I think “male” and “female” describe gender the same way “spring” and “autumn” describe seasons.
You expect certain things of spring. You expect flowers and rain and milder weather. But that isn’t always the case. The weather can still be damn cold. The flowers can bloom late, or not at all, or only some of them. Maybe there’s a dry period of time, and instead of rain, you get wildfires. The hurricane season starts early. Maybe the weather, as it is while I’m writing this, is summery and disgustingly hot despite it not being officially summer.
But the thing is, you still call it spring, despite those variations. Something binds attributes with that time of year, in that hemisphere, and in that part of the Northern Hemisphere. Florida’s spring is starkly different from Yukon’s spring, but they’re both still called spring. They vary and everyone’s awareness of spring varies. Maybe it’s based on specific dates that correspond with astronomical variation. Even those dates change: some years it’s March 21 to June 21 and others, like this year, it’s March 20 to June 20.
For me, spring is when it beings to rain more than snow, regardless of how much snow there is. I anticipate spring’s arrival when I see the lush green stems of flowers, before the blooms. I see the buds on trees. Spring doesn’t correlate with a day of the year for me. It’s how the weather changes. Between Windsor and my hometown north of Toronto, I can feel two different seasons. Maybe it’s winter up north and spring in Windsor.
And if you go to the southern hemisphere, then the dates for spring are irrelevant. It’s not March to June at all. Now what? Do you think that spring doesn’t exist in Australia or Chile? No—you realise that it’s simply in a different time slot.
And autumn—the same principle.
What I’m getting at is that even within these descriptors, certain dates, personal traditions and indicators, there is no cut-and-dry definition of the season. Of any season. But there are patterns and associations that help to define them.
And that’s the same with gender.
There is no cut-and-dry definition.
And there are still things we associate with genders. Women with long hair. Men with deep voices. Women with wider hips. Men with broader shoulders. Genitals. Social roles. Those kinds of things.
But it can reach summer temperatures in spring and women can have deep voices and short hair. Men can have wide hips and narrow shoulders.
Let’s say “spring” is synonymous with “female” and “autumn” is synonymous with “male.” You get preconceptions and expectations, but you’re not going to say it’s still winter when it snows on May 12th (true story; it was such a weird day). You get thrown a bit, a little disoriented, but you take that snow in spring and still call it spring because you know it’s spring, dammit, and no amount of snow is going to make it winter again.
It’s what you label something that matters, regardless of the small variations, I think. It’s autumn if you think it’s autumn, regardless of the first frost or the first snow or an “Indian summer.” It’s autumn, not winter or summer, because that’s what it’s called for that kind of position in the year and weather and hemisphere and latitude.
I think this is why I’m okay with having genders—but not with a strict binary. I think gender has a place, but our notions of gender are a bit skewed. The binary thing. I’m not okay with it. But I am okay with specific genders. It’s a helpful label, like seasons.
That summery weather outside of summer is kind of how I think “transgender” should be seen. I often feel like it’s seen as the flip from the northern hemisphere to southern hemisphere: if you’re March to June, you’re either spring or autumn. And I think that’s wrong. You don’t have to go from male to female or female to male identity to be transgender. If someone tells you you’re autumn, but you feel more like a winter, then… that’s still transgender.
I just think it’d be easier if “transgender” weren’t a thing. If we had more than two genders widely accepted.
One comment related to transgender identity comes with how pet owners correct pronoun usage for their pets. I think it’s an inaccurate comparison. If someone calls your dog a she when it has a penis, and you call it a he, the person you’re correcting gets it faster. It’s based on biological sex. People are quicker to associate pronouns with biological sex, and using the pet comparison only emphasises the role of biological sex in gender. It’d be like telling an Australian they’re wrong for thinking it’s winter because it’s the middle of July. It’s not the same thing. (Also, pets and people are not the same.)
Gender is not your genitals.
Gender is your own version of a season.