Isn't gender a social construct? Can’t you just be a femme guy?

tags: trans rights
Last updated on .

This text was extracted from my initial coming-out web page, originally written when I came out. The web page is now taken down, but this section is back from popular demand.

Some people have remarked that I was “such a good guy” and it’s a pity I’m transitioning, a compliment I have had many, many times, and one that always felt like an insult. My position was for a long time that I was only a man because of what others thought and that I had no choice in the matter. This is textbook existentialist bad faith. I always had a choice, I just didn’t like my options. For the record, I still don’t. The problem with living in bad faith is that for the situation to improve someone needs to snap out of it and fix things. The only reason I have any options at all at this point is that braver people than me have fought for them.

People often use the term “social construct” with emphasis on the last half; something like gender is constructed, and therefore a fleeting figment of the imagination, easily ignored. The term “gender roles” also suggests this attitude. I don’t think that’s true. Countries or laws are also social constructs, and that doesn’t stop wars from killing people who don’t, technically, believe in them. This is one reason for my transition being more than a shift in my mental state. Another is that I also have a social relation to myself, and transitioning constitutes the only way I know to change this relation.

Finally, I do not believe that you can clearly separate the biological reality from the mental reality any more than you can separate hardware from software or the dancer from the dance. I don’t think I can fix masculinity’s problems while being held hostage by it, and I don’t think I could get to where I want to be in the space of my lifetime and still be a man in any meaningful sense. It’s something of a ship of Theseus situation.

Some of these thoughts are expanded in Contrapoints’ video on the Gender Critical movement