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There Is a Space Between the Binary Labels of Male and Female that Connects Us All as Human Beings

There Is a Space Between the Binary Labels of Male and Female that Connects Us All as Human Beings
Photo by Delia Giandeini / Unsplash

We are all worthy of dignity and freedom of self-expression.

In 2005, I bought my first translation of the Tao Te Ching, translated by Stephen Mitchell.

Verse 11 of the Tao Te Ching is one of my favourites for what it reveals about how we think and understand the world.

We join spokes together in a wheel,
but it is the center hole
that makes the wagon move.
We shape clay into a pot,
but it is the emptiness inside
that holds whatever we want.
We hammer wood for a house,
but it is the inner space
that makes it livable.
We work with being,
but non-being is what we use.

Without the formless space inside the physical form of the clay pot, there would be no “space” for holding contents like water or food.

Without the formless space, the hole in the centre of the wheel around which spokes create a physical container, there would be no “space” for the axle to enter.

Verse 11 provides a metaphorical explanation of being and non-being to express mutually arising polarities.

This is also understood as yin and yang — the dualistic, binary way in which we understand our environment and communicate with others.

The truth of yin and yang is that both are of one and the same. We cannot understand light without dark, good without bad, or beauty without ugliness. To describe something that is up, we must refer to something that is below it, or down.

Binary descriptions are simplistic on one hand, but they are not limited to the extremes.

Consider the now infamous cliché, “50 Shades of Grey.” Good and bad are relative terms, with a wide variety of meanings and interpretations that exist in between the extremes.

The same is true for the binary concept of male and female, or woman and man.

These are mere expressions of simple binaries among the spectrum of gender and sexual fluidity that is a natural aspect of all life on this planet.

There is no perfectly defined male or female. Those are mere words or descriptions we use to label someone or to self-identify. Words in and of themselves have no absolute, real, or static meaning — they are abstract morphological and phonological representations of what we perceive in our environment.

The space between the polarities of the labels of male and female is that which connects us all — we are all human.

Meaning and understanding are a balancing act that is constantly evolving.

In one moment, we think we understand. Then we go too far to one side and tip the scales.

We cannot live at the extremes for long without causing harm to ourselves, others, and the planet.