I happened to read a piece of web “conversation” about “gender-neutral first names”. It wasn’t much of a conversation, really – mostly bashing other people with your words as hard as you can and then running for shelter. Something one nick wrote got me thinking: the person’s idea was that there are always exceptions to any system, but that it’s not the majority’s job to do anything about it. So basically, being genderqueer, I’m an exception to the rule that the only gender options available are Man and Woman, and that’s my problem.
When I studied philosophy for a while, I learned that the best system is the one where the most “exceptions” fit in. So, a good system is complex enough to allow for as many diverse situations as possible. The old “sex equals gender equals sexuality” system is clearly outdated, as it doesn’t allow for any other options than the Hollywood-esque Boy meets Girl; that is, if you’re a Woman, you love a Man, and the other way round. Looking from the viewpoint of this system, I truly am an exception. Which is fine by me, c’mon, this finally proves I am exceptional. But I also believe there could be a better option for this system. Let’s look at the rule again.
Why the second part of the mantra doesn’t work, seems to be something anybody (even my grandmother) could understand. Gender doesn’t equal sexuality, because boys can love boys, girls can love girls etc. We don’t necessarily understand why anybody would feel differently from us, but it’s clear that some people do, and it’s OK to more people every day.
But the other equation – sex equals gender – is quite a bit trickier to disassemble than the first. It’s like a Zen Buddhist koan, or locked box with the key inside – you have to get it to get it. And even if you do, that still doesn’t mean you have to allow for people being outside the binary. I mean, yes, many people know that there are transgendered people, in the sense of being X trapped in Y’s body. But you can fix that without breaking the binary gender system, can’t you? It’s just a matter of the right medical treatment. Biological man becomes biological woman, happy ever after, end of story.
How then to deal with the fact that many people believe that the two-gendered system is not enough? Maybe we just have to build a new, better system to show around. It would have to be one that allows people to be men and women if they want to, but also clearly states that that’s not all there is. We live in a world with seven billion people in it. Why force them all into just two little boxes, when there could be a free-flowing, dynamic space open for everybody? If the dualistic gender system wasn’t invented yet, would we need it?