Society vs. Science: A Gender Dilemma
As a heads up, this post has nothing to do with being Jewish.
Being raised extremely conservative (socially conservative, not as part of a religion), I had it engrained in my head that you can't choose your gender. You either have a penis, and are a male, or have a vagina, and are a female. That's the long and short of it. Amusingly enough, girls who are raised this way are often at the mercy of being labelled either a "girly girl" or a "tomboy." It's kind of contradictory that there is so much insistence on your genitals determining your gender, yet your behavior determines the label society gives you. If you like dresses, tea parties, and princesses, you get defined as a girl. If you play in the mud, love dinosaurs or trucks, and want to be a ninja, you get the boy label instead. It's almost as if society can't even follow its own made-up stereotypes.
Anyone who knows me knows that even with makeup on, I am a tomboy. You can talk to me for ten seconds and decide that I am not feminine. Despite days when I wear girlish clothing, spend an hour on my makeup, and have my endowed shape in full view - there's something not feminine about me. At the same time, I am not a biological anomaly. I (visibly) have breasts. I am noticeably pregnant every other year. I have (spoiler alert) a vagina. All of these things just scream "WOMAN!" Yet somehow, for some reason, I could not tell you what a being a woman feels like. I do not and have not ever felt womanly or feminine. There have been many times throughout my life that I felt overtly masculine, and times when I felt like nothing gender-wise.
This concept, in my own theory, is extremely hard for people who don't experience it firsthand to really understand it. If you have two legs, it is probably very hard to understand what it must feel like physically (not emotionally) to only have one leg. In that capacity, though, when someone tells you how it feels, you don't second guess their feelings because you can easily see that they only have one leg. What you cannot see is when these feelings manifest as a result of a difference in neurology.
While so many people spout that gender is so easy to determine based on external genitalia, they are dismissing massive amounts of science that point to the contrary. There is quite a bit we still don't understand about this "gender" thing, but there is more than enough that we do understand very thoroughly - and it completely contradicts the penis/vagina mantra.
Personally, I love science. I believe in God, and I believe that He is a god of science. When you look at all the perfect systems and components that make up our entire universe and how they work together, I think it is the best possible evidence for a divine creator. When christians ignore the valuable scientific discoveries we have at our fingertips, it is like they are spitting on this creation. To say that God made two genders, male and female, is a gross oversimplification. He also made humans with two arms and two legs but there are thousands of documented cases of humans being expressed from the womb with some deviation from that standard. Extra limbs, missing limbs, conjoined twins, etc. Can we deny their existence because typically humans don't fit that description? No, because that would be crazy.
Gender is a similar concept but on a much less visible scale - because while gender can typically be declared based on obvious external anatomy, there are many ways that our bodies can tell a different story.
The most obvious example is hermaphroditism or ambiguous genitalia, and it is much more common than you think. That is probably the most visibly identifiable variance to biological gender. It can be observed externally in some cases, and in others, certain testing such as ultrasound can find internal organs that do not match the genitals. Many other such instances occur even more frequently on a microscopic level inside our bodies. As it turns out, it's not your genitals alone that determine male or female (sorry to burst your bubble about the simplistic "penis=boy, vagina=girl" theory). In reality, our gender is affected by multiple biological systems, and none of them follow the rules 100% of the time.
The most common basis for gender determination internally is the sex chromosomes.
The chromosomes XX mean female, and XY mean male - usually. Sometimes, people can carry the XX chromosomes as well as "fragments" of Y. Oops! What gender is that? If XX typically leads to ovaries and that Y tips the scales towards testes, what is happening in a human body that has both? While you can look and probably see either a penis or a vagina on this hypothetical person, you cannot possibly know whether their biology is harboring both (or the "incorrect") sex chromosomes. When you say something along the lines of "a doctor may accidentally assign a boy the wrong sex at birth," I can see how it may sound like what has been deemed liberal propaganda. If, however, you try to understand that statement from a scientific standpoint, it makes absolute and undeniable sense.
"A doctor may label a baby as male using the penis as evidence when in fact, that baby has female sex chromosomes." This entire explanation of sex chromosomes is only scratching the surface. There are other contributing factors that cannot be seen externally, yet play a significant role in biological gender. It may seem like a very simple means of assigning gender to look at genitalia at birth, but unless you are performing genetic testing on every person born, you are going to get it wrong sometimes. It is estimated that up to one in 100 people have definable gender differences, such as hormonal conditions, genetic changes or anatomical ambiguities.
I haven't even addressed the affect of neurological differences on gender identity and expression. Assuming the reader is a rational and intelligent person, these gender nuances must be taken into account. They can't be dismissed or explained away easily. What happens in the brain when a seemingly visibly female body is harboring male sex chromosomes, male sex glands, or even actively producing male sex hormones? In a lot of cases, society would tell this person that they have a mental disorder because the presumed existence of their vagina trumps everything else mentioned. This is science being absolutely steamrolled by society.
Momentarily shifting from the topic of gender as a biological structure, we have to face the other major component of gender as a social construct. I will preface this by saying I am a non-binary female. I very much doubt that I have male hormones (beyond the reasonable level) coursing through me or that I have had hidden testes since birth. I would not say that I am transgender on a biological level. I don't want a sex change, I don't wish I was a man, at least not often enough to do anything about it; when I am not being taken seriously by group of men I am talking to, that's a different story [of misogyny].
As far as the social construct of gender, however, I am definitely transgender. That may evoke a very specific mental image of a drag queen or Rocky Horror Picture Show for most people, but that's an unrealistic stereotype. There's nothing inherently different about me that you could pick out of a crowd, other than being a little alternative. I look like a woman. I have never been mistaken for a man. What makes me non-binary is that I do not feel like a man or a woman. I do not know what it means to "feel" or experience femininity in any capacity. I can rationalize, however, that since I do not feel "trapped in the wrong body" or anything along those lines, I am biologically a female and I am comfortable if someone chooses to define me that way. It's apparent to me that my transgenderism is based in autistic brain differences. This is not at all an uncommon occurrence. People on the spectrum are six times more likely to land on an atypical spot on the gender and/or sexuality spectrum. This might be caused by hormonal or biological anomalies, but it is much more likely due to the autistic tendency to reject social constructs that don't make sense - and to us, adhering to stereotypes based on perceived gender DOES NOT MAKE SENSE.
I will say it again because I feel so strongly about this. GENDER STEREOTYPES DO NOT MAKE SENSE.
My experience as a child was that it was acceptable for me to engage in primarily male interests and to dress in masculine clothing to allow me to participate in more boyish activities. I was called a "tomboy" and made friends readily with other children who were either male or tomboys like me. I acted like a boy in almost every way. As I transitioned into my teenage years, these same behaviors were suddenly weird and off-putting to my peers. I was bullied often and called a lesbian, and strangely enough, still sexually harassed by boys my age despite having little to no interest in them for the most part. It was confusing and traumatic, and that didn't end when I came into adulthood.
As a married adult female, I was still criticized for the gender identity I represented. Even though my husband had no complaints about me, my physical appearance, or my tendency to take on "masculine" tasks, I felt enormous pressure to conform to female stereotypes.
My husband's family encouraged me to be more meek and quiet. I was too loud and crass in their eyes. I needed to be soft-spoken, maternal, and a servant to my husband. I was told to be submissive and accommodating. The correct role of a woman, especially a married one, was drilled into my head. The same narrative was being constantly spewed by religious influences in my life and I completely bought into it for a time.
I didn't realize then that being non-binary was not a choice I had made. I actually viewed it as a character flaw that I couldn't live up to the feminine expectations! In hindsight, how sad is it that I tried so hard to go against my very nature because I was being told that the way my brain works was sinful and wrong? Being non-binary is not a choice I have made. It's something I have accepted because it is my reality. No amount of outside influence brought me to this point, nor will it change me. I don't even want to think about how much harder this is for people who have actual physically significant differences that make them transgender. I can't imagine having internal components that are trying to perpetuate a different gender all while people are telling me I'm "choosing" to feel like that and that I must be some manifestation of evil in the world. It's no wonder that suicide rates among transgender individuals are through the roof.
While I can acknowledge that there are some people in the trans community who are motivated by the attention they will receive (especially during times that it is trending among the youth), or that some people have a diagnosable mental illness that can be corrected with medication or therapy, I think those instances are astronomically low in light of documented cases of neurodiversity and biological anomaly. Not to mention, young people who are simply experimenting, confused, or acting out of peer pressure will not maintain a false identity for very long.
It doesn't take much to attempt to be accepting of people who are different than you, and even more so when there is superfluous amounts of scientific study validating their experience. All I can really say is that if the idea of a transgender person rubs you the wrong way and you still can't understand it, be thankful in some way that you don't get it. Your life is infinitely easier than ours.