Throughout history and across cultures, gender is a category of identity that has been almost universally construed as a mutually exclusive opposition. Maleness and masculinity are culturally associated with agency, physicality, aggressiveness, assertiveness, separateness, logic, rationality, etc., while femaleness and femininity are associated with receptiveness, stillness, attachment, softness, passivity, emotionality, etc. While these binaries have softened in recent decades, gender as a binary is still central to the experience and social presentation of personhood. Individuals who do not “read” as normatively gendered, such as transpersons who “queer” or complicate gender (as opposed to those who successfully “cross”), remain confusing and threatening to others.
The either/or structure of the gender paradigm is an exemplification of Jay Haley’s “universal pathogenic situation,” in that it results in each individual creating a compliant, gender normative, false self...