The gender binary cannot really be broken because the gender binary has never been whole. It has always limped along in pieces, easily cracked by a brief foray into the historical record. The Christian colonialist construction of men as inseminating subjects and women as reproductive objects does not extend into ancient history, nor does it govern every facet of the present. Masculinity and femininity, so much as they refer to certain strategies for moving through the world, have never neatly corresponded to the two types of bodies defined in the opening passages of the Bible. Even human bodies don’t hold true to the popular myth of strictly dimorphic sex, as anyone in the intersex community can tell you.
There have always been more than two genders, and music and gender nonconformity have gone hand in hand since long before pop music emerged as a product—since before the concept of “product” existed. But the patriarchal order, in order to survive, needs to brand threatening ideas as artificial, superimposed, harmful, and new, so as to distract from the underlying truth: that patriarchy itself is artificial, superimposed, harmful, and not nearly as ancient or universal as it pretends to be. Hardly the natural order of the human being, patriarchy relies on the illusion of its own inevitability to survive.
The notion that only two genders exist, and that each gender prescribes specific behaviors, movements, and relations, has always been undercut by a thriving spectrum of deviant expressions that white capitalist patriarchy seeks to erase. When European settlers devastated the Americas, they “looked to the existing sexual and gender variance of Indigenous people as a means of marking them as racially inferior and uncivilized: a justification for a forever unjustified genocidal conquest,” wrote Michael Paramo. During the era of American slavery, white men and women similarly clung to the gender binary to distinguish themselves from the racialized people they were brutalizing, stamping out expressions of gender that didn’t fit into the white Christian patriarchal mold as part of a long campaign of hellish state-sanctioned violence. Read More