Paige Mehrer

Whenever asked to write about gender empowerment, I think, “Easy! I’m a queer, nonbinary womxn. Obviously, I’m the foremost expert on contemporary gender theory.” Then I remember that I don’t know shit about shit. I, like every other person you know, have a reasonable grasp of my own gender, but everyone else’s is their own bag of self-definition. Neither I nor anyone else can give you a definitive answer for what “gender” even means.

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So, how can I tell you how to feel empowered about something I can’t even define or explain?

A: By disempowering bigots and well-meaning (though ill-informed) allies who are still walking around deluded, believing they know shit about shit that isn’t even about them.

Like I said, I’m no expert on anything and can’t tell you what “gender” is, much less what your gender is, or how to define, explore, or celebrate it. What I can do is offer up a list of what it isn’t.

1) Gender is NOT genitals, chromosomes, or hormones.

It’s 2020 and anything I say on this topic will sound cliché, since it’s already been said a million times a day on every social media platform. I could cite over 17 distinct intersex conditions as a proof, but at this point in history, let’s all just grow up and accept that genitals don’t say much.

2) Gender is NOT fuckability.

If I had a bullet for every person who ever told me, “I still see you as a man” or some equally dismissive statement that ultimately breaks down to “I don’t want to fuck you, so I refuse to identify you with any gender I might want to,” the nation would be riddled with dead fuck boys. Listen, bro, your dick is no divining rod.

3) Gender is NOT who you fuck.

If you’ve ever left your Christian Fundamentalist family compound in the hills of South Dakota (wait... are there even hills in South Dakota?), you’ve met asexual, demisexual, gay, queer, bisexual, and heterosexual people of every gender there is.

4) Gender is NOT a degree.

Despite the frequent assertion of conservative baby boomers, no cisgender person has ever read a book or attended a class that was persuasive enough to turn them trans. Not only can higher education not make you trans, but it certainly can’t make you an expert on the lived experiences of those who don’t have Gender Studies degrees.

5) Gender is NOT an ethnicity or tax bracket.

Lizzo’s a millionaire and Marisol, the transfeminine budtender at your favorite dispo, is broke AF. Both are women, and both think your reductive assertion that gender diversity is some “rich white people shit” negates any respect you think you deserve.

6) Gender is NOT masculine or feminine.

There are masculine women, feminine men, and genderqueer folx who not only blur the line, but erase it.

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7) Gender is NOT a societal role.

There are plenty of hyperfeminine, cisgender, heterosexual women who starred on their cheer and dance teams and have no desire to get pregnant or deal with children, and plenty of hypermasculine, cishet dudes who secretly wish they could. Turns out, different people want and enjoy different things regardless of their gender.

8) Gender is NOT a fad.

And if you think it is, just STFU and get out of the way. The future is almost here.

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