I just read this cartoon strip about the Autism Spectrum. And it got me thinking about gender.
And I suppose you could see gender in a similar way. When someone identifies as a woman, they are on a ‘female spectrum’. There are many different traits we associate with femininity, and someone who identifies as a woman may have any combination of those associated traits, to varying degrees.
But I suppose the spectrum similarity stops there. To be diagnosed as being on the Autism Spectrum you do have to have at least one of the associated traits. According to the current DSM (the diagnostic manual used by medical professionals), you need to have at least three of the associated traits. But when it comes to gender it is different. A person might identify as a man and have none of the associated traits. They may even have all the traits associated with identifying as a woman, but still identify as a man. They may not identify as a man or a woman.
Because, when it comes down to it, human beings all display a huge variety of traits to varying degrees, and an attempt to categorise similar people diminishes their uniqueness.
Bringing it back to Autism; I think it is important that we still have the categories of medical diagnosis. An Autism diagnosis means a person can get help and support with something that they otherwise would struggle with, it means that changes can be made in their school or workplace to be more accommodating, and it means they can meet others who experience life in a similar way to them. So the categories of medical diagnosis are important.
But gender is not a medical diagnosis. Even though it’s on our birth certificate, our ID, and all our medial paperwork. Being assigned a gender does not offer us help and support. Some schools and workplaces do need to make themselves more accommodating to certain genders, but this is because they are only accommodating to one gender identity. Identifying as ‘not that gender’ is not a medical diagnosis. And it doesn’t mean that the unique combination of traits you as a human have are different from those associated with being that gender. And being assigned a gender does not give you the opportunity to meet people with a similar experience of life (unless that experience is the way you are treated by others). We need to get rid of the idea that gender is somehow medical. There may be some situations where a doctor of the body needs to be aware of your genital formation, or whether you went through masculinising or feminising puberty- but only in situations that affect or are affected by these things. The doctor never needs to know your gender identity. And they shouldn’t have to know, unless you choose to share it. The way I see it, no-one ever needs to know your gender identity unless you choose to share it; and they certainly don’t have the right to assign you one.
P.S This is my first post on this blog!
Gnot and I (Abbeh) will now be sharing the blog!