Monday, January 2, 2017

Gender: Is it a Thing of the Past?

My grandson's name is Marshall. A big name for a little 4 year old. His long curly hair is the color of pure gold; the shiniest, softest curls cover his sweet little face. His eyes are blue, with a twinkle of mischief when he is happy, a dark stare that makes you shiver inside, when he is not.

He is my little man and I am head over heels. I never had a little man of my own, so this is a free-bee for me. He has entered my golden years and I feel like I won the lottery.

Because of his long blond hair, people in the street exclaim what a cute little girl he is. It's the privilege of young children to not be pinned down yet by their sex. We treat them with affection not yet tainted with judgment. They are not yet saddled with the burden of gender identity and we treat them the way we respond to pets, without any expectations or prejudice. He has long hair? So what if he is a boy?

But soon his golden curls will turn into a question mark. They will morph from a God given gift into a socially suspect attribute. So, recently Marshall paid a visit to the hairdresser, where he left his long curls on the vinyl floor on their way to the curl cemetery, a first of many steps on the road to gender identification.

It’s not going to be easy for him, now that we have done away with the old but simple clues on how to go from child to man or woman. Marshall is born at a time in history when gender as a binary concept is being shoved under the rug and replaced by a whole rainbow of in-betweens. Soon he will be old enough to have a Facebook page where he can select from 50 different gender identity options.

In Sweden some pre-schools no longer call the children 'boys' and 'girls', everyone is a 'friend'. They don't use the personal pronouns 'he' and 'she'.

In the name of gender equality, children have become “its” (‘hen’ in Swedish, a new word added to the Swedish vocabulary). There are no dolls that say 'mama' or action figurines, and forget about those evil gender biased books like Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty. Children play with expressionless, sexless dolls and are read from carefully selected gender neutral stories of boys who like to dress up, or alligators whose parents are giraffes. Gone are the days of fairy tales.

What about the fables? Why are the ant and the grasshopper male? Why does the fox singing to the crow have balls and not a vagina? Let’s do away with politically incorrect stories like Winnie-the-Pooh, the Wizard of Oz, and the Tale of Peter Rabbit. Those are all full of male characters! Be gone with you. We need gender equality, not male dominated children’s stories!

Gender identity is a fundamental component of our self-image. I had a hard enough time figuring out if I was comfortable in a girl body, but now, children have to spend the best years of their lives trying to decide whether they want to be cisgender, transgender, pangender, bisexual, genderneutral or something else, whose name I cannot keep track of.

The proof of how important gender identity is, is the willingness to go under the knife to change one’s biological apparatus. It must be such a high price to pay and enough of a reason to want to kick your maker in the nuts. How could HE have screwed up so badly by giving you the wrong tool set?

If you have a vagina and you feel ok about being a girl, you won the lottery. Trying to find your gender identity these days is like trying to find the Minotaur at the center of the labyrinth. Which way do you turn?

Gender Identity versus Sexual Orientation

Gender identity refers to how you think about yourself, whether you feel feminine or masculine and how you react to society's expectations on how to act feminine, masculine, neither, or both. It can be the same or different from your sex assigned at birth.

Sexual orientation, on the other hand, is the term used to describe whether you feel sexual desire for people of the other gender or for people of your own gender. (See: Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity  Definitions).

Maybe the current obsession with gender is driven by a desire to remove the barriers imposed on us by nature. Race and gender, 2 of our most basic physical attributes have been the main source of social discrimination. If we can transfer the concept of gender from an assigned trait to an acquired trait, we can be in control of it.

To quote a passage from Tom Kando's brilliant essay 'The Transsexual Phenomenon in a Changing Culture': 'Until recently, few characteristics were thought of as better examples of an ascribed and non-negotiable status than gender. After all, if gender is not the bedrock of one’s identity, what is? But now comes the transsexual to upset the apple cart, to muddy the water. One of the most immutable status characteristics moves over from the category of “ascribed” to that of “achieved.”

In Scandinavia, where there is very little gender inequality, pre-schools have gender equality counselors who help the confused 6 year olds figure out whether they are ok with what nature endowed them with. Sweden even has gender neutral snow plowing, which means that the sidewalks, theoretically used by mothers pushing prams, get plowed before the streets, used by fathers going to work. This noble effort backfired when the unplowed streets resulted in schools not opening in time, causing prams to pile up at the entrance of nursery schools.

Gender Neutral Parenting

One couple in Canada refused to announce their baby’s sex to the world: "We've decided not to share Storm's sex for now – a tribute to freedom and choice in place of limitation," says the father. The problem is that these parents know their child’s sex and cannot help but relate to ‘it’ accordingly. Gender is so intermingled with other aspects of one’s sense of self, that trying to relate to your child by intentionally ignoring their sex might result in an emotionally flattened relationship. Acknowledging your child’s sexual orientation doesn’t mean that you have to deny their biological sex.

But all of this might just be the hiccups of a new era. Soon, gender will be no more significant than the color of your hair. If you don’t like it, you can always dye it, cut it, curl it, or shave your head entirely. Who needs gender anyway, now that we have other means to procreate? In the meantime I will enjoy my grandson just the way he is: a perfect little boy. leave comment here