Gender Binary


In Western Society, there is the general belief that sex and gender are one in the same, and that there are two options: male and female. Along with these two categories, there are certain expected characteristics and behaviors. Though we all come from different backgrounds and have different experiences, we believe it is important to acknowledge other’s views, and we hope to discuss gender in an open way.

Through the gender focus issue area, we also aim to encourage people to embrace their own gender however they feel most comfortable and to embrace other’s genders as they choose to identify. The process of assigning gender to others has been normalized to a point where most do not even question it. Gender and sex, however, can be (and are) done many different ways.




“Travestí” by Don Kulick

In the Travestí culture of Brazilian transgender prostitutes, gender is not decided by the body, but rather sexual acts. The Travestí aspire to look like women, but do not want to actually be women, as they believe (due to religious background) that one can never change their sex and (due to societal constructs) that women should be subservient to men.

travesti (1) Travestí consider those who “comer,” or those who penetrate, males, whereas those who “dar,” or those who offer themselves to be penetrated, are considered non-male. Though it is a different method of categorization, it is still restrictive as it holds people to certain behaviors. “Viados,” or the Travestí’s archetypically masculine boyfriends, must be supported financially by his Travestí girlfriend and never express interest in being penetrated.


The Five Sexes

gender_1_~3In her article “The Five Sexes,” biologist Anne Fausto-Sterling suggests a different method of sex categorization: female, ferms, herms, merms, and males. As it is biologically known that there is a gradation of sex characteristics (such as gonads and hormones), Fausto-Sterling leaves room for such a spectrum.

Intersex is used as an umbrella-term for those that fall between male and female. Ferms (female pseudohermaphrodites) have ovaries and some aspects of male genitalia, but lack testes. Herms (hermaphrodites) have one ovary and one testis. Merms (male pseudohermaphrodites) have testes and some aspects of female genitalia but not ovaries. One in fifty births are intersex, and are usually surgically “corrected,” by modifying genitalia, often without the person ever knowing.



GenderQueerYet another method of gender categorization is identifying outside of a specific group. Genderqueer can mean several things: 1) An umbrella term for people whose gender identity is outside of, not included within, or beyond the binary of female and male. 2) Gender non-conformity through expression, behavior, social roles, and/or identity. 3) People who identify as both transgender and queer who see gender identity and sexual orientation as overlapping and interconnected.


Fausto-Sterling, Anne. “The Five Sexes.” Sciences. 33.2 (1993): 20-24. Print.

Kulick, Don. Travesti : sex, gender, and culture among Brazilian transgendered prostitutes. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998. Print.

“Trans*, GenderQueer, and Queer Terms.” . Midwest Trans* and Queer Wellness Initiative. Web. 5 Jul 2013. <;.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: