[I will apologize for the long and rambling post in advance. For the life of me, I have no idea how to make this concise.]
In mathematics, the binary system is a base-2 number system, that means, it is entirely made up out of 0 and 1. Everything is EITHER a 0 OR a 1. And I guess that’s fine for mathematics and has lots of useful applications in electronics, but we also use this system to describe humans, or more specifically, our gender and our sexuality. You are EITHER a boy OR a girl. You are EITHER heterosexual OR homosexual. I’ve been thinking about this for a while now, and the longer I think it through, the less useful the application of the binary system to myself seems to be.
Let’s start with sexuality, because I have been thinking about my sexuality for a very long time. I’ve been confused by it for a very long time, too. I had my first crush on a boy at around the same time that I had my first crush on a girl. So, which one was the ‘real’ crush? Am I a 0 or a 1? People expect clear binary statements and people were my only resource (this was pre-Tumblr, alas). My hetero friends expected me to be in a phase and turn out hetero, my gay/lesbian friends expected me to turn out lesbian. Gosh, it’s exhausting to just think back to this! I played an incomplete version myself for everyone everywhere. What a wonderful moment in my mid-twenties when I finally figured out that none of my crushes was less real than the other. That I wasn’t an EITHER OR. I was a BOTH. I started screaming: “I’m bi! Deal with it!” at my friends and felt better, whether they believed me or not. (Note: If you press me on the fact, these days I’m going to answer that I’m demiromantic pansexual, but who outside of Tumblr will understand that one?)
I haven’t really started thinking about gender in the same way until very recently. Actually, my transgender ex-girlfriend, the best resource I had for what it is like to not fit the norm, only reinforced the strict binary. She was born a biological 0 where she knew she was a 1. So she was working towards getting that adjusted. What I didn’t notice at the time, was how much of a butch I ended up being in this relationship. That could have clued me in.
Because yes, in terms of sex, the vast majority of us are born an EITHER OR (read Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides for a fascinating account of someone who is BOTH). But gender? Gender is a social construct, created along the lines of the sex divide, but bridged more often than we notice. I’ve never felt that I was born with the wrong set of genitalia. Doesn’t mean there haven’t been times that I felt more like a boy than a girl. We use the expression ‘tomboy’ for that, a word that maybe also is a clue, that the gender-divide isn’t as strict as we pretend.
If we go by stereotypes, you will notice the following about me: I’m good at math. Much better than my (cis/het) husband. I also have a much better sense of orientation. My sense of fabrics and decoration isn’t bad but it is miles away from what my (cis/het) father can do. You will find no pink in my wardrobe unless it is part of the bisexual flag colors. I’ve had a time of about 10 years in which I wore solely man’s button-down shirts and jeans. These days, you will find the occasional skirt in my closet, with knee-high boots (but no heels because I’m already 6’1’’) and I’m rocking it (well, IMHO). [The men’s clothes btw were always taken as a reflection on my sexuality, never on my gender.] I’ve had a good friend comment after I got together with hubby that I am “more womanly” now. Am I? Cause dude, I still don’t cook and I still do the taxes. Okay, that was probably not what he meant. What he meant was most likely that I was in love and thinking about doing the frick-frack more often than not – and we’re right back to mixing expression of sexuality and gender.
I remember taking a pop quiz in a magazine when I was half my current age and it determined my gender as “mostly down the middle, slightly on the male side” (hey, my Dad scored a lot more feminine points than me). I took one of the currently available online tests just for fun and that’s the result: Countertype to Stereotypical Female aka Female higher on stereotypically masculine traits than on stereotypically feminine traits. Seeing that they didn’t ask my sex, they did good.
Now, I’m a 2 to 3 on the Kinsey scale and I have no idea whether there is an official scale for gender (please educate me if you know!) but I’m pretty darn sure I’d come right down in the middle as well. I’m good with that. It feels natural. It feels like the way it should be. Like everyone is on a sliding scale and these binary labels are just there to give us a tribe to belong to or be excluded from.
But you know what? I don’t give a flying fuck. My tribe are the people I share interests with, who are kind and funny and sad and lovely and broken and healed and whatever labels they think apply to them, I’m fine with it. I for my part am not an either or. I’m a BOTH.