What if we just refuse to debate our gender on scientific terms? What if we just quit arguing about whether boys are boys and girls are girls? What if we say, “That is not the point. It’s irrelevant.”
In almost every other ordinary area of life we say, “You can be what you want to be.”
You want to be a senator or MP? Go for it.
You want to be an Australian? Emigrate and apply.
You want to be a humanitarian? Good for you!
So why are one’s gender presentation, sexual expression, and self-identity not a matter of choice if the technology is available and the need is sufficient? As to “need,” why does anything matter more than a person’s own self-understanding and integrity, if no one else is harmed, disadvantaged, or impacted in any real way? Integrity, by the way, is best defined as “consistency between feeling and action,” which is (thanks to Shakespeare) “a consummation devoutly to be sought.”
Think about it for a moment. All it would take for this whole nasty debate and this aspect of the culture war to go away is for us all to agree that you get to decide what clothes you wear, what cosmetics you use, what friends you love, and what surgery to undertake.
Oh, wait! You are already free to make those choices! (Unless you defy your assigned gender in doing so.)
Why is gender an issue? Is it important for the survival of the human species to have boys and men perform their biological function and girls and women to do likewise?
Congratulations! That has worked so well that population is booming. The fact that some have opted out and others have been prevented from contributing to species survival seems not to be one of the factors currently threatening humankind.
So if the human race is not at stake, the threat must be about something else … the social order.
That is surely closer to the heart of the matter about why boys must be boys and girls, girls. The idea is to make it clear who is what so that roles are not confused. We need protectors and nurturers or society is threatened. The trouble is that we have not ever, in all of human history, actually confined those two functions to specific specific sexes. We have undertaken them jointly. Sometimes, as it happens, we have inflated the roles. We have thought of protectors as military, and military as men (certain Amazon exceptions notwithstanding). Actually, that has gotten humanity into trouble when we over-extended, as when we moved from protection to aggression. As for nurturers, they are not only mothers, teachers and nurses. It is ludicrous to limit the nurturing role to women and to humiliate men who also nurture.
In no way is the stability of society threatened by people changing their function. Soldiers change back into civilians; it is built into the system. Civic magnates not only change the course of nations they sometimes change diapers when the need arises. Anybody can cook if they know how.
Almost never does gender actually matter to social stability.
The social ORDER, as it turns out, is more fragile.
Social order and how it is interpreted is a social construct. In order to be orderly, the idea is to keep things as they are. This serves those who benefit from the existing order. Ironically, it is impossible. Social order is an illusion, sustained because social change is gradual, most of the time. It is a description, at best, of a consensus that the way things are is fine. (Here’s where the irony shines most clearly) – Any effort to impose social order accelerates the move toward increasingly inflexible hierarchy which then becomes unsustainable and crumbles. Radical conservatism is self-contradictory.
There is a cycle between anarchy and tyranny, with prosperity being both the aspiration as well as the undoing of social order, which happens as prosperity gravitates into the control of fewer and fewer tyrants. Then the many revolt against the tyrants and the cycle passes through extreme disorder on the way back through a time of happy order on to tyranny.
The problem with gender fluidity is that it confronts those who have a vested interest in keeping things frozen as they are. They come face to face with the reality that nothing can be static that way. Reality is evolving.
The percentage of people in any generation who discover their transgender identities is small, far less than 10%. They do not threaten the social order, but they undermine the IDEA that the social order is impervious to change. Queer people disprove the idea that the social order is synonymous with the natural order. That is a notion that those at the social pinnacle do not want to admit.
Those whose elite social status and privileges are threatened by constant social change are also small in number, far less than 10%. Unlike the marginalized people on whom they actually depend, however, the elite are protected in their elevated bastions. They are not being victimized, as they claim. Being challenged and being victimized are not the same thing. The right of people to choose their private behavior and public appearance does not impact the elite in any conceivable way. Their adamant defense of binary sexuality is scapegoating a vulnerable social minority group. It is fallacious.
We can refuse to play their game if we want to.
It would be better to quit looking for some logical, scientific way to explain how we are gay in order to refute the argument that we cannot legitimately be so. We can make more progress by advocating our freedom to dress and think as we choose. We have the right to make the same sartorial, cosmetic, and surgical choices as others have. We want to have the same legal rights as others have, too. We can call efforts to stop us what they are: harassment, usurpation of our human rights, bullying, and disrespect – to begin with.
Rev. Dr. Kenneth Dobson posts his weekly reflections on this blog.