I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this and the best I can come up with
at the moment is that ‘gender identity’ is best described as ‘identification
with the cultural artefacts that a society normally associates with a given
By cultural artefacts I mean physical things (hair, makeup, clothes etc) and
non-physical behaviours (being nurturing, submissive etc).
This way the definition exists without validating gender as being anything
Some people believe that our behaviours and tastes are directly linked to our gender which is something innate, but if
one attempts any critical thought about this we end up down an infinite rabbit
hole of circular definitions. Gender is seen by others as a social construct i.e. that there is nothing
innate or natural about it, but it exists only because of social convention.
Intellectually and philosophically this is a much more robust explanation. Now
just because something is socially constructed doesn’t mean that it doesn’t
exist, just that it isn’t natural. Sadly gender is very real and women have
been oppressed by these socially constructed expectations for millennia. Sure
we all have our own core identity and personal tastes, but these are unique to
us all and are not innately sex specific.
We all hold stereotypes about the opposite sex – we are culturally
indoctrinated to do so, and unless one takes the time to properly deconstruct
gender it’s easy to see how identification with these stereotypes, these artificial
socially ingrained beliefs, could lead somebody to believe that they must be the
The thing that saddens me most is that ‘trans’ people and radical feminists
have such an overlap in goals – the deconstruction of gender and the removal of
socially constructed barriers to freedom – but this difference of understanding
of gender as being something innate as opposed to something created by men
causes such hurt.
Of course it’s women who recognise this and their voices are always