This conflict with the Binary often becomes the focus of an androgynous person's life: I know I'm not a Woman, I know I'm not a Man, so What am I? WPATH calls them "non-conformers," "mentally ill," and signs them up for genital surgery unless they resign themselves to being either Female or Male.
The gender community tends to describe itself using terms like, Queer or Genderqueer, Genderless or Gender Outlaws, Asexual or Questioning, Gender-Confused, Gender-Fluid or Two-Spirit (ie, having both a female and a male inner soul), etc. All of these words imply that the individual is outside the Officially Approved Gender Binary. And they reflect a certain level of anger & frustration for a General Society that's so out of touch with reality. That pent-up anger is often vented by intentionally violating or exaggerating stereotypes, and by flaunting conventional gender roles:
"People will gender me as they see fit: some see a man, some see a woman - and others aren't sure what they see. I can shift their interpretation with something as simple as allowing then to see my purse -- suddenly, I move from 'man' to 'woman'. Yes, I fuck with gender - not as much as some - but I fuck with it nonetheless. And regardless of how I am 'gendered' by others, there is always something 'queer' about it."
--Donna Lynn Matthews, Wandering Aloud
The best introduction to androgyny is a visit to the website Genderfork ("beauty in ambiguity"). Most of the posts ask questions like:
-- Who am I? (I don't conform to the usual gender standards!)
-- How can I express my uniqueness?
-- No one understands me.
Consider the following excerpt:
"I keep looking at my past and noticing I didn’t conform to gender even before I understood what gender was. Now, after living as a woman for decades, I just want to be allowed to be myself but at the same time I don’t know how. Can I just change? Do I need to tell people?
"I wish I could talk about it but I’m scared ... that other people will find me weird or that I’m forcing myself to be unique. I am not, this is who I am. I never felt like a woman, and I never wanted to be one, but I also don’t feel like a man or wish to transition into one."
An androgynous child usually begins to recognize that something is wrong when they're 6-10 years old. It's a time when all children are exploring their unique innate gender and adopting stereotypical roles & behaviors to express that gender. When a child discovers that they don't fit into the standard girl -- boy framework, they immediately want to know Why?
Unfortunately, the topic of Gender is currently a mass of confusion. Religious experts claim that being different is a sin. Supposedly, the 8-year old child needs to pray and read the Bible until they're no longer different.
On the other hand, the DSM & WPATH label the children "non-conformers" with a mental illness that needs to be fixed. Not only that, they might end up needing a "sex change" or maybe they're just gay. Who knows? Only time will tell.
None of this makes any sense to a boy who knows that he's a boy, even though he plays with dolls; or a girl happy to be a girl who just happens to like trucks & football: I'm not a sinner, and I don't want a sex change!
And then there are gender theorists, who sit in ivory towers and recommend changes in society that might resolve androgyny's issues.
Gender Monotony is the most popular solution. Instead of two genders (Gender Binary), there should be only one gender (Gender Monotony). After all, there's supposedly no difference between Females & Males. Instead of Women's & Men's restrooms, there should only be Unisex restrooms. Instead of "she" & "he" everyone should use... some other word yet to be disclosed. (Possibilities: (s)he, zhe, h', e, and many others). Or maybe everyone should choose the pronoun they like, write it on their name tag and expect everyone to comply. (A Nebraska school suggested "purple penguin".)
It goes without saying that everyone should wear the same clothes; all stereotypes would be strictly forbidden.
While the current Gender Binary has established that Female & Male are "normal", while androgynous people are "non-conformers", Monotony recognizes androgyny as the Gender Standard. Female & Male would be the mentally ill "non-conformers". Asking for a separate locker room would send someone to a psychiatrist, amidst peels of laughter and harassment.
The Gender Theorists have even made some headway among social progressives. There are families who provide a genderless home environment for their children. There are even entire school districts dedicated to Monotony (Lincoln, Nebraska, for example). Theoretically, the overall goal is to indoctrinate children to be androgynous instead of female / male. Youth are supposed to be programmed to feel pain anytime a gender-word is spoken.
These efforts seem to be more anti-binary than trying to establish any particular kind of replacement: Adopt whatever gender expression you want, as long as it's NOT stereotypical Female, Male, Transsexual or Crossdresser.
Third Sex The other approach has been to establish a "Third Sex" that would cover the androgynous middle of the Gender Spectrum.
Unfortunately, that's not how it works. Gender theorists can't distinguish between androgynous people, transsexuals, intersexuals, & crossdressers -- supposedly they're all "non-conformers". So they're all "Third Sex" -- a collection of "abnormals".
Third Sex has actually become the Law of the Land in India, Japan, Australia, the Philippines, Germany, Oregon and even the University of Vermont. In practice, a Third Sex designation often doesn't provide legal recognition. Instead, lawyers have argued that the nation's legal code applies to Women & Men, not to Third Sex.
Having an ID that designates someone as Third Sex marks them legally unable to use Women or Men's restrooms (or other gender spaces), apply for jobs or housing, attend schools, receive scholarships or government benefits, vote -- or do anything else that asks, Are you male or female? on the application.
The Gender Graph
A Gender Graph is another way of visualizing the three transgender categories. Someone with all male gender traits would appear on the far left of the graph. Someone with all female traits would be on the far right. People with various mixtures of gender traits -- mostly male, an even mix of male & female, mostly female, etc -- plot out between the two extremes.
Notice that "Androgynous People" describes the people in the middle of the graph -- the people with an even match of male & female gender (personality) traits.
The term "transgender" encompasses three very distinct groups of people: Transsexuals, who are forced to live in the wrong gender because of their genital appearance; Crossdressers, who alternate between fully male and fully female genders; and Androgynous people, whose gender is a mix of both "female" and "male" personality traits.
The essential differences between the three groups are:
-- Crossdressers have a constant need for a time and place when they can adopt the other gender expression.
-- Androgynous people need to discover a mixed gender expression that will match their unique combination of female and male gender traits.
Who Am I?
Female or Male?
The concept that gender (personality) is a spectrum -- as illustrated on the Gender Graph -- is quite different from the common belief that there are only two genders: Female & Male. The Two-Genders-Only myth is otherwise known as the Gender Binary.
However, it's clearly apparent that lots of women like trucks & football, and there are a lot of artistically creative men who wear pink shirts. The Gender Binary myth labels such people as "non-conformers" and "abnormal", while the Gender Spectrum identifies them as Androgynous -- part of normal human diversity.
They're in a separate category because they have different needs compared to those who appear on other areas of the Gender Graph.
In a binary world, society constantly asks an androgynous individual, Are you Female or Male? ...And the correct answer is, Neither -- or maybe, Both. Androgynous means an even mixture of gender traits; sort of half-way between Female and Male.
The Transsexuality Portal
Transsexuals experience three forms of distress. Androgynous people experience the same three -- although with somewhat lower intensity:
Type 1 Distress -- Wrong Gender Expression
A mixed Gender (personality) requires a mixed Gender Expression to match it. Except society only provides stereotypes for Women (their proper appearance, behavior & roles) and other stereotypes for Men. Everyone is supposed to choose one or the other.
...But neither choice accurately reflects an androgynous individual's innate gender (personality). That's known as Wrong Gender Expression, and it always causes distress.
If a man wears a pink shirt or collects dolls, he's going to be mocked, teased and excluded. He'll be labeled as "abnormal" and a "non-conformer". ...A storm of harassment follows, intentionally painful enough to force an individual to pretend to be who they're not.
The Basics Portal
Mainstream society isn't going to become androgynous anytime soon. Besides, every androgynous person is a unique mixture of female & male traits. Put simplistically, one person might have the female trait of liking dolls, another might have the trait of wearing dresses, and a third might be intuitive & creative. Those three individuals would find fulfillment through very different styles of gender expression. They would look different, have different views & perspectives, and they would pursue different social roles.
The key to fulfillment is self-awareness: What do you enjoy? What are your strengths? What areas are challenging for you? What are your values & perspectives? What do you dislike?
Remember that gender can't be changed. It's impossible for an androgynous person to ever become All Man or All Woman. They might pretend for a short time, but at the cost of adding distress to their life.
Pursue a life and a career path that maximizes your happiness, makes full use of your strengths, and minimizes the impact of your weaknesses. You should be able to look into a mirror and say, That's the real me!
Unfortunately, the stereotypes provided by mainstream society are designed for Women and Men -- not for androgynous people. Finding a fulfilling gender expression requires designing your own stereotypes. Many people mix & modify different aspects of the existing Male & the Female stereotypes: short hair, coat & tie, with a skirt & purse, for example. The casual observer would think, I see, you're partly Female and partly Male.
Others are creative enough to invent a totally unique signature style that expresses the same concept.
On the other hand, many Gender Theorists advocate the creation of a small community that has agreed to reject all stereotypes and pre-conceptions. Each person announces explicitly who they are, regardless (or in spite of) of how they look and behave. Everyone else is supposed to accept & remember the person's wishes. Be careful, the individual will be offended if you make a mistake.
The process seems to be more of a political statement, without concern for personal fulfillment or expression of inner self. (Who could find fulfillment in being a "purple penguin"?)
Gender Expression is a form of communication, using stereotypes as a language. For any language to work, both the speaker and the listener must agree on the meaning of the words. When stereotypes are invented by the speaker, there's a significant risk that the listener won't understand.
One might hope that a mixed gender expression would communicate an androgynous (mixed) gender. However, the gender police and other non-creative people will respond with, You can't wear a necktie with a skirt -- they completely miss the point.
The New Gender Paradigm
A regretter is someone who goes too far with hormones & surgery. They make physical changes and discover too late that their quality of life is no better -- or maybe even far worse. (For an extreme example, look at sexchangeregret.com)
Although most treatment protocols claim to minimize Regret, in fact they encourage regret by lumping all "gender non-conformers" together. Fearing Regret, healthcare providers refuse to make a firm diagnosis (they claim it's "impossible") -- which, of course, increases the probability of a regretful outcome.
Regret for an androgynous person usually means undergoing genital alteration, which won't fulfill any of their gender expression needs. It's essential that every individual considering genital surgery first explore their inner soul to make sure they don't have a mixture of Female and Male gender (personality) traits. Don't undergo genital alteration if you feel you're neither female nor male.
© Cassandra Branch MD (2015)
The general rule is that only transsexualstransition -- androgynous people don't. Having a mixture of Female & Male personality traits won't fit into the Gender Binary regardless of the individual's genital appearance.
However, a stereotypical physical appearance for androgynous people has recently been emerging (as shown in the photos accompanying this page): Flat chest, smooth hairless skin, and a small straight-waisted skeletal structure without hip widening. In other words, many people would like a body shape without the characteristics associated with blatant masculinity or femininity.
For testosterone people, removal of facial & body hair requires electrolysis or laser treatments. Body hair could theoretically be brought under control by replacing testosterone with estrogen, but the regimen would also stimulate breast growth (usually a No-No, see HERE.)
During puberty, testosterone transforms a light slender skeletal structure into a taller large-boned body with a straight waist and narrow hips. Once that large bone structure has been established, there's no way to reverse the process.
For estrogen people, puberty stimulates breast growth. Once that tissue is present, it can only be removed with a mastectomy.
Hip widening is another irreversible pubertal effect (along with waist narrowing).
Changing Bone Structure
Achievement of an "ideal androgynous bone structure" would require beginning treatment prior to puberty. In theory, pre-pubertal youth have an asexual physical appearance. The goal would be to prevent sex-related changes from taking place (other than enlargement and becoming taller.)
Testosterone people would require reduction of testosterone & growth hormone effects during puberty. Low-dose pituitary blockers (GnRH) may be the best way to do that, although anti-testosterone treatments might also be effective.
Giving estrogen would accomplish the same goal, but it would stimulate breast development (or require mastectomy).
Similarly, estrogen people might require a reduction in the level of estrogen to prevent waist narrowing and hip widening. Since there are no effective anti-estrogen medications, low-dose pituitary blockers (GnRH) may achieve the desired result. Warning: even low-dose estrogen will stimulate breast growth -- requiring mastectomy.
Changing hormone levels during puberty is risky (see HERE). Osteoporosis is the primary risk, with changes in brain development a close second. At the very least, an attempt to retain an androgynous body would require meticulous monitoring of maturation and physical functioning. (See also HERE.)