functioning like the hormones that get “pumped” into the brain. These different chemicals affect both the male and female brains, and though many believe that we react differently to them or get them in different doses, there are debates about this. Some believe that social pressure can guide women in one direction and men another while they “feel” the same. For instance, both men and women go through hormonal cycles; we might just (re)act differently to them.
So, there are at least two types of bodies: male and female; they are physically different. Our brain is part of a body; there is a difference between a man’s and a woman’s brain but not much; I think most people would have a hard time distinguishing between the two brains; you need to know what to look for when they lie before you on a table. I am not religious, so my “soul” wakes up each morning in my almost binary brain. If you are religious, you probably think you have a soul, probably a male or female one, but I don’t know about that. No matter what, there is something in you that thinks. I have thought about it lately, and I cannot find a place in my head, my thoughts, or wherever it might be, where I can feel that I am a man. I know it when I go to the toilet, but I have nothing that says male when I think. I have a lot of thoughts that come with being a male, but these are all cultural. I am raised like a man; the whole culture reassures me that I am one, so after 49 years, it is evident that I have typical male thought patterns. But I can not prove that these are specific male thought patterns because I can never crawl into a woman’s skin and feel how she thinks. I can only confirm that I think like a male through confirmation by the culture I live in, I was born with a blank slate, so to say and there might have been some slight preferences, it was not me that gave me Lego to play with, it was culture that did, and culture gave my sister a doll.
You know something is hot because you once felt cold. You know what hunger feels like because you have been full. We learn things in life because we experience things, differences. How do I know that I feel that I am a man? I never felt like a woman; how would I even know. Can we feel manly, or can we feel…a feeling and give that feeling a name? Where do these names come from? Why is a woman emotional and a man angry? Is it not possible that they feel the same? Do we give it a gender-appropriate name? How can we compare feelings between man and woman if we can’t feel each other’s feelings?
I don’t know what it is to feel like a man. I know that I met a lot of women who acted more like what man supposed to do, and I had enough manly colleagues that I avoided once a month because it was that time again. I think that that “thinking part” that we as humans have and animals don’t is so unique that it evolved out of a shared male and female source. It might be a female or a male that produced the first human, though, but the next thought made by their offspring might as well come from either or both. This thinking I talk about is something we have done for maybe 200 000 years, and that is not a lot of time if you think in evolutionary time. We evolved, of course, out of other primates that already had developed some differences between the female and male brains. Still, the thing in us that started thinking has not been around long enough to evolve into a separate brain function for males and females. ( I don’t know this as a fact, I only know that evolution goes slow and that something happened around 200 000 years ago that made us humans, I assume some critical mass had formed In an ancestor of us, and I imagine that it happened at the same time in males and females. From there, we more or less started our history. According to most knowledgeable people, early humans were indistinguishable from us now in thinking power and capabilities. I conclude from this that we all have the same genderless “thinking center”.)
In my world, we are all the same on the inside, and everyone is free to play the role they like to play. I understand the need to let the world know about this, especially when you are young, and I hope you don’t do it for the wrong reasons. I booked a ticket last week for the boat, and there I could cross of non-binary if I wanted, so some progress has been made, but you could also say that it is a step back; now there are three choices instead of one. But I will not make my life more difficult by insisting that people call me no longer “he”; life is too short for that kind of nonsense. I say nonsense because confirming your own specific (non)identity still confirms differences besides culturally motivated ones; the current phase of gender fluidity is culture-driven in my opinion. No sane person who grows up on an island alone will ever think: I am a man, or I am a woman, or I am none of them; that person is just a human. I know who I am; I am a human that is also a boatbuilder, a poet, a hardcore Marine, a writer, too blunt, too sensitive, too selfish, too generous, too much of a man for you, too much of a woman for the other.
One note, if you want to be called a certain way, I would always respect that, and so should everybody. In the end, it is not a big deal, and if that also offends you, well, the rest of your life is a search for identity anyway; I just hope you don’t stick with one too soon.