Immediately, I will start by saying that I am a cisgender female and therefore cannot speak about counter-dominant gender identities in terms of personal experience but only as to what I have learned through my education and from observing the world around me.
In more modern times, Western and liberal societies are trying to be more accommodating to all of their citizens. For these reasons, we are starting to see more concrete distinctions between definitions of gender and definitions of sex. Sex is your anatomy; what parts do you have? On the other hand, gender is how you identify on the scale of masculinity and femininity. Gender identity has nothing to do with your anatomy but rather with where on this scale – or at all on this scale – you feel your gender identity falls.
This is not something for an outsider to determine. The way you feel in your body is very much subjective and your own experience. For instance, I was a mega tom boy growing up. I spent most of my time playing with boys in my neighbourhood over girls, and would rather play cops and robbers three times over than ever play kitchen or dolls. By that logic, it would be easy to assume that I might later identify more with males than with females. Is that true? No, not at all. I am very much a woman and love being a woman. Gender isn’t so much about whether you strictly adhere to specific gender roles, but more about whether or not you feel right in your “assigned skin.” Though it is true that a biology professor and a sociology professor would have very different takes on the topic, it is not really a debate in my opinion.
Some people like to make the argument that it is a matter of biology – all other animals are male or female and just work with what they were born with. Ha, well let me drop some facts for you. In swims the anemonefish. All clown anemonefish actually are born with the predisposition of being male. However, when the female of the group dies, the dominant male will actually physically change sexes and become female, and another male will step up as the dominant male. Not so black and white now, is it? In fact, in nature, gender works in many different ways than it does in human’s dominant Western narratives. For example, some species actually take on the physical appearance of their opposite gender when trying to mate in order to throw off potential rivals. Another oddity, male seahorses are actually the ones that give birth to little baby seahorses.
Now that we’ve cut through that particular level of bullshit, some people also make the argument that if we accommodate everyone, there will be an infinite amount of genders. “Why should we have seventy different types of gender when there are two sexes?” My question is, what is it to you? I have never understood why a cis-gendered person, whose life is much easier for that exact reason, could be so damn concerned with what other people do to be happy. Close-minded cis-people like to act as though saying “they” as opposed to “he or she” is more of a chore than it would be for others to conform to a gender that they do not identify with. Put frankly, grow up.
The longer the list of gender identities, the more possible that a young teenager that does not feel like themselves, feeling confused and utterly alone, can then go online, find a community of people that feel just like themselves and finally say “eureka! I know who I am now!”
The human brain is structured in a way that we like to categorize and label things to make it easier to organize and understand the world around us. We see a Robin and categorize it as a bird, which is also an animal, which is also a living organism. Labels and categories can be extremely beneficial to people that feel marginalized and as though they do not belong within dominant narratives. For them, finding a subcommunity of people just like themselves – be it transgender, non-binary, gender fluid, or any other – may give them validation, proof that they do hold a place and that they are valued members of society as opposed to an outsider.
People like to make jokes, such as “oh okay well I identify as a toaster.” These fears and objections are just not really realistic. Gender identity, as mentioned previously, is in regard to how you feel you fit on the scale of masculinity and femininity. A toaster has nothing to do with gender whatsoever and will therefore never be considered a gender identity.
Finally, as far as safety is concerned, the people most at risk when a transgendered person is in a public bathroom is that transgendered person. Most instances of attacks involving transgendered people in a public bathroom feature the cisgendered person as the transgressor, not as the victim. “What if men just start dressing as women to sneak into the women’s washroom?” News flash: they could do that regardless of legislation. The same people that argue that guns don’t stop crime and that women are “asking for” rape are also trying to tell us that someone is a danger to women everywhere just because they have a penis… and that legislation would solve that problem… hmm…
Bottom line, people are not willing to do the research because they know their point is moot. More than one form of gender identity is more than fine, it’s ideal. Sexism exists in terms of men oppressing women, granted. However, there is another form of sexism too. The form that forces individuals both sexes to submit to the societal norms and values assigned to them by whatever genitals they are born with. So next time you’re running your mouth about things you not only understand but refuse to research, please remember that you are contributing to a larger problem. You may as well tell a woman her place is in the kitchen.