Myths as a flight of fantasy are all well and good. But when you let the unicorn trample an innocent bystander, you need to relinquish the mythical beast.
There are two types of Gender Identity Myths –
Gender Identity Myths cause harm to people who are transgender, non-binary, gender diverse, gender questioning, or gender queer (collectively referred to as Gender Diverse) because –
Busting the Gender Binary Myth
Professional bodies such as the American Psychological Association (APA) have confirmed that the Gender Binary is a myth:
‘Gender is a non-binary construct that allows for a range of gender identities’ (APA Guidelines, 2015).
It was encouraging to see such an explicit statement issued by the APA because, for years, other research and literature has been distorted by Cisgenderism (Chuck Tate, Youssef & Bettergarcia, 2014).
Five Challenges to the Gender Binary
The most comprehensive evidence to bust the Gender Binary Myth was set out in an article called The Future of Sex and Gender in Psychology: Five Challenges to the Gender Binary (Hyde, J. S., Bigler, R. S., Joel, D., Tate, C. C., & van Anders, S. M., published by the American Psychologist) (Hyde at al, 2018).
In this article, the Gender Binary Myth was busted with evidence from five scientific disciplines -
1. Neuroscience – There is insufficient evidence from neuroscience to divide human beings into just two categories of Male and Female: ‘Most human brains are a mosaic of features’, rather than a clearly identifiable set of ‘Male brain features’ and Female brain features’ (Hyde et al, 2018).
2. Behavioural Neuroendocrinology – There are hormones found, to differing degrees, in all humans. It is simply not true that humans can be categorised according to androgens and estrogens. Humans produce estradiol, testosterone and progesterone, and levels of hormones vary according to several factors including time of day, relationship status, etc. (Hyde et al, 2018)
3. Psychological Research on Gender Differences and Similarities – There are significant psychological overlaps between the Male Labelled and Female Labelled (Hyde et al, 2018)
4. Psychological Research on people who are Gender Diverse – Research shows that there are people who do not identify their Gender Identity as a binary opposite to another identity. Also, birth-assigned Gender Labels do not always determine how a person self-identifies (Hyde et al, 2018).
5. Developmental Psychology – Research shows that the gender binary is often a product of conditioning. It is enforced through language and social conduct, such as categorisation of people in everyday occurrences – for example, sports, education, and social events.
Busting the Cisgender Myth
There is no evidence to support the mythical belief that Cisgender Identity is in some way the norm, and/or the idealised form of Gender Identity. As I set out in my article ‘Why Care About Gender Identity’, the harm that arises out of Gender Diversity arises from the ignorance or intolerance of society, not from the Gender Diversity itself.
For years we saw the same issues relating to sexuality. Some would try to have us believe that heterosexuality was in some way the norm, and/or the idealised form of sexuality. Clearly that view also misses the point that the harm relating to sexuality other than heterosexuality is predominantly caused by society’s ignorance or intolerance, not the sexuality itself.
Myths are held onto when we are inexperienced and unknowledgeable, with a childlike mind. As adults, we have the ability to pick and choose what we will believe in.
So what do you think?
Does any of this resonate with you? Get in touch by sending me a message privately via the Contact Page, or add a public comment below, and engage in the debate.
Chris Warren-Dickins LLB MA LPC
Therapist, writer, educator, and LGBTQ+ advocate