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Opinion | Sexuality

How We Made Too Much of Gender

Reclaiming an identity more meaningful than manhood or womanhood.
How We Made Too Much of Gender
Image: Mike Mozart / Flickr

How do I live as a woman in this wild corner of the world? I couldn’t answer that when I first came to the Alaskan wilderness as a 20-year-old bride of a fisherman. I couldn’t even ask the question, mostly because I did not consider myself a woman. Nor did I think of myself as a girl.

I didn’t think about gender much, partly because I grew up in a genderless household, and partly because of the culture itself. In the ‘70s, men and women alike wore bell-bottoms, parted their long hair in the middle, and clogged about on platform shoes.

Science and media pundits told us that gender differences were purely social constructs—we were all products of our environment. Progressive parents gave their young daughters trucks underneath the Christmas tree, and boys received dolls. Even middle-aged and elderly couples walked hand-in-hand down the sidewalk in matching outfits.

My husband and I bought it all. In our dreamy stage, we decided we would work together in commercial fishing, and then we’d go ashore and cook dinner and wash dishes together. I quickly woke up from that dream.

And as a society, we’ve moved far from the ‘70s conception of gender. Last month, the split image of Bruce-turned-Caitlyn Jenner displayed his former exaggerated version of masculinity, through athletic prowess, and current hyper-femininity, obtained through surgery, hormones, heavy makeup, and a Vanity Fair photo shoot.

Advances in science, and particularly ...

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