Gender dichotomy has survived to be one of the last vestiges of a stage of enlightenment that is now in its twilight (relatively speaking). Human enlightenment might be represented as a positive linear progression that you could well envision as a loose scatter chart. I am encouraged to note that the mean is approaching a level of development at which such dichotomies will become obsolete. At the same time, I despair that this event will likely postdate my lifetime considerably.
Gender dichotomy is the perception of the two main genders as mutually exclusive - indeed, even diametrically opposed. Transmitted socially and familially, it defines gender identity as entailing specific traits, roles, rights and responsibilities. The framework of gender dichotomy underlies the foundations of nearly everyone's understanding of themselves and of others.
It has been a global phenomenon for some time, having been exported to the corners of the world by dominant cultures. The dichotomy has had a profound effect on social, political and economic life - perhaps as much so as any other identity factor.
While gender dichotomy still maintains a controlling role in practically all human spheres, its value must be called into question. We stand on the verge of a major transition, to a point where who you are has positively nothing to do with your physical characteristics. Primitive social constructs, which were at one point necessary, have become awkward and illogical.
The fallacy of gender dichotomy is difficult to imagine for many people, because it is so deeply ingrained in their psyche. We can thank the mechanics of childhood development for that. It is clear, however, that the human mind is now flexible enough - powerful enough - to break established patterns of thought to be replaced with new ones. Furthermore, it is through gradual changes in the education of children, at home and at school, that humanity will achieve the shift that is necessary to move on.
I plead with you to examine your life, because it is mindless acceptance that preserves the way of the past. You will find instances of gender dichotomy in many areas of your life, often on a daily basis.
Language is possibly the most insidious place in which gender differentiation has established itself. All major languages include gender-specific words, some even assigning gender to all words. It has been said that words can be a prison. In daily use of language, it can be maddening to attempt communicating your thoughts in a way that does not confer gender. There are many reasons why the elimination of this problem in language is troublesome. The important part is to be mindful.
Of course social situations continually reinforce gender dichotomy. The most basic way is simply in how people treat each other in daily interactions. Most people base much of their attitude toward someone on that person's gender, unconsciously referring to a set of beliefs and values that determine behavior. Statements and inferences frequently rely on attribution to relate to another person based on gender.
Social events also often place great emphasis on gender, either dividing individuals (implicitly or explicitly) into groups or excluding some people altogether. Entire traditions have been built on the assumption of gender incompatibility, and deserve drastic revision.
Child rearing is, naturally, at the root of propagating gender dichotomy. Be conscious of how you deal with children. They are designed to be incredibly adaptive, and attuned to the subtlest of cues in forming indentity and values. It is common to place emphasis on different things, based on the child's gender or your own. In a recent conversation with a sister-in-law, I was told that she felt it was very important for her daughter to feel "feminine" and "pretty." She had no coherent reason why, so I explained it to her. The reflex to impart our programming onto children is so automatic that it rivals the urge for reproduction itself. How else could so many people unanimously cooperate in the effort?
There are a multitude of other places that gender dichotomy lives. Marketing is an immense dissemination machine that makes gender a central pillar of its methodology. Entertainment does as well. Philosophy, psychology, medicine...just about every discipline plays its part. Feminist theories all rest on a gender dichotomy, however they may attempt to explain or reformulate it. Etcetera, etcetera, ad nauseum.
What is your part? How do you see your role in this aspect of human evolution? I hope that this essay has helped you to clarify those questions. If you are uncomfortable with a world defined by gender, there are some things you can do. Eliminate as much as possible any kind of gender-based language from your daily vocabulary. Kindly, when appropriate, make people around you aware of their own unconscious slips. Evaluate your identity, and in what ways you have been led to factor gender into forming it. Raise your children in a more gender-free life than you were allowed. Encourage others to treat children in a way that consciously excludes gender. If you are in a position to affect media or politics, lend your influence to combat the entrenched hyper-consciousness of gender in those environments. The future shift will depend on collective effort, so whatever you can do will make a difference.