Red: "Non-Binary" Person Rejects Male/Female Gender Duality

author: 
Mark Gabrish Conlan/Zenger's Newsmagazine

Red, who works at San Diego's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Community Center, identifies themselves as non-binary: that is, neither male nor female but somewhere in a "cloud" of genders that rejects the idea that there are only two human gender identities, male and female. They gave an interview for the August 2011 Zenger's Newsmagazine in which they (you refer to a non-binary person as "they," "them" or "theirs" even if you're only referencing one individual) explained these new, unfamiliar concepts of gender that are beyond the experience of most people, including most Transgender people. Red and Zenger's editor/publisher Mark Gabrish Conlan discussed how both gender identity and sexual orientation are far more complex and fluid than either the straight or the Queer mainstream is willing to acknowledge.

RED:

“Non-Binary” Person Isn’t Male, Female or Anything “In Between”

interview by MARK GABRISH CONLAN

Copyright © 2011 by Mark Gabrish Conlan for Zenger’s Newsmagazine • All rights reserved

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

— William Shakespeare, Hamlet

The first time I met Red, special projects coordinator for the San Diego Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Community Center, they introduced themselves as “non-binary.” That piqued my journalist’s curiosity and I decided then and there that I wanted to interview them. Red explained that “non-binary” means someone who does not consider themselves male or female. I ran into them a few other times before setting up the interview — at which I learned that “they,” “them” and “their,” along with the normally plural verb forms that go with them, are the proper ways to refer to a non-binary person even if you’re only describing one individual.

The interview was unusual because I’ve rarely had someone use a word — either an unusual term like “cisgender” (the opposite of “Transgender”) or a familiar one used in an uncommon way (like “pronoun” used as a verb) — and then say, “What I mean by that is … ” as often as Red did. As we discussed in the interview, even a relatively non-gendered language such as English has the gender binary built into so many of its words and turns of phrase that it’s difficult to adapt it to describing a non-binary person.

Red is living a life that makes them, in essence, a minority within a minority within a minority. Transgender people are a relatively small, though significant, part of the Queer community; and Red is a minority among Transgender people because most Transgender people accept a binary concept of gender and simply believe that their inner being doesn’t match the physiology of the body they were born into or the gender they were, to use one of those phrases whose meaning Red had to explain to me, “coercively assigned” at birth.

But just as Gays, Lesbians and Bisexuals have slowly, grudgingly but ultimately come to accept Transgender people as a legitimate part of our community, it’s likely that within a few years it won’t seem that unusual that a person might identify not as male, not as female, but as something unique and beautiful within what Red calls the “cloud” of available gender identities.

Zenger’s: When we met, you described yourself as “non-binary.” What does that mean?

Red: It’s very common for people to identify as either male or female, as a man or as a woman. Those are considered the two binary genders that people are mostly aware of. A lot of Transgender people identify as either a Transgender man or a Transgender woman. I do not identify as either a man or a woman, so to that end I am non-binary.

There are other words I use for myself, such as “Genderqueer.” But because the term “queer” is very confusing, or even offensive, to a certain generation of folks, there are times when I avoid using the term “Genderqueer.”

I should add that “non-binary” can also apply to folks who don’t identify as Transgender at all, but who identify as somewhere outside of just the two binary poles. Now, if you want to get more complicated — that’s the easy answer.

Zenger’s: Why don’t you give me a little of your background, and how —

Red: My background in terms of gender, or what? What kind of background are you looking for?

Zenger’s: Your life generally, and specifically how you came to an awareness that you were neither male nor female, and how it impacted your life.

Red: O.K. I was assigned, coercively assigned, female at birth. So I’m starting at that point. I identified —

Zenger’s: “Coercively” — you mean, you are actually biologically Intersex?

Red: No. The term “coercively assigned female at birth,” or “coercively assigned male at birth,” is a way of explaining how the world decided what my gender was. That’s true of every single person. You were actually assigned male at birth, just as I was assigned female at birth, and when I say “coercively” I mean it’s done without the consent of the person. When you’re a baby — or even prenatal — you can’t consent to being assigned anything. And that’s true of folks who are Intersex as well as of folks who are not. So I was assigned female at birth. I’m not Intersex.

I grew up just like a normal kid, just going about my business, not really thinking about anything. And for a long time I identified as cisgender. I’ll just define that for you. “Cisgender” is basically a way of saying not Transgender, but instead of making it sound like not being Transgender is the “normal” thing, we use “cisgender” as the term. It means someone who identifies the same way as they were assigned at birth. Whereas Transgender would mean I don’t identify the same way as I was assigned at birth.

Zenger’s: These are the sorts of things that people understand: “O.K., you have the body of one, and that’s how you think of yourself,” or, “You have the body of one but you really think of yourself as the other.”

Red: That, again, is very binary thinking. The whole concept of being Transgender, the story that often gets told is, “I was born with the wrong body,” or, “I’m the opposite.” So it can be really hard if you don’t feel like you ought to be “the opposite,” which is true in my case. It was actually hard for me to come to an understanding of my gender, because our world is so binary. Being Transgender can include not that I want to cross over to the other side — as if there are only two sides — but that I just don’t identify the way I was assigned at birth.

When I hit puberty, that’s when things started to shift for me. But I still didn’t have the words for it. Puberty, when the body starts to change and hormones start shifting things for you, is when I began to realize that I wasn’t thrilled with the way my body was turning out. I started to realize I wanted to be more androgynous, and I was frustrated that I didn’t look that way. I spent a lot of years trying to find ways to make myself feel better in my body, trying to accept myself the way I was.

I became a very active feminist and very involved in the Queer community. I came out as Queer around the time I turned 18, when I got into college. By “Queer” I mean my sexual orientation, as opposed to “Genderqueer,” which is my gender identity. I started getting very involved and active, and that was a way for me to channel some of the things I was feeling, some of the frustrations and some of the ways in which I felt I was different.

It took me a lot longer, though — not until recently — that I started to really understand where my gender identity was located in all of this. And that’s true even though I spent the last 10 years of my life very, very active and involved with other Transgender people. I still identified as cisgender and felt like that wasn’t necessarily my community or my identity.

It actually wasn’t until some other things shifted in my life that I really started to question my gender. It was a really difficult process, and it happened very slowly, over the course of a lot of months. The hardest thing for me is that I did not want to appropriate other people’s identities, and I didn’t feel like I necessarily belonged in the Transgender community, because my story wasn’t the same as most of the stories I had heard.

I didn’t fit into a lot of the popular notions of what it means to be Transgender, and how people think about themselves, and wishing I had a man’s body, or that I was waking up every morning and feeling like I wanted to kill myself. I did not experience these things. So it took me a lot longer, I think, to know where I was in all of that, and to even begin to find words that applied to me, because a lot of the language, a lot of the terminology, in the community is not built for me. “FTM,” “MTF”: these are not terms I identify with.

Zenger’s: I remember once interviewing a male-to-female Transgender person who had transitioned long before I knew her, and she said the test for your gender identity was, “When you look in the mirror, what do you see in your head?” So what do you see in your head?

Red: That is a very, very good question! It’s actually a really complicated one. It’s one thing to ask somebody what pronouns they want used, or how they want to be referred to. But to pinpoint someone’s gender, in this really broad, three-dimensional space that I envision gender in, is a lot harder. So I think the best way to describe it is that, as I’ve already said, I’m neither a man nor a woman.

I feel even the concept of a “spectrum” between male and female is not a very true or applicable way of thinking about gender for me. I don’t actually experience myself as being “between” male or female. I see myself outside of that completely. I think about my identity really as sort of this “other” thing, and I wouldn’t even say a “third” gender because I actually think there are many, many genders out there. Each of us has a unique sense of our own identity. We just don’t have a lot of words to describe it, and so we’re limited by the language.

I know folks who are agender, which means they have no gender at all, and so the whole concept of gender just seems foreign to them. They’re aware of what gender means to other people, but they just don’t experience it. I know folks who identify as neutrois [pronounced, French-style, “Nu-TWAH”], and then folks who identify as androgynous — not just as an adjective but actually as a noun, someone who is an androgyne. I know folks who identify as Genderqueer, gender-fluid, genderless, gender-neutral. There are folks who identify as bi-gender, which is based on the binary; “bi-gender” means that someone experiences themselves as both male and female at the same time.

Once you start seeing all these different identities, you start to realize there isn’t just a spectrum, or a continuum. There’s actually sort of a cloud of all these different identities. I envision myself as somewhere in that cloud, and when I look in the mirror, I know that the body I would feel more comfortable in would be more androgynous. And I would be happier if the world read me correctly, as being non-binary. And that includes using the correct pronouns for me, which are “they,” “them,” “theirs.”

Zenger’s: I feel like I’ve stepped into The Twilight Zone.

Red: Why do you say that?

Zenger’s: Well, for one thing, this is something that I don’t relate to on a personal level. I’ve never had any doubt about my gender identity, and I daresay most people reading this — including, as you pointed out, most Transgender people reading this — are going to think, “Gee, I never had any doubt about my gender identity, either.”

Red: Right.

Zenger’s: There are men, and there are women, and there are a subset of people who feel like they were born into the wrong body for that, but I guess —

Red: It is, though — it is more common than you would guess. The more I talk to people; the more I share my own experience, and my own sense of myself — the more I find people coming out of the woodwork and saying, “Oh, my goodness, I think that’s also how I think about myself. I just didn’t have a way to think about it. Nobody else talks about it.” And this is true of people who for the most part, to the world, identify as cisgender, identify the same way they were assigned at birth.

I have a number of friends back in Boston who were assigned female as birth, still present as female, still for all intents and purposes look female, to the world, but in reality their gender is a lot more complicated. You can be femme and be assigned female at birth, and still not feel like you are cisgender: feel like your gender is not binary. And the same thing for people who are assigned male at birth, and who may feel femme, or butch, or anything, and they realize that they don’t necessarily feel like their gender is binary.

It is confusing to folks who have no sense of this internally for themselves; who feel very much, as you said, “I’ve never questioned my gender. I’ve never thought of myself as being anything other than one of the two binary ideas.” But the more I talk about it, the more folks relate to what I’m saying. I’m always surprised, honestly, when folks tell me this, because it can feel very isolating to not have conversations about this with other people, and to not have it talked about within the broader community, even in the Transgender community.

Zenger’s: I think we keep coming back to the whole question of language. The language is set up under the assumption that there are two genders, and only two; and even English, which is a considerably less gendered language than many, still runs into these problems.

Red: Which I notice on a daily basis when people struggle with my pronoun, struggle to talk about me or talk to me in a correct way. People “ma’am” me or refer to me as a “lady” all the time, which is endlessly frustrating to me. And there are other things in our language: talking to someone as your niece or your nephew, or other familial relations. At least with “child” and “sibling” we have a few gender-neutral options, but we don’t have a lot of gender-neutral ways of talking about people. So, yes, language is part of it. Visibility.

There’s something else that’s really important to understand, too, which is there is a lot of pressure on the Transgender community to make ourselves palatable to the cisgender world and to make us seem less threatening to the established ways of thinking; to say, “Hey, look, we’re just the same as everybody else” — which we are — but the finger gets pointed, “Oh, you’re an angry Transgender person. You’re getting too upset about the little things, such as how you’re pronouned. Or you just want attention, or you just want special treatment.” These are the barbs that are pointed at Trans folks who are just trying to be treated with the same respect that any cisgender person gets on a daily basis: to be referred to in the way you see yourself, and to have the rest of the world refer to you in that way.

So one of the things that happens is that many people in the Trans community try really hard to not rock the boat and to tell this sort of unified story of what it means to be a Transgender person. The story is that, “I have known ever since I was young that I was Transgender,” because what that proves is, “This isn’t just a choice I’m making, this is something that is real and permanent and long-lasting, and if I started to be aware of it when I was two or three years old, therefore you can’t dispute it.”

Or the idea that “I was born into the wrong body.” Well, as soon as you start to say, “I don’t know what kind of body I should have been born into, but I know that this isn’t necessarily the body I want,” that throws things into a tizzy for a lot of folks. Saying, “I was born into the wrong body, I want to be the opposite,” is clear. It’s something that the cisgender community might be able to understand — even if it’s not true.

Zenger’s: Or even if it is true for some people, but not for others.

Red: Right, and I don’t dispute that there are a lot of people for whom they knew at three, four or five years old. That’s absolutely the case. There are a lot of people who do absolutely feel very, very binary; always felt like they were the opposite — and I don’t even like using the term “opposite,” but really felt like they were the other binary option, who always sort of had this sense of thinking or being a man or a woman, and everything else just didn’t match up. My existence, and the existence of other non-binary people, does complicate that story.

Zenger’s: One of the things that drives me nuts about the Gay community — you know, Gay, Queer, “LGBT,” whatever you want to call it — is that Gays and Lesbians in particular have clung to this “we were born this way” narrative. As I keep pointing out, rather than take a look at that in a way that would accommodate the reality of Bisexual and Transgender people, they just stick two more letters on the name of everything —

Red: Right.

Zenger’s: — without saying, “Wait a minute,” because to my mind the very existence of Bisexual and Transgender people contradicts the whole idea of a binary sexual orientation that people are born into and can’t change, can’t behave any differently, can’t will themselves to do something else, or follow in more directions than one.

Red: I think the reality is that many people do change over time. You may have identified one way early on, and you may change the more you start to understand about yourself and the world — and maybe things actually do shift. The reality is that I definitely identified as cisgender for a very long time. My identifying as non-binary Transgender now does not change the fact that I experienced myself as cisgender for many, many years. And the fact that I identified as cisgender doesn’t make me any less Transgender now.

I think that for many Bisexual and Queer people who identify as neither heterosexual nor homosexual, it’s similar. You may have really felt strongly that you were “straight” or that you were “Gay” at one point in your life, and then come to a different understanding of yourself based on real experiences, real relationships, real interactions with other people, or with yourself.

Zenger’s: In fact, one of the most common coming-out stories in the Bi community is, “First I thought I was straight, then I thought I was Gay, then I realized I was Bi.”

Red: I think that’s very much based on this idea that we have to be one or the other, and that there aren’t options in the middle; there’s not a “cloud of sexual orientations” options, there are only two. Certainly when I came out with my sexual orientation — how old was I? I think I said I was 18 — initially I came out as Bisexual, and very quickly — and this goes to show how early I was aware that there were people who experience their gender as being non-binary. But I still didn’t identify this way. I very quickly started to identify as “Queer” instead of Bisexual, for that reason, because “Bisexual” implies that there are only two genders to whom I can be attracted.

Now, I do think that there are people who can be Bisexual. For example, if you say, “I am attracted only to women and neutrois people,” then you could legitimately claim to be Bisexual. “I choose two genders out of all the many, that I am attracted to,” or, “I am attracted to men and women, but not to people who identify as Genderqueer or gender-neutral,” you know, certainly. But to me, yes, so very, very quickly I started to identify as Queer, and this was many years before I even started to understand and question my own gender identity. I was aware of that in terms of my sexual orientation.

Zenger’s: So how would you describe your sexual orientation now?

Red: Queer. I know that word, again, carries a lot of really heavy baggage for a lot of people, depending on your generation. For me, it carries two things. One, it is a reclamation of the word. But the key point is that I am attracted to people regardless of their gender. I am attracted to people of all different kinds of genders, and I have had relationships with people of all different kinds of genders. The other piece is explicitly political, and what it is is it says nobody else but me gets to define and categorize and label my sexual orientation.

In a lot of ways the term “Genderqueer,” for my gender identity, is similar. There are obvious differences, because it has nothing to do with my attraction to other people. It has nothing to do with anyone but me, but it is about saying, “I’m not categorizable in the binary.”

Zenger’s: So what do you want people reading this to take away from it?

Red: Well, the first is, I want people to know that there are those of us out there — we exist — whose gender is more complicated and less familiar, but that we are no less deserving of respect. Starting to think about gender as being a more complicated — and more interesting, frankly — topic might seem scary to a whole lot of people. It might seem really confusing, but it’s a really important step for us in order to be able really to understand oppression, the way our culture is oppressive, and to make changes to that. I’m an activist at heart. I’m an organizer. For the last 10 years I’ve been doing anti-oppression work. There are certain things we can do to start really changing the way our culture privileges people who are binary, even other Transgender people.

Trans folks definitely — all Trans folks, binary or not — experience oppression, but there’s this interesting oppression that occurs when people are not binary. The bathroom thing is a perfect example. I would love every bathroom to be gender-neutral, and that may mean single stalls for every single bathroom. It may mean bathrooms in which people of all genders can enter the same, and each stall, toilet, whatever has a door on it, and we all use the same sinks. I don’t know. I don’t see how I can look at the sign on the door and see a figure with a skirt, or a figure without a skirt, and point to one and say, “That’s me.”

Zenger’s: For the record, we should note that we are doing this interview in a space with a non-gendered restroom.

Red: Yes. It does have a symbol on it, though.

Zenger’s: It has three symbols on it.

Red: Yes, the female, the male, and the handicapped, which has become the universal symbol that this is a single-stall, handicapped-accessible, gender-neutral bathroom.

Zenger’s: But there’s also a line between the female and the male, and maybe you can interpret yourself as being somewhere on that line.

Red: I am the line! So I think what I want people to take away is a broader sense of what gender is, because I think most people aren’t even — haven’t really thought about their own gender, have never had to question it, and so start to think about it. It can be fun to think about it. And also really start understanding what it means to respect people whose genders are not binary, who are Trans. Pronouning people correctly is really, really important. Referring to them by the terms and the names that they’ve asked to be referred to, and being able to talk about Trans issues more easily, would be a nice thing in our community.

The nicest thing that someone ever did — and the first time I ever felt supported as a non-binary Trans person — I was out with a friend whom I had only met a few weeks before. We’d had several conversations about gender identity when I came out to him, and we had met some other people at the event that we were at, some people neither one of us knew. As I tried to explain my preferred pronouns, and the way I wanted to be addressed, the people we were talking to started coming up with the same excuses I’ve heard so many times, which primarily are, “Those pronouns aren’t common,” “I don’t know how to use them,” and specifically about using they-them-theirs, “Well, those are plural pronouns. Those aren’t singular pronouns, so that’s grammatically incorrect.” There are a lot of ways I can dispute that, but —

Zenger’s: It was like, “What decade are we in, again?” For at least 20 or 30 years now it’s become a convention to use “they” as a singular pronoun when it could mean he or she.

Red: Actually, it’s been going on for hundreds of years. Shakespeare and a lot of writers about 100 years ago started using “they” as a singular. So we are by far not the first generation to use it, and we won’t be the last. But it is an excuse. Grammar Nazis love to use that as an excuse to dismiss my identity. And the nicest thing that ever happened to me was that my friend stepped in, without my ever asking for help, without me even saying anything to him. He jumped right in, after having known me only a few short weeks, and explained to this couple that, for example, if I were talking about a friend of mine who likes pizza, you might actually say to me, “Well, what kind of pizza do they like?”

You would refer to them as “they” if you don’t know their gender identity, and we do this all the time, constantly, without thinking about it. But as soon as I ask someone to do that, I purposefully and intentionally say this is how I want to be called, that’s when people have a problem with it and start forgetting or mispronouning me. But if someone doesn’t even know my gender identity, they will automatically use the term “they.” So what I’d love is to see more allies speaking up, correcting when people are mispronouning or misgendering other people, creating space for us, really.

mgconlan [at] earthlink.net






Awesome

author: 
MJ Aponte

Exactly the understanding that I would hope we can all come to eventually. This is the disintegration of gender and all the bogus classifications for sexuality and identity, as well as the polarism that has arisen from it all. Self determination of the individual regardless of biology and no more "isms" or phobias. It takes away from nobody and empowers us all to be, love, do, dress, act, work, and live with whoemever and however we feel.

putergurl [at] hotmail.com

Thanks

author: 
Estraven

Actually, bisexual means "attracted to same and other genders," and it has meant that for a long time. It is the umbrella word for a lot of different ways of being, just as you have described gender variance as being an umbrella for a lot of different ways of being.

Anyway, as a gender variant person myself, I greatly appreciated this article. It can be very hard to explain gender variance to people; I give them what seems to me to be a clear explanation only to find them still looking at me blankly. Having this to give them will help :)

"They, them, theirs" Red's own personal pronoun preference, not universal for non-binaries

author: 
Mark Gabrish Conlan/Zenger's Newsmagazine

After this article was published here, on the Zenger's blog site (above) and in print in Zenger's Newsmagazine, Red sent in the following comment correcting and amplifying their statements about pronouns. Their basic point was that "they, them, theirs" are their preferred pronouns but not universal in the non-binary community. Red's complete letter appears below.

Hi Mark,

I just had a chance to see the article in print the other day. Overall I thought it was really great, and you managed to take a rambling interview and condense it into something readable!

I did see something at the beginning that I’d like to bring to your attention. There’s an implication that I’m saying that the only acceptable pronouns for a non-binary person are they/them/theirs. But that’s not actually true and I wanted to clarify.

Folks use all kinds of gender-neutral pronouns including: sie/hir/hirs; ze/zan; zhe/zhim/zher; e; v; em; xe; etc. Quite a number of Genderqueer people even use binary pronouns: she/her/hers; he/him/his. When I say the correct way to refer to me is they/them/theirs, I’m speaking only about myself and others who use that pronoun set.

I’m wondering if you’d make that correction. I imagine it’s pretty alienating to folks who don’t use my pronouns to read this.

Thanks and very best,

Red
http://zengersmag.blogspot.com

thanks for this!

author: 
kchan

thanks for posting this! Red, I can totally relate with your frustrations! hoping the world's collective mind will evolve one day!

Why not be a "double binary" or "Two-spirit" person?

author: 
Shades of gray is ok!

There are many shades of gray in gender when someone is transgender. Being born with components of male and female sex organs and hormones only makes someone a "double-binary", meaning they are male AND female, just not neither. someone cannot be considered "non-binary" unless they have ZERO sex organs, just a wall of flesh with no vagina and no penis. This would be termed a "Eunuch" or sexless person.

Binary code in computers is either a 0 or a 1. The complex computer codes for data programs are series of 0 and 1 combinations. In sex the 0 could be female and the 1 could be male. So if you call yourself "non-binary" than essentially you reject both possible options available and become non-sexed. To get around the status quo of "choosing a side" someone could be a 0 AND a 1, making them "double-binary". To be neither a 0 nor a 1 leaves no other option available as there is no "third sex" found anywhere in nature, the closest is the combination of male and female components found in transgendered or "double binary" people. Many animals exhibit hemaphrodite roles by changing their genitals midway through life or are already born with both gential components present, just not neither!

It seems that being "non-binary" is ultimately a rejection of our connection to the animal realm from which we all evolved, as it seeks to outright deny the exsistance of sexual organs. Instead a 'double-binary' person would embrace BOTH sexes while simultaneously refusing to draw a distiction between the two, sort of a (0.1 - 0.9) instead of a either a 0 or a 1.

Of course Red did not think s/he would need to defend this "non-binary" theory against a true science geek!

Thoughout nature there are only two possible options for sexual beings that do not reproduce by cell splitting and/or cloning. In the human community only the transgenders are born with components of both sexual organs. The only "sexless" humans are eunuchs, and this operation is done by force, eunuchs are not "born that way", they are created by human society that uses cruel castration methods. In China the last eunuch recalls his days of serving the empire.

"China's last eunuch spills sex secrets"

By Emma Graham-Harrison

BEIJING | Mon Mar 16, 2009 10:01am EDT

"(Reuters) - Only two memories brought tears to Sun Yaoting's eyes in old age -- the day his father cut off his genitals, and the day his family threw away the pickled remains that should have made him a whole man again at death.

China's last eunuch was tormented and impoverished in youth, punished in revolutionary China for his role as the "Emperor's slave" but finally feted and valued, largely for outlasting his peers to become a unique relic, a piece of "living history."

He had stories of the tortuous rituals of the Forbidden City, Emperor Pu Yi's last moments there and the troubled puppet court run by the Japanese during the 1930s. He escaped back to the heart of a civil war, became a Communist official and then a target of radical leftists before being finally left in peace.

This turbulent life has been recorded in the "The Last Eunuch of China" by amateur historian Jia Yinghua, who over years of friendship drew out of Sun the secrets that were too painful or intimate to spill to prying journalists or state archivists.

He died in 1996, in an old temple that had become his home, and his biography was finally published in English this year.

It unveils formerly taboo subjects like the sex life of eunuchs and the emperor they served, the agonizing castrations often done at home and also often lethal, and the incontinence and shame that came with the promise of great power.

"He was conflicted over whether to tell the secrets of the emperor," said Jia, adding that Sun preserved a loyalty to the old system because he had dedicated so much of his life to it.

"I was the only person he trusted. He did not even confide in his family, after they threw away his 'treasure,'" Jia added, using traditional eunuchs' slang for their preserved genitals.

They were discarded during the chaotic 1966-76 Cultural Revolution, when having anything from the "old society" could put lives at risk.

"He only cried about two things; when telling me about the castration and about the loss of his 'treasure'," said Jia, who works as an energy bureaucrat, but devotes all his spare time to chronicling the dying days of Imperial China after a childhood enthralled by the eunuchs and princes who were his neighbors."

full article here;
http://www.reuters.com/article/2009/03/16/us-china-eunuch-idUSTRE52E06H20090316

So my ultimate question for Red would be if they were trying to fight the sexual status quo in human society or trying to fight nature by refusing to be a sexual being. Personally i am all for toppling the sexual status quo that forces humans to choose a side with regards to sexual orientation AND gender roles.

The indigenous "shaman" was often known to exhibit traits of BOTH sexes (two-spirit), similar to having one foot in the physical realm and one foot in the spirit realm. Either a male or female shaman would then include the other sex in their appearance or attire or behavior to better be able to bridge the gap between the living and the deceased. However, if they were nonsexual then there would be no connection to the animal realm where many spirits can be called upon for help with healing or other endeavors. In the two-spirit shaman or bedarche, there was no line between their male and female attributes, and often times the early European explorers were unable to tell them apart.

We don't need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to rejecting the sexual status quo of either male or female, either 0 or 1. If our society would only study the indigenous cultures and "two-spirit" shamans being powerful because they embrace BOTH sexes into their being we could overcome the divisions of strict roles for divided sexes.

Here's some info on the two-spirits;

"LIVING IN BEAUTY

The native North Americans view nature with an eye to the spirit alive in all things. Everything - and everyone - that exists has a purpose. The Hopis of northeast Arizona believe that each person is given a particular gift at birth by the Creator, and it is one's mission in life to bring that gift into being in his or her lifetime; that it is absolutely essential to do so in order to make the universe whole and complete. The Navajo call it living in beauty. In the eyes of the Creator each person's gift is equally important. The gift of the Two-Spirit people is that they possess both a male and a female spirit, constituting a third gender. With "the original unity of humans, their differentiation into separate genders, and the potential for reunification as well," 3 Two-Spirit people mark the flesh and blood appearance of the heavenly androgyne.

Among the Pawnee of the North American Plains, the story is told in which a young boy is made pregnant as a result of a magic spell.

In explaining the confusion of sex in the Pawnee boy, Claude Levi-Straus echoed the very same distinction made by Carl Jung of the "incomplete detachment" from the archetype of Original Man. Levi-Strauss called it an "opposition to differentiation." He added that "all of Pawnee metaphysical thought is actually based on the idea that at the creation of the world antagonistic elements were intermingled, [leaving the pregnant boy with] the male and female principles co-existent in him." 4

The original Algonquins, who once lived in a single village in Canada where the city of Ottawa now stands, are now the largest group of tribes speaking similar languages, ranging along the eastern seaboard of North America and inland to the prairies. It was the Algonquin-speaking natives with whom the first European colonists made contact in the 16th century. The Algonquin tribes as a whole, including the Pawnee, and in common with most native people of North America, believed that human contact with "the unseen powers" came through these specially selected individuals. They might experience visions, show homosexual tendencies, dress in women's clothes, and go away alone for long periods, but in the native culture they were thought to be closer to the spirit world than ordinary man. And with varying degrees of emphasis, the Two-Spirit natives each had their own specialized branch of this magic, be they called prophet, wizard, artist, shaman, or leader of the chants.

Among the Assiniboine and Lakota of the plains states round South Dakota, the Two-Spirit winkte, is described as wakan, a term that means very sacred or holy and is incorporated in the name for the Great Holiness itself: wakanda or Wakan Tanka. Thus, as the physicists understand energy and matter in E=mc2, as the Greeks revered the "world eye" of the gay god APOLLO, and as the two-sexed SHIVA dances the dance of universal consciousness, the Siouan people understand the Two-Spirit winkte as a conduit for the same infinite life force which is the source of their spiritual power. For the Oglala Sioux, winkte is also the medicine man or shaman, a call rising from the very depths of not only the cultural sphere of his people, and not only of the psychological root of every person in his tribe, but "the ultimate sanctuary and wellspring of the whole world and wonder - all the magic - of the gods." 6

Clyde Hall of the Shoshone tribe of the Plains points out that in his personal experience, and through his studies, he has never come across a shaman who wasn't gay, or at least bisexual. "You have to have that," he says. 7 Indeed, the Two-Spirit individuals in many tribal cultures were often considered to be the most potent shamans. Like their Siberian counterparts, they were the greatest healers, prophets, and seers.

Roused from the depths of their myths, visions and dreams, the social function of the Two-Spirit native people was thus to not only serve as a mediator between the sexes, but to walk in both worlds as a bridge between man and the powers that lay behind the veil of the otherwise ordinary life. They were keepers of the knowledge of the elders, and they demonstrated their facility with the sort of "magic" which finds its parallel in every race of every age. They assisted tribal members undergoing a life crisis and provided counsel and assistance through the transformative power of dreams. As clairvoyants, as hypnotists, or in their exercising of the ability to channel energy, such as with the laying on of hands, they were the healers and the teachers. Two-Spirit native people, like the western world's pagan witches, were the repositories of herbal wisdom, too, and, like the Pied Pipers of yet another land, they were the most gifted in taking care of children. And they were the artists, ever the artists, a calling which for most tribal people was rightly understood as dipping into a fountain from the wellspring of all of life. The beauty and strength of native art - both highly symbolic and abstract - was developed to such an advanced stage that it is characteristically on par with the masters of modern art. Indeed, ROBERT RAUSCHENBERG, Arthur Dove, MORRIS GRAVES, Georgia O'Keefe, MARSDEN HARTLEY and others were to find inspiration here."

entire article here;
http://www.guidancetochangeyourlife.com/twospiritnativepeople.html

Am working on a better understanding of the "two-spirit" concept, though to me this would be an example of a "double binary" person that embraces both the male and female aspects of themselves to become the "third sex" that is a combination of both sexes without distinctions.

Hope this helps Red with her ideas of overcoming the gap between male and female gender roles without negating the need for a combination of genders rather than a rejection of gender.