June 12, 2022
The Honorable Greg Abbott
Governor of Texas
Office of the Governor
P.O. Box 12428
Austin, Texas 78711-2428
Dear Governor Abbott,
This letter is to serve as an expert opinion on a recent action your administration has taken. On February 22nd, 2021, you wrote a letter to Commissioner Jaime Masters, the head of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services which orders DFPS to investigate families who allow their children receive gender-affirming care. As a sociologist, I will be speaking on the scientific facts regarding sex, gender, and transgender people.
Sex and Gender is a core concept that is taught within Sociology. Specifically, Sociologists have investigated this matter and have a clear understanding of these topics. Sex is a biological, physical, or physiological differences with males and females. Specifically, sex refers to primary sex characteristics like the reproductive system. Gender is not a term that is synonymous with sex. Gender is a social construction that illustrates behaviors, personalities, and how society views men and women should act (Conerly et. al 2021). To illustrate this point more, gender is a social construction has evolved within society over time and gender is not a natural happening. For example, we can look at America Samoa. In this territory, the Samoan people recognize three genders: Male, Female, and Fa’Afafine. The Fa’Afafine are a recognized third gender that translates to in the manner of a woman (Vasey and Bartlett 2007). This example illustrates how society cannot be naïve and only recognize two genders. Therefore, sociologists acknowledge the term of gender identity, which is a person’s understanding of their own gender. Knowing this, transgender individuals are individuals whose sex and gender identity are not the same (Conerly et. al 2021).
“Doing Gender” by Don West and Candance Zimmerman (1987) will be further used to provide context on the topics of sex, gender, and transgender people. West and Zimmerman argue that doing gender is a task and production that individuals act out each day. Therefore, the authors argue that gender is performative in nature (1987: 127). The authors rely on Agnus to illustrate sex, sex category, and gender. Agnes referred to herself as penis; however, she refers to herself as a woman. Agnes insisted the penis was a mistake, and she was meant to be a woman. Sex categorization is the assumed biological category, regardless of the individual’s gender identity. Therefore, sex categorization is a label based on what society views the individual as. As Agnes wears dresses and displays her external features as a female. The goal is for society to perceive her sex categorization as a female. Ultimately, gender is acting out how a woman should. Specifically, Agnes must always act feminine. Therefore, for society to believe the sex categorization, she must perform as a woman would. For this reason, Agnes will follow gendered scripts, and follow stereotypes that ultimately allow her to pass to be perceived as a woman. Agnes cases proves a few points. First, an individual’s sex and gender identity can be different. Secondly, gender is performative in nature. Gender is not natural. Gender is a social construction that is accompanied with a script that dictates how men and women should act (West and Zimmerman 1987: 131-134).
West and Zimmerman will be referenced for one last key point. Doing gender allows society to create differences between girls and boys and men and women that are “not natural, essential, or biological” (West and Zimmerman 1987: 137). To better illustrate, these differences are constructed, but we as society perceive them as natural. West and Zimmerman remind us that biologically when men or women go to the bathroom, they are somewhat similar in waste production. Therefore, the authors posit the question, if we biologically are eliminating waste in similar ways, why do we separate bathrooms? Therefore, we perceive the segregation of bathrooms as natural and essential. However, this segregation is a social construction that we simply perceive as normal. Important to note, the authors are not advocating for sexes to use the same bathroom. The authors are illustrating how social constructions are prevalent in our life and how society accept constructions without fully analyzing the totality of the situation.
In conclusion, this letter has been written using sociological literature and teachings to better illustrate this point. This letter has demonstrated that sex and gender are complex and terms that are not interchangeable. Gender is a social construction that we as individuals perceive as natural. Multiple examples have demonstrated that gender is simply an act or performance that individuals do. Therefore, I implore this administration to focus in more on understanding what a social construction is an attempt to fully understand the lives of transgender people.
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