What Is Intergendered?

By: Donna Lynn Matthews, October 1998

Society openly recognizes two gendered states with which people may identify: man and woman. We are born, a doctor looks at our genitalia and declares us a boy or a girl. We are gendered at birth in a way which aligns with our sex. This alignment of sex and gender has become accepted as a given, creating two valid gendered states. This is a binary classification system and as such, allows two and only two valid states. In a binary system, there are no exceptions.

Now, there are two main groups of individuals out there in gender land. On the one hand, you have the cisgendered, who align their sex and gender as described above in what can be considered a traditional way (male/man - female/woman). For most people, this is fine and they feel little or no anxiety with this identity.

Then there are the transgendered (in the true sense of the word) who cross-align their sex and gender (male/woman - female/man). While they violate the accepted traditional sex-gender link, they still adhere to the construct that gender is a binary system and feel that they are men or women, but their morphology is wrong.

The former accounts for what is the majority of the population. The cisgendered are the normal people (from the point of view of society as a whole.) The latter make up (almost) everyone else.

Now, this is all well and good. Society does it's best to see that we all are cisgendered, so as to not upset the apparent 'natural' order of things. There is some validity to the point that being cisgendered makes one's life much easier to deal with in so far as one is subjected to the stigma of not feeling like a real man or real woman. But despite all of the socialization, there are people who wind up realizing that they just don't fit the cisgendered mold.

What seems to happen here is that they feel that they are of a gender opposite to that which there were assigned. As a result, you wind up with people who were gendered at birth as men realizing that they really feel more like women, and people who were gendered at birth as women realizing that they really feel more like men. This comes to be because of the assumption that gender is really is a binary system: There are only two genders and you must be one or the other.

But is this really the case? Are there only two gendered states?

There are many in the gender community who subscribe to the construct that there is a gender spectrum and we all fall somewhere between the polar endpoints of man and woman. All of the aforementioned people cluster around the endpoints. They are all either men or women, regardless of their sex. While some may be more masculine or feminine than others, they all primarily place themselves firmly at one end or the other.

I said that the assumptions here are that only two and only two genders and you must be one or the other. This is the binary gender model and the majority of the aforementioned all subscribe to it. It makes no provision for anything other than man and woman. Yes, one can argue that there are feminine men and masculine women, but they are still gendered and men and women.

In order for the construct of a gender spectrum to work, one must be willing to let go of the notion that gender is a binary system. There is no room for a third state, let alone a multitude of intermediate states, in a binary system. So, if there is a gender spectrum, then there has to be some group of people filling in the middle, right? Who then are the people between the endpoints?

Meet the intergendered. simply stated, intergendered is a gendered state between the polar endpoints of man and woman.

Intergendered is *not* identifying primarily as a woman or a man. It amounts to a wholesale rejection of the binary gender system and declaring that there is more than just man or woman. It comes down to stating that there are as many valid gendered states as there are people. Some may feel strong (or weak) masculine and feminine qualities all at the same time. Some may not see themselves on the gender spectrum at all, describing what amounts to a null gendered state.

[An aside for a moment. All my life I've never felt comfortable as a man. I've always had this feeling that I was something else. Raised in a pretty traditional way, I concluded that if I didn't feel like a man, than it follows that the way I feel must be a woman. I held this belief for quite a long time. After much more introspection, I had a realization: I don't feel like a woman. This put me in a difficult position: I know I don't feel like a man, and I don't really feel like a woman. Well, what am I? After kicking this around a bit, I've become comfortable with the notion that I do not have any gender in particular. In the framework of the binary gender system, I'm both and neither at the same time.]

In any case, intergendered people live a life somewhere between the traditional extremes of man and woman. As we do not gender ourselves along the either/or lines of the binary gender system, we often choose not to present along these lines. Given that, our presentation can be confusing and it would seem, at times, unsettling. As we present a mixed set of signal, there is often confusion in others as to whether we are a men or women.

Well, that's the point. We are neither and both at the same time. We have rejected the notion that one needs to be at either end of the gender spectrum and live and present accordingly. We are not really interested in passing as women or men. We want nothing more than to be able to simply be who we are without having choose between two extremes. This does not invalidate those who feel most comfortable at the end of the gender spectrum, it is simply expands the options one has. For us, it amounts to nothing more than being honest about who we are.

We have, for a long time, been ridiculed for being who we are (as have many in the gender community.) The thing about it is that we have gotten it from all sides. Anyone who holds on the notion of gender as a binary system, anyone who has places themselves at one end of the gender spectrum or the other, has seen us and our lifestyle as a threat to that which they have made a core part of their identity.

The cisgendered tend to look at us as like we're just plain weird; that there is more than man and woman simply does not register for them. The transgendered don't quite know what to make of us, as they tend to view us as an anomaly. The transexuals, much like the cisgendered, simply can not accept the construct that there is more than just man and woman. The (m2f) crossdressers think we make a mockery of the ideal of femininity because we don't care if we are clocked as men or women.

We are the outermost fringe of the so called transgender community, daring to live in what amounts to the gender wasteland. We have no problem with presenting as openly trans. None the less, our identities are as valid as anyone else's and we deserve the same respect and consideration as any other member of society.

Please Note:

The information here is copyright protected and is the exclusive property of Donna Matthews.

Opinions presented here are entirely my own and do not represent the opinions or policy of any other corporate entity.

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