The one thing that I hate the most about online debates over gender is that it takes the authoritative voice as gospel for defining key words within the debate. This, of course, is the dictionary. The dictionary is not meant to be taken as the sole dictator of truth, and especially not on matters so complex and broad as identity politics; the fact that it needs more than one definition to define both “female” and “male” should set off alarm bells— hell, the fact there is more than one dictionary publisher should be enough to not take it as the word of law. After all, facts are, in the words of Colonel Hans Landa, so misleading.
As a society, we can not be satisfied with our current definitions and strict adherences to accepted norms, that kind of belief discourages progress; and not just for progress’s sake, but healthy progress that all people should be able to agree upon. In the second part of this short series, I talk about how binaries are an inherently bad concept and how they limit potential in politics – I use the concept of gender to help illustrate this – but the point of this article is to help you understand what I mean when I talk about a spectrum of beliefs. Gender is not fixed, a person’s identity can change over time; during adolescence; adulthood or childhood. It’s much more fluid than society has taught us to believe. For that reason I consider society to be society’s own worst enemy. We limit ourselves by introducing easy concepts that then eliminate the truth from discussion, it’s regretful but true.
For this reason, gender identity is political. It bridges the gap between new age and old age thinking. People are now just beginning to come to terms with the existence of transgender and non-binary people and what that means, but the pushback comes as a result of societal conditioning. Identity is representative of future political struggles, almost like a prototype, the old radical feminist mantra that the personal is the political applies here more than anywhere else I think; people need the personal before they can connect to the political. It’s why demagoguery – appealing to the working man – is so effective, it’s something people all understand on a pathetic level. Discussions that fall around gender identity have key words but the concepts themselves are remarkably simple. The mere fact that people fail to understand is simply as a result of a lack of exposure and fear of the unknown.
Here’s the thing. I genuinely do not believe that people who disbelieve the existence of transgender/non-binary people (and so by extension modern science) are acting in a way they believe to be detrimental to society. In fact the opposite, I believe their expressions of conservative behaviour seek only to preserve society within the natural order, but this cuts right to the heart of the issue. I can not believe in the principle of a natural order because the natural order should require progress to be natural. New right reactions to the existence of non-binary people simply serve to prove this is not the conservative belief. It hearkens back to the belief that there is a natural order without radical progression which is simply incorrect – it’s a reaction to a truth they refuse to accept. The entire history of the world has been one of conflict which always arises because of some radical new doctrine or technology.
This all being said probably makes me look foolish in the eyes of some, because I have not actually provided any scientific evidence of gender as a spectrum, but believe me when I say there is just enough research out there supporting this conclusion as there is the other way trying to disprove it – honestly there is probably a lot more in modern science trying to prove the idea. Also, google exists for those who wish to educate themselves. I don’t want to cite 30 different papers to prove my point, I’m not a scientist and I don’t understand it all either – I just want people to know it’s out there. I touch on this in my next article as well, but the central tenet of that applies here: by refusing to accept the possibility of truth, we are locking ourselves out of a conversation we should be having to progress as individuals and as a society.
Written by Kimberly Eckersley