i'd playfully posited this metaphor last night. But, after i said it, i began to think about it more and more. Queer and trans folk, in my experience at least, seem to often wonder why their genders so often surprise or alarm cis folk. i wonder this too, especially after some of the more vitriolic comments i hear.
But when i really think about it, the answer is a simple one. Cis folks have genders that are never questioned or challenged. They are not obligated to introspection and live in a privileged state of unquestioning certainty of their own normalcy. They are not encouraged or provoked to assess their own gender or it's role in their life. This doesn't mean they don't have a gender identity, just that they aren't conscious of it (to me this fact seems sad).
Gender is often referred to as a spectrum. i take issue with this. i think that theorists using a linear alternative to a binary reifies the normalcy of polarizing gender. In this model there is masculine across from feminine and there is room between. This hardly seems like a liberated sense of gender.
i prefer to think of gender as an ocean. It is vast, infinite really. It is flowing and dynamically changing. It evolves. Gender forces the evolution of new genders continuously and dialectically. It is simultaneously ever-present and defined by impermanence. This ocean flows and storms. Theoretically each molecule of this gender ocean will eventually touch every other molecule, leaving an infinite array of potential gender options. This literally fluid model of gender seems far more congruent with how i see gender as operating both now and historically.
The aforementioned problem of normalcy seems easier to digest here too. A vast majority of people live at the center of the gender ocean. At any given moment in time, there is a dominant set of species. This would be the normative genders of a specific time period.
These creatures would of course be shocked by creatures from a different time, a different ocean. They would be taken back by a fantastic gendered creature that's traveled from another sea. They would be scared of wonderfully bio-luminescent genders of the deep that glow and flash to attract mates, or prey, or scare predators. These centric creatures would not be able to comprehend the function of a specifically gendered creature that grew up in a tiny, niche environment, developing skills and features so perfectly adapted to a specific environment. Understanding of variance is belied by a sheltered environment from which most don't stray.
Anything that falls outside of the feeding frenzy of normative gender could be seen as shocking. Unfortunately, people in our society seem to have a sad tendency to hate and fear things that they don't understand, things that stray into what they consider their waters. But the water of gender has always had and will always have currents. There is no ownership of water and everything underwater flows.