Most of us grew up learning that there are two types of bodies – boys’ or men’s bodies, and girls’ or women’s bodies. Our culture separates lots of things into two categories, called “binaries.” The thing about binaries is… they’re made up.
Yeah. Some people happen to fit in the binary, but lots don’t. Really, the sex binary and gender binary are just a convenient way of organizing bodies and labeling them. It turns out that we make a lot of assumptions from those binaries that are actually pretty harmful.
The sex and gender binary says:
- A fetus with XX chromosomes will have a vulva, a vagina, a uterus, and ovaries. We’ll put “female” on their birth certificate and call them a girl. They’ll grow up into a woman, and will look, act, and have interests that are feminine. They will want to date men. And if any of these things aren’t exactly true, we will consider this person abnormal.
- A fetus with XY chromosomes will have a penis and testes. We’ll put “male” on their birth certificate and call them a boy. They’ll grow up into a man, and will look, act, and have interests that are masculine. They will want to date women. And if any of these things aren’t exactly true, we will consider this person abnormal.
You can probably see how that model totally ignores and actively hurts people who are intersex, people who are trans, people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or queer, people whose gender expression doesn’t “match” their assigned role. Really, it’s harmful to everyone when the messages that we get about gender and bodies and behaviour are limiting - because then people get forced into one of those two little boxes, whether they want to or not.
Watch for updates in this section about how genitals are homologous (in short: of the same origins, just arranged differently) and what that means for destroying the binary.
For now, you need to know that:
- All bodies are normal, all genitals are normal - scientifically speaking (we recognize that you might have a complicated relationship with your body or genitals)
- Nobody’s body looks like a textbook body
- It is helpful to know the anatomical names for body parts in order to erase shame around genitals and to have consistent language for reporting abuse.
- That being said, refer to your body parts however you like - it’s your body!