From the sworn virgins of the Balkans to ancient Egypt’s skht, we live in a world where gender diverse people have always existed. Gender roles are an interesting indication of a culture’s values and beliefs, so it is important to include them in a conworld too.
Here are a few from Kireles:
- In the Qadhrin culture, it is common for male devotees of the goddess Qamala to undergo a rite of passage that marks them not as men but as deavirs. The strong energy of Qamala transforms all whom she touches – even their gender is changed.
The Qadhrin Islands are located near Nova Eliyana. They are all that remains of the ancient Qadhral Empire.
- Sinaaqu is a country where the vast majority of the population experiences a reversed circadian rhythm cycle: they are awake at night and asleep during the day. The small minority of individuals who do not experience this are considered outcasts from mainstream society. They are labelled somnyxians – “night sleepers” – and are considered a separate gender with strict roles.
- Within the cultures of the island nations on the equator, it is common for children to belong to a third gender called “treasure” or “secret” in their languages. This is a way of protecting children from what is deemed inappropriate nosiness. Once they enter puberty, joyous rites and rituals graduate them into adulthood and the gender of either man or woman.
- Fajhne cultures embrace the concept of luneth, a gender associated with menstruation. Blood has a lot of mythological symbolism among many of the Fajhne ethnic groups; those who are bleeding are said to embody the force of Luneth, a semi-demonic entity in Fajhne mythology.
Gender in the real world
While researching for ideas on cultural genders, I learned that gender is many things – but it truly does vary depending on the culture. In some cultures, there is no way that transgender or non-binary identities could be valid: I’m thinking of cultures where women live secluded deep within purdah and where men are afforded too much power. How could a man claim to “identify” as a woman in such a culture? How could a woman identify as “non-binary” in such a culture?
By the same token, there are some genders which simply don’t exist in other cultures: hijra, for example. A person who is not from a South Asian culture could not be a hijra [to claim so would be disrespectful].
So, what is gender?
- A social role: first and foremost, I believe gender is a role or a cultural concept. It can be either loose and fluid or very strict, but nonetheless there are “ways” of being man, woman, or other that are defined by social customs and traditions. In areas where the roles are oppressive, abolishing all gender would be beneficial [but not necessarily the best way to solve gender-related problems]. Without culture, gender really has no meaning.
- A feeling: this feeling aligns us, more or less, with the social role, experiences, and identities of a certain gender; we identify with the feelings and experiences of people within a group.
- A way to organize the world and the feelings/experiences of humans: this means that there are other ways to organize people’s feelings and experiences – gender need not necessarily be based on physical sex or even sexual orientation.
- Self-expression: because gender is a way to organize one’s feelings and experiences, it is ultimately a personal mode of self-expression. Some claim that there are an infinite number of genders. But there is definitely an infinite number of ways to relate to being a man, woman, or other, an infinite number of ways to express oneself.
- An experience: Taking all of the above into consideration as one package, gender is an experience.
Radical Feminists advocate gender abolishment because they see gender as an inherently oppressive institution. But, though I agree with Radical Feminists on some fronts, I do not believe gender is inherently oppressive. People have a desire to categorize and label things; it makes the world manageable and less scary – plus it helps us connect with others who have similar experiences.
Gender is undoubtedly oppressive in some situations, but to abolish all gender seems racist/imperialist and lacking in judgement to me. Many cultures had/have positive relations to gender diverse individuals.
RadFems also say that it is especially difficult for females to ID as non-binary or as men due to misogyny. I believe they are correct in this point. Misogyny colors most people’s views on gender. It’s important that females try to work through internalized misogyny.
But the Trans-positive Feminist movement seems to be missing a few points too: biology does exist. Humans are a sexually dimorphic species. Females have different symptoms for heart attacks than men, female bodies experience things that male bodies just don’t. To deny this by saying that no one conforms to the dimorphic standards is ludicrous – and I also believe it erases intersex people. As a group, intersex people have endured a lot and to claim that everyone is “a little bit” intersex is disrespectful of their struggle.
I have seen a startling trend whereby trans feminists wish to deny that females need feminism; having a vagina is a feminist issue, whatever you identify as: from sex-selective abortion to obstetric violence, females cannot simply “identify out” of their oppression.
They are oppressed because of their biology – not because of their identity.
Both Radical Feminists and Trans-positive Feminists make valid points about gender identity. Females who ID as non-binary or as men need to be aware of internalized misogyny and ensure that their identity is not inspired by woman-hatred or dysphoria about having a female body.