It is so simple isn’t it? We know what male and female mean, what a woman and a man are. We know why we need the two, and what we are. Well, most of us are pretty certain about ourselves. Sexual orientation? Now that’s something different. Look, you’re just fine knowing your are a woman, and lesbian (or: man, gay), and that doesn’t alter your certainty about male and female, does it?
Surprisingly, the statistics about intersex incidence (where the sexual classification of a newborn by genital appearance is unclear) are high (maybe four per cent). But we don’t see this, not least because decisions are made to increase the certainty: an identity is settled on as much for parental peace of mind as anything, there is surgical intervention and social determination. But it happens.
But where exactly is gender found? Between the thighs or between the ears? Physiology apart, the brain and the mind, the personal sense of identity, is not always at peace with the body. For very good reasons, the brain can develop physically in one gender profile, while the body does something else. A very few genes on a very few chromosomes can cause this identity conflict from birth, at puberty, or really at any stage of life’s journey. It is genuine, and it can happen for anyone. Some people just know from their earliest years, others, not knowing what the problem is or what to call it, just feel discomfort. The more they don’t fit with what they are ‘supposed’ to be, they more they hide it, suppress it, and suffer for it. Some cope with that tension, others cannot cope at all. For many, there is a point of inevitability where ‘coming out’ almost happens to them rather than being a conscious decision. And all hell can break loose. I will share some of my experience and understanding here, so that if you are unfamiliar and just think a person ‘dressed in the wrong clothes’ is weird or mentally disturbed, you might learn just how many people simply don’t fit the idea of male or female. Call it ‘heteronormativity’ and it sounds authoritative, but there is nothing ‘right’ about dividing people up into precisely male and female according to their (you’re guessing anyway) genitals.