Why Is Gender-Neutrality So Hard To Grasp?

22 Mar

Q: Hey Internet, do you know what’s got my underpants twisted in knots right now?

A: No, of course you don’t. Allow me to enlighten you.

Screencapture - Hotmail

Screencapture - Hotmail

What’s pissing me off, dear Internet, is that I can’t sign up for a goddamned e-mail address without the company hosting the address requiring that I state whether I am male or female. I have tried both Yahoo and Hotmail, and upon leaving the little box marked “Gender” or “Sex” (I can’t be bothered to recall which) blank, I am denied an e-mail inbox until I fix this grevious error. I would have tried AOL, but their server was unable to begin the process, for whatever reason. I got a Gmail inbox some weeks ago for the purpose I have in mind, but its vacation forward function (a necessity for my nefarious schemes) seems to be non-operational.

But none of that blather is the point. The point is that I am unable to register for an e-mail address without informing it that I fit into the gender binary. And even though I ostensibly fit into the binary as a recognizably feminine female, why does it matter to the server whether I do or not? Why isn’t there an “other” (which would be problematic, but which my privileged brain sees as better) or a “prefer not to say” option?

I feel grossly unequal to the task of writing this post, as the most I do to challenge the gender binary is fantasize about buying men’s dress clothes at a thrift store and wearing them occasionally – like, in public and stuff.  I still haven’t unpacked a lot of my gender-identity issues yet, and I’m not entirely sure how to. But I’m writing this post nonetheless, and the fact remains – both Yahoo and Hotmail require recognition that one either fits into the gender binary or is willing to lie about fitting in to provide a service, and that, to me, seems seriously fucked up.

Huh. You mean, people dont always wanna be pigeonholed?

Huh. You mean, people don't always wanna be pigeonholed? Silly-talk, that.

Julia Serano addresses some of the problems with gender and sex as understood in modern society in her piece “Cocky.”

Partial transcript from Womanist Musings (full transcript at link)(my emphasis):

Because when a man is defined as that which is not female and a woman is defined as that which is not male, then I am the loose thread that unravels the gender of everyone around me…My penis turns simple sexual pleasures into political acts. She turns biological impossibilities into cold hard facts. My penis is the curiosity that you have been told will kill your cat…I used to hate my body for not making any sense to me and these days I often hate it for being so in between. Some mornings I can hardly get out of bed because my body is so weighed down with ugly meanings that my culture has dumped all over me. You see I have made to feel shame and self loathing so that everyone else can take comfort in what their bodies mean. And if I seem a bit cocky it is because I refuse to make apologies for my body anymore. I am through being the human sacrifice offered up to appease other people’s gender issues. Some women have a penis, some men don’t and the rest of the world is just going to have to get the fuck over it. If I am destined to be the loose thread that unravels the gender of everyone around me then I am going to pull and pull and pull and pull and pull until everyone is exposed, till they all finally see that all along that they were merely wearing the emperor’s new clothes

As I should write at the base of all my posts, I welcome constructive criticism, particularly if I’m exhibiting unexamined privilege. Also, Chally has an excellent post up on hir issues with requiring people to identify themselves as female/male to recieve services that are more important than e-mail inboxes (like healthcare).

Oh, and does anybody have free e-mail server recommendations? One that won’t require me to answer whether I’m male or female?

EDIT: Hah! I stayed up until 1:30 in the morning, but I got bloody Gmail to forward my mails! Huzzah!

EDIT 2.0: In an event heretofore believed impossible, WordPress’ “Related Posts” feature actually has posts relevant to the topic at hand. If I hadn’t seen it myself, I’d have trouble believing it!


2 Responses to “Why Is Gender-Neutrality So Hard To Grasp?”

  1. Chally March 22, 2009 at 4:39 pm #

    Ha! I was reading the post thinking I’m going to link to my post in comments. Thanks.

    I think they base advertising shown to you you on which box you tick. They get the money and you pay the price. Afraid I have no suggestions. I know it bothered me when Facebook suddenly decided to make me specify one day.

  2. niemaodpowiedzi March 22, 2009 at 5:19 pm #

    Yeah, I figured it had something to do with advertising. Though it surprises me that Facebook made you specify – I’ve been gender-neutral for months now, and they haven’t said a thing.

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