You, the reader of this sure-to-be rambling blog post, have something in your pants. A gameboy, half a tuna sandwich left over from last Wednesday’s lunch, a stamp collection, a penis, a vagina…you name it. Let’s focus on the last two: with the exception of a very small, very unfortunately marginalized demographic, you have a set of pronouns that others use to refer to you by, and they directly correspond to what it is that you have in your pants (and on the off chance that you are like me and your pants are a convenient and cheap storage space for unusual trinkets and paraphernalia, I would like to reiterate that I am speaking specifically about whether you have a penis or a vagina).
I am a big fan of hypothetical situations, so bear with me as I analogize this pronoun/ genitalia phenomenon: You are in an anonymous online chatroom, and somebody sends you a private message. You begin to talk, but you are extremely careful not to use your name, not to use personal pronouns directed towards yourself, not to discuss men’s or women’s bathroom etiquette, or otherwise allude to your gender in a way that is unmistakable. However, you are entirely honest when answering questions, discussing your life, talking about your family friends, and otherwise being yourself. The person with whom you are engaging in said dialogue gets a very clear picture of who you are as a person intellectually, socially, philosophically, and any other word ending in the sound ‘ee’ (except, perhaps, ‘donkey’ or ‘titty’). However, all this being said, he or she does not know if you are a ‘he’ or a ‘she’.
After a few hours of talking, your interlocutor is asked by the powers that be to guess what your gender is. This is a high stakes question. If they get the answer wrong, every puppy in the world will shed their fur and grow thorns…serious business. Now, given the conditions listed above, what do you think the odds are that they will guess correctly? If they guess incorrectly, why is that? Are you not entirely in sync with your assigned gender, which is, in most cases, the gender that you accept as your own? In a chatroom, are you, the manliest of men, a girl? Are you, homecoming queen extraordinaire, a hairy, sweaty dude? Perhaps it’s more subtle than the hypotheses I have drawn, but the question remains: devoid of your facial hair, DD breasts, 47 inch penis, or double X chromosomes (presumably not all on the same person), are you who you think you are? Devoid of your secondary sex characteristics, are you as much of a male or a female as you have always thought of yourself as? […]