Calling gender a spectrum is almost as problematic as calling it a binary.

CJ Trowbridge


Women’s Studies

Gender Identity

Prompt: With evidence, support the following statement: Gender is a spectrum, not a binary.

Calling gender a spectrum is almost as problematic as calling it a binary. Gender is not a spectrum anymore than it is a binary. A better analogy would be a map of the world, where “male” is one city, “female” is another city, and where many people live nowhere near either of them, much less somewhere in between them. It is a transphobic microaggression to argue that people must exist on or between these two genders, rather than existing outside the binary spectrum.

Gender is the socialized roles and expectations associated with early human beliefs about sex being classifiable into two categories. With a small enough sample size and very little information, it can seem to fit. In reality, sex is very diverse, and it’s socially constructed according to Judith Butler and others. Gender tries to reflect old ideas about sex and confer expectations onto people based on perceptions about which of the archaic sex classes they fit into.

In reality, sex is diverse. There are dozens of human biological states which do not fit into either of the archaic sex classes, nor anywhere in between them on some imagined spectrum. Gender reflects a broken and inadequate concept of what sex is. The roles and expectations which gender tries to confer onto the archaic sex classes, therefore, do not reflect reality. And the idea that people should behave, look, work, think, or love in a certain way based on which of the fake sexes they are perceived to be a part of is both toxic, transphobic, and misogynistic, because these ideas come from hierarchical essentialist patriarchs like Aristotle.

There is no thing that it is like to be a woman. There is no thing that it is like to be a man. There is no spectrum in between these two things. Both maleness and femaleness are performative, and inter-subjective. They exist only because we perform them; they are not something that we are. These ideas do not reflect reality; though people may choose to reflect these ideas. Observing gender performativity in others does not reflect or support essentialist classes as part of reality.