[TW: Blood, Death] Mexico city Transgender Woman thrown off a bridge dies
October 13, 2013
Trans Student Attacking Girls in School Restroom! Or, you know… not.
October 14, 2013

Ask Matt: Would a Genderless World Affect Transition?

A reader writes:

“I’ve been thinking about gender roles and how most of them are created and imposed by society. I believe our behaviour could be ‘genderless’ if we didn’t have these external influences telling us how men and women should act, dress, etc.

“Now, if this were to hold true and one day we are all genderless and there are no gender roles or gender-specific expectations by society, people would be able to behave however they feel like and maybe they wouldn’t feel the need to transition. Or the need would be purely to change their biological characteristics.

“And there could be a genderless person that changed his body from male to female but everything else remained the same. She could continue dressing the same and acting and combing her hair the same way but she wouldn’t have a beard and she would have breasts now. And for other people, the only change would be in the shape of her body but her behaviour could remain the same … no?

“I’m not saying that wanting to transition under this scenario is less or more valid, I just think that maybe, if gender stops existing, transgender people would be driven exclusively by wanting to have different-looking bodies.”

I have written about this before, but that was a couple of years ago, so I think it bears repeating: I have always said that even if we completely eliminated gender roles and expectations in society, people would still medically transition (and I am coming from my own Western cultural influence when I say this, so let me be clear on that).

In my opinion, gender identity is innate, biological, hard-wired, and the need for body/mind alignment would still exist, even if everyone used gender-neutral pronouns and no one had any expectations about how a particular person should look or act.

So, as you say, I don’t think that this hypothetical genderless world would eliminate the need to transition. And I honestly think that there are already people who are doing just what you have mentioned – changing the physical body, but continuing to act in the ways that they did before they changed the body.

In some cases, their actions and behaviors were aligned with the societal expectations of the gender with which they always identified, so they acted and behaved in the same way before and after medical transition. In other cases, their actions and behaviors were aligned with the societal expectations of the sex that they were assigned at birth, and although they needed to correct a body/mind mismatch, the behaviors into which they were socialized are comfortable and natural to them, so they continue those behaviors, even if they are not congruent with society’s norms for their “new” gender.

The way I see it, in a completely genderless world, where all roles and expectations are created equal and all expressions are seen as appropriate for anyone, we would still have transition. What we might not have are misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia, because no roles and no characteristics would be deemed as “less than,” people would not fear their internal leanings, and no one would be seen as a threat to anyone else.

I think we would still have people who exhibited characteristics that would have been considered extremely masculine or extremely feminine in our previous “gendered” world – they just wouldn’t be labeled as “masculine” or “feminine,” and they would be acceptable for anyone to express.

We would still have bodies that in our previous “gendered” world would have been considered male or female, but those bodies would not be aligned with any specific characteristics, which would free everyone up to be themselves, regardless of their physical body, and would hopefully lead to an acceptance of a wider range of body types, since any body type could express any characteristics, and it would not be considered “wrong.”

And although people would still transition in this genderless utopia, it would probably not be considered “abnormal” or even unusual, because we would have moved beyond specific categorizations of “right” and “wrong” with regard to both gender expression and physical sex. Everyone would be equally acceptable, whoever and however they were. Sounds nice, doesn’t it?

Readers, what do you think?


  • I know this is over a week old, but I was off camping, and I see noone’s really responded here, so I will.

    My need to transition was entirely physical. It was never about wanting to wear women’s clothes or do women’s things. I never had that period many have where they secretly or openly cross dressed. For me, it felt entirely like I would imagine phantom limb syndrome to feel. I needed to feel things I simply /could not/ feel as I was.

    I cherish my life before I transitioned, and felt no real desire to change anything about my personality. I did have to, though. I had to wear the clothes, go way over the top in attitude, show myself as extreme in gender expression so that I could ‘qualify’ for the treatment I needed. After my surgery, and over time, my expressions settled back down to be much the same as I was before. I was a pants and t-shirt kind of guy, and now I am a pants and t-shirt kind of girl. I loved my little pony as a boy, and now I do as a girl. I enjoy romance, I enjoy action. It is all irrelevant, though, to my needs physically.

    So no, removing societal gender stereotypes and such will not remove the need for transition. Because for many, myself included, it isn’t about expression. It’s about things being /wrong/. About knowing that what you have (A penis) is not what you need to have (A vagina). And thanks to amazing medical advances, I have that. it isn’t perfect; I am mostly non-orgasmic and aesthetically I approach action-figure in how I look (One long crevasse, front to back.) But I am still a thousand times happier with my body than I was when I was a functional, virile penis-bearer.

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