Does trans identity depend on a fundamental, binary/traditional conception of men and/or women as a baseline? I guess another way of asking, is, does there have to be a "correct" framework of what a woman is first, in order for people to meaningfully identify as a woman?
I said it in the cis thread, but at least in the definition as I understand it, all that is required for trans to exist is:
1) a person is assigned a gender by someone else
2) that person has an internal understanding of their gender that is different than the gender they were assigned
3) the disjunction between (1) and (2) is culturally, socially, and/or linguistically relevant enough to warrant a term or categorization for this person.
Nothing in there *requires* a male/female binary, but none of this stuff exists in the abstract. Rather, it develops historically as part of a trialectic between the body/biology, culture/society, and the self. I think at some level male and female genders are innate or intrinsic to humanity, as they are present in some form or another in every society we have ever observed.
Moreover, it is pretty undeniable that an inherent internal sense of gender is intrinsic to a human individual; studies have found transness to a) be genetic to a degree (i.e. if you have trans people in your family it is more likely that other people in the family will also be trans, even without contact), and b) that the innate sense of gender we all have emerges prior to socialization and acculturation in a specific gender presentation. We also know this is the case because trans people exist everywhere, even in communities where the concept of gender is held as immutable, where nobody is taught that it is possible to be something other than the gender assigned at birth, and where any deviation from gender norms is met with violence, trans people exist and persist.
So it’s not the case that “male/female” are in some sense innate to humanity AND ALSO trans people are intrinsic to humanity, but rather that trans people are intrinsic to humanity BECAUSE male/female are in some sense intrinsic to humanity. In fact, trans people are trans not because they are somehow alien to human society, but rather *because* trans people have the same innate sense of internal gender that everybody has.
This isn’t the end-all be-all though, of course. Non-binary people also exist, and have the same internal sense of gender identity that we all have. So if male/female are intrinsic to humanity, then so too would nonbinary identities. Moreover, gender doesn’t exist as an inert biological essence, but rather exists as a living, breathing cultural institution. Again, some of this stuff is rooted in biology, both in functions, parts, and appearance, but also in the way the world is perceived and interacted with. On estrogen men smell different to me, I perceive colors differently, sensations are more vivid, I feel emotions more strongly. These sorts of biological realities are reflected in cultural and social stereotypes about genders that span time and space, even among societies with no contact.
Gender is also affected by material relations: anthropological research has shown that immediate-return Hunter gatherer societies tend to produce roughly egalitarian communities, with men and women existing in separate spheres which are perceived within the community as equal in social esteem and access to resources. By contrast, societies where subsistence relies on access to fixed resources, like farming or fishing tend to produce patrilocal marital relations (i.e. the bride leaves her home to live in the husband’s community), which in turn produces patriarchal societies.
Different power relations produce different stereotypes, archetypes, and socialization. Toxic masculinity, is not inherent to being male, but rather is a consequence of social and cultural norms around how masculinity ought to be performed. Likewise a lot of GCs love to harp on about how womanhood necessitates a particular set of universal experiences which “all women” have: being catcalled or sexualized by older men the instant puberty begins, being punished for acting out or behaving in a way that boys get a pass for, being constantly ignored or talked down to. Being shamed for dressing too provocatively and too prudishly, being shamed for being too thin or flat and too fat or curvy. Being shamed for being too made up and for being not made up at all. Being on the receiving end of sexual assault, harassment, or rape. We can know these things exist, because trans women start experiencing them the instant they start being perceived as women, and obviously being subjected to these things constantly throughout one’s mental development will have profound and far-reaching effects both on one’s mental health and on one’s personality and perception of the world.
Finally, culture plays a big role. Culture is of course affected by social and economic relations, as patriarchy imbues femininity with certain norms which are manifestations of our oppression. But nevertheless, dress, attitudes, roles, conceptions of the self, cultural consumption, hobbies - these are all historically contingent and change over time. They feed into one’s internal sense of gender.
This is all to say that everything intersects and mutually constitutes. The body and biology inform society, and one’s relation to their own body and a given society’s instilled norms about the body informs their internal relationship to their gender. However in turn society also affects perceptions and definitions of the body - in medieval European society women were perceived as innately sexual beings, dangerous creatures to be guarded against, lest they seduce you and rob you of your manly virtue. Maidens we’re viewed as masculine entities, virtuous for not giving into their feminine impulses. By contrast, Victorian society viewed women as meek, docile and chaste. Averse to bawdy displays who required male protection and shielding from corrupting influences. Virginity was viewed as the apogee of femininity, as womanhood was chaste and pure in nature.
So to answer the question, transness and nonbinariness do not require some kind of gendered norm, as an inherent sense of internal gender is innate to every human and precedes acculturation to gender norms. However that innate gender also exists in relation to gendered norms and socially contingent gendered experiences. In all worlds I would want to be a woman, but my conception of womanhood is informed both by my socialization, and my experiences with culturally and historically contingent institutions like feminism, leftist theory, queer theory, fashion, the media, my sexual identity, cis women, and other trans people.