Anônimo perguntou: I used to identify as gq, but then I started to have doubts. How is it possible for the human brain to have a non binary gender? I know that people all over the world have felt this way, but I don't want evidence from mere experiences (I have enough of my own to confuse me). I need science. Sorry if this is worded badly.
There are a mixture of beliefs about this topic, one of the most common of these that is also accepting to the possibility of non-binary gender being that one, while being born with a particular body, is not born with any particular gender at all and that gender has psychological, social, and cultural aspects that may be fixed or malleable depending on the person in question. The sex of the body too is subject to divergent identification from assigned at birth - some people use brain sex arguments to support identifying differently from AAB, but many people who are trans* don’t really know “how” or “why” they identify as they do, but that it is very real regardless of the possible reasons, both for sex as with gender identification.
Evolution’s Rainbow: Diversity, Gender, and Sexuality in Nature and People by Joan Roughgarden (which is a good book for this topic anyway, minus a few problematic parts) in one section contains a good run-down of what the commonly recognized brain sex differences are in science, but notes also that there are very few of them and that human beings, whatever their sex, are much more alike than different. Those of the constructionist (gender is psychological, social, and/or cultural) rather than essentialist (gender is innate, biological) perspective tend to believe that self-directed gender identification and expression, environmental forces, and cultural possibilities have more of a deciding factor in how one identifies than one’s bodily characteristics. Of course, your mental processes are part of your brain, from decision-making to taking in influences from others, but, from this perspective, messages about gender are not built-in, they not only are acquired, but can also be self-determined and self-transformed.
One of the strongest pieces of evidence in favor of the constructionist perspective is that gender options available around the world differ - while the most common genders recognized are those also linked with one’s sex (man linked with male, woman linked with female), many places in the world have genders described by anthropologists as third gender. The increased visibility of non-binary and genderqueer identities in the Western world has been more predominant since the mid-1990s - 2000s due to increased trans* activism and visibility and the popularity of queer theory and postmodernism in academia and feminist movements. Binary gender norms and essentialism are rather deep rooted in the Western world - trans* people who are not non-binary identified have been difficult for the West to accept already.
Those who prefer an essentialist position may have problems with the “constructed” portion as if that makes the experience less real. One of my favorite examples of something which is constructed, absorbed, and expressed is language. No one is born knowing how to communicate in a given language - it is learned both through direct teaching and environmental absorption, and is incredibly enriching not only because of what is taught, but the way one is able to express themselves through it and turn it into something of greater magnificence than anyone had dreamed of. One’s expression of themselves through language is unique.
Gender itself is an elusive concept. While it should not be confused with sex as assigned at birth and/or sex identification, there is some overlap in the case where someone feels an alignment of gender identity with sex identity, but this is also very personal (as in, there is no easy assumption for pairing man with male, woman with female, or even androgynous gender with androgynous body - the list goes on). Some theories may posit gender as a sort of “spin-off” of sex, an extension of sex into the psychological, the socio-cultural. I think it may make more sense to see it as something related, but different, closely tied to how one interprets oneself and, often, how one wants others to interpret them. The socio-cultural element comes in when there is a variety of genders to be / choose from (depending on one’s perspective) in a given environment and the one that gels the most simply fits comfortably with one’s own experience and it becomes sensible to describe oneself that way.
From the perspective that gender is not in-born, some people who are gender-free proponents or radicalize the concept of gender wonder why one must bother with gender at all. These are often the same people who prescribe to others that “labels are for soup cans” while missing the point entirely that an important part of self-discovery and self-expression for many people is being able to name and identify what one is experiencing. It is fine for any given person to not go through this same naming, identification process for themselves, and certainly there is sometimes an over-emphasis on identity descriptors in current trans*, non-binary, and genderqueer discourse.
I have placed a greater emphasis on the self in this account of gender I have given, because all too often only pure environment and culture is regarded as shaping gender factors. When so many people modify gender conceptions, break and subvert stereotypes, and incorporate all manner of fashion, behavioral, and performance elements that can be connected to gender, the role of the self (self-determination, self-conviction) is quite clear. Whatever one’s belief about where gender comes from, whether one is born with it or it is made, the overwhelming non-inborn component to it seems clear and the same could be said for sexual orientation. It would be interesting to see research on the possible connections between innate biology and non-binary gender identity and no doubt biological factors hold some stake in influencing gender identity for at least some people, but it is not the whole picture.
I describe it as “both but neither” and even then it varies. Like, I feel like both at the same time, but then again because it’s such a mix and a variant, I feel like neither. If that makes any sense at all.
I can totally relate to this!
Thanks, tawnywolf. :)