Murky Streams

The best way to clear a murky stream is to leave it be and allow it to settle.”
         I’ve always felt like I was something other than what I have been told I am. Born to parents not of my choosing; named and bred as they deemed most fit. Adapted circumstantially to a language that I would listen to with my father’s ears, and speak through my mother’s lips. I had no catalogue to select the eyes that I would view this world through, nor did I pick what things would stir and move me, what I would be good at or who I would meet. “Boy.” They say to them as I emerge into the light. “It is a bouncing baby boy.” This I am stuck with too.
   Planet Earth is wonderful, don’t get me wrong. This whole breathing thing is genius. The sun feels gloriously warm and I love the taste of food. Yet, no one finds it stranger than me that I look and function so similarly to these humans when I feel that to my very core, I am an alien. I don’t know what planet I am from and what sort of life forms exist there, but I am certain I am extra-terrestrial. Who knows how I landed here? Who knows why? This is not my home and I am not human.
This short perspective may seem like a mindless and illogical fictional account of either a very disturbed or very creative human being – but allow me to use it as the vessel through which I explore the quite touchy subject of Gender Ambiguity. For clarity, definitions always make a good starting point: we will define gender as ‘the state of being either male or female’. A modern day social media site would go crazy at the ‘limits’ such a definition would place on the varieties of gender identities currently presented as normal, but I’d defend this concise definition freshly out of sleep and here are some of the reasons why:

  1. The persona in the short scenario is convinced, because of the thoughts he has and the way he feels, that he is not human. This, despite the fact that he was born like a human being, socialises, functions and survives in exactly the same manner as a human being. He has a physical body and the capacity to think, create and feel. This scenario poses the crucial question of whether the way we feel can in any way or form alter the way we are, essentially. While I am a firm believer in the creative and transformative power of thoughts, there are certain things that are beyond our creative control – these are the things that have been created to allow us to exist as we do, otherwise known as the laws of nature. As much as I wish I could float like a balloon, remaining convicted that I am in fact deep down a balloon will sadly not decrease the effect of gravity on my body. In similar step, nature has adequately provided for one of two possible genders: male or female – not accidentally, and certainly not frivolously.
  2. Whatever gender, human beings are born free, not in the sense of independence but in that we have this cool in-built function known as free will that allows us to choose. All day, every day, from the moment we can discern, we can make choices. To have this item or that? To laugh or to frown? This capacity increases in its complexity over time and the range of choices grows with proportionality to the experiences of each individual. There are however, a range of things directly applicable to all persons that, fortunately or unfortunately, none of us has any say whatsoever in – over which our free will does not apply and cannot be exercised, including the fact that we have free will. You do not choose to be conceived nor who conceives you thus you do not choose to be human contrary to what the persona’s perspective would suggest. You do not choose what features will result from that particular mix of DNA, nor what society/nationality or race you fall into. I’d like to suggest that gender is one of these things that is handed to all without their consultation or consent, which we are not free to influence.
  3. What is essential can also be referred to as that which is absolutely necessary, vital, crucial, or indispensable. Gender is to the process of life what water is to the body. No other liquid substitute can sustain the body because water is essential to it. It is not debatable and cannot be ambiguous because, like most essential things, it is certain. There’s a very particular formula that has ensured the survival of the human species for millennia, and try as many have to substitute it, this formula boils down to the miracle of reproduction. The specifics of the formula are not essential to passing across the point that the process of reproduction is anchored on the two genders. Only a male and a female can create a new male or female, simply because the female and male separately carry the two key elements that create life. It is this way for plants, animals and humans – it is nature.
  4. Chromosomes. These are formed when two alleles come together and form the subject matter of our DNA. There are only two possible combinations recorded by scientists and they are: XX and XY. It is no coincidence that there are two possible combinations that form chromosomes and that there are two genders. All women, no matter where they come from, what they look like or how they feel carry XX chromosomes and all men carry XY. Stripped down to our genetic core, we are either male or female from the point of conception. The manifestations of these combinations because they form our genetic software have both physical and immaterial manifestations, the way our bodies, emotions and minds will work. While they do not limit our individuality they determine the forms our bodies take, the role we play in the life process as well as the ways we are inclined to contribute to our communities and society.

This list is not exhaustive of the many reasons why gender ambiguity is certainly a myth but simply seeks to reinforce that as sure as there is a sun in the sky, nature only provided for two genders and we have no choice or control over which one her kind hand serves to us. As intensely as the persona may have felt alien, all signs from his birth to his being point to his humanity, and neither the way he thinks nor the way he feels can alter what is clear within reason to be reality. Your person as it comes, even before it leaves your mother’s body is also, irrevocably, what it is – either male or female. It is a distinction far bigger than our individual needs, wants or feelings. It is a distinction essential to the functionality of life as we know it : it enables and sustains life, it is essential. It is not any person’s choice to make nor should it be – Mother Nature has decided for us, before we even came to be, and Mother knows best.


Natasha Teyie