Is Genderqueer Made Up?: A Response to Shoe0nHead

CN: Transphobia, Dysphoria

To be a good skeptic, you have to listen to what the other side has to say just in case they know something you don’t. So I decided to put on my big kid britches and watch Shoe0nHead‘s “How Many Genders??” video.

While she brought up some good points, overall the video was your typical “Goddamn SJWs” crap.

Most of the video cuts back and forth between a video of three nonbinary people talking about their experiences and Shoe basically saying, “You’re stupid! You’re all just trans-trenders! You think being trans is a fad!” Half-way through the video, anti-feminist anti-Black Lives Matter libertarian Blaire White shows up to explain that trans women’s brain patterns are different than cis men’s, and that nonbinary gender identities were “made up” by academics. The video ends with Shoe creating a false future scenario where kids who come out as straight and cis will go to electroshock therapy like gay kids did in the ’40s. Yes, you read that right!

So now that I’ve summarized the video so you don’t have to watch it, here the points I want to make:

It’s true that, according to various studies, there is a link between different brain patterns and gender identity. It’s true that gender dysphoria is a medical condition recognized by the DSM. It’s true that there are no scientific studies about the origins of nonbinary gender identities. (Believe me, I looked.) However, that’s because there haven’t been any studies on nonbinary people. The subjects of the previously mentioned studies have been binary trans people and cis people. So what we have so far isn’t proof that nonbinary genders don’t exist; scientists just haven’t studied them yet.

Now I know some of you may say, “How is that any different from people who say you can’t disprove God?” Well, unlike God, I can prove I exist, first of all. On a serious note, though, there’s enough scientific data that, if one uses deductive reasoning, can lead one to conclude that there are no gods. We don’t have enough scientific data yet to deduct that nonbinary genders don’t exist.

When it comes to White’s claim that academia “made up” nonbinary genders, that’s not entirely true. Cultural anthropologists have studied various examples of “cogender” in many cultures for years. According to Wikipedia:

In Chile, among the Mapuche in La Araucanía, in addition to heterosexual female “machi” shamanesses, there are homosexual male “machi weye” shamans, who wear female clothing.[2] These machi weye were first described in Spanish in a chronicle of 1673 A.D.[3] Among the Mapuche, “the spirits are interested in machi’s gendered discourses and performances, not in the sex under the machi’s clothes.”[4] In attracting the filew (possessing-spirit), “Both male and female machi become spiritual brides who seduce and call their filew — at once husband and master — to possess their heads … . … The ritual transvestism of male machi … draws attention to the relational gender categories of spirit husband and machi wife as a couple (kurewen).”[5] (In ISKCON—the International Society for Kṛṣṇa Consciousness—male premin-devotees are likewise regarded as quasi-female “wives” of the god Kṛṣṇa.) As concerning “co-gendered identities”[6] of “machi as co-gender specialists”,[7] it has been speculated that “female berdaches” may have formerly existed among the Mapuche.[8]

One of the most well-known examples of cogender is the Native American concept of Two-Spirit. Here’s how Sandra Laframboise and Michael Anhorn describe it:

Our Elders tell us of people who were gifted among all beings because they carried two spirits, that of male and female. It is told that women engaged in tribal warfare and married other women, as there were men who married other men. These individuals were looked upon as a third and fourth gender in many cases and in almost all cultures they were honoured and revered. Two-spirit people were often the visionaries, the healers, the medicine people, the nannies of orphans, the care givers (Roscoe 1988). They were respected as fundamental components of our ancient culture and societies. This is our guiding force as well as our source of strength. This is the heart of Two-Spirited People of the 1st Nations (2 Spirit Nation of Ontario) This paper explores what we know of the past of two-spirit people, compares that to the present experience and looks forward to the role that two-spirit people could play in the future of First Nation’s people in Canada and across North America.


So contrary to popular belief, Tumblr did not “invent” nonbinary genders.

The third point I want to make is the idea that some nonbinary people do undergo medical transition. According to gender therapist Dara Hoffman-Fox, the 2011 edition of the Standards of Care for the Health of Transexual, Transgender, and Gender Nonconforming People states that genderqueer, gender-fluid, and other nonbinary identified people are allowed to medically transition if they need to. Many doctors and surgeons still need a letter from a gender therapist before undergoing medical transition, of course, but medical transition is still an option for nonbinary people.

In fact, if I may get personal for a moment, I’m currently thinking about seeing a gender therapist. I’ve been having a lot of intense emotions lately involving my gender. The other day at work I had this overwhelming feeling that I’m really a girl. It wasn’t the first time I had that feeling, although I don’t feel like that all the time. All I know that the more I express myself femininely, the more comfortable I feel in my own skin. But like I said, this is something I’ll have to discuss with a gender therapist.

As for now, though, let’s use some inductive reasoning to draw some sort of conclusion. First, even though there are no scientific studies on nonbinary gender identities, there are studies that prove there is a neurological basis for gender identity. Second, the concept of gender fluidity has been a part of many cultures throughout history. Third, trans health organizations do say nonbinary people can and should seek medical transitioning if they need it. So my conclusion at this point is that nonbinary gender identity is, in fact, a thing. Of course I could be biased since I’m nonbinary, and there’s always a possibility that I’m wrong. But until new evidence shows up, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

(BTW, if  you’re wondering why I’m not blogging about the Trump tape, that’ll be for this week’s episode of The Biskeptical Podcast. The saltiness shall flow!)


  1. AMM says

    FWIW, I am non-binary (I have no gender identity), but I am transitioning (M2F.) Have been on HRT for almost a year, am out everywhere but at work and I’m starting to come out there, too. (Meeting with boss is today. Wish me luck!)
    The thing is, every person is different. Labels like “man,” “woman,” “binary,” “non-binary,” even “trans” have to be understood as crude approximations to what is inside a person. For instance: I don’t identify as anything (except maybe “techie” 🙂 ), but I notice that most aspects of my nature are much like what people assume women are like, I’ve never felt comfortable with what was expected me as an apparent male (growing up in the 1950’s in the South will do that to you), and women (well, most of them) make sense to me in a way that men don’t. I don’t say “I am a woman inside” or “I am becoming a woman,” I say, “I’m going to live as a woman,” and that’s not because I have some mystical identity, but because living as a woman is simply more comfortable, in the way that sleeping in a bed in a nice warm house is more comfortable than sleeping on the ground in the snow.
    But I don’t say any of that when a random person asks, what are you? I simply say, “I am a woman,” or, perhaps “I am a trans woman,” and leave it at that. The whole Russian novel of my gender (of my “self”, really) I save for people who are a part of my life and want to know me well.

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