As a quick aside, a question to the reader: is there a God? Judeo-Christian, Zoroastrian, Islamic, it doesn’t matter. The point is there is no yes or no answer. Why is this such a controversial opinion in politics then? Using gender as a bridge to explain my ideas and their compatibility, this should help re-examine the way you look at politics as a whole, utilising occasional personal experiences I might add; and before you ask, no, I am not here to abuse women in public bathrooms, that’s— not a thing that happens.
Simone de Beauvoir pointed out in her seminal text ‘The Second Sex’, that one becomes – as opposed to being born – a woman. Inadvertently, de Beauvoir has pointed out the basic fundamental flaw in how we think about gender (and politics). Gender is a spectrum, and I found myself trying to cram myself into a single box of the two given to me, one being male, the other female; it’s a hard conclusion to come to (which in itself is perverse as anybody who seriously questions their identity is almost certainly not what they are questioning in the first place) but it’s the idea of ‘acting your gender’ that made it harder for me to find answers. Political philosophy can also be broken down into these specific categories. Conservatism, Liberalism and Socialism to name a few, but our discussion of political ideas needs to focus on the spectrum of individual ideas rather than the individual ideas on a spectrum. In case it was not already clear, I dislike the idea of a ‘political spectrum’ as it implies that each ideology starts off as a kind of neutral and then adds or subtracts different amounts in terms of policy making, when this is not even remotely true.
A little while back, Eva Smith wrote an article for this magazine (which I urge you to read) exploring how people find it impossible to choose between one party and the other, which is true, but I think the crux of the issue revolves around how we see problems arise and choose to deal with them. Party politics isn’t the cause, it’s the symptom. We choose to have parties because they broadly represent a set of individuals or groups in society. They’re a shorthand for exploring ideas, and this is the problem. We force ourselves to struggle onwards with our beliefs as to what is right, and when things work we want to copy them with the same results. Whether or not you agree with Margaret Thatcher, it is impossible to deny that she was effective, but her effectiveness arose from a situation where her brand of neoconservatism was called for – people hold onto this belief in her ideas today because it’s what they have known to work, even when it was only necessary contemporaneously.
Today, if parties truly represented the turn of political thought, what we really should have are New Labour attitudes to markets and Old Labour attitudes towards domestic policy on one side, with broadly Libertarian ideas on the other, this is the binary our society clamours for, these are the answers most people seek. However, like being transgender/non-binary, this kind of box we’re forcing ourselves into doesn’t allow for any exploration of the spectrum of beliefs. Perhaps it’s better this way. Perhaps all people want to be 50% happy rather than some at 90% and others at 10%; but by locking ourselves out of the conversation, we’re allowing the mere concept of binaries to overtake us. These political binaries serve as default options, so our natural tendency is to believe one of the options must be true because that is what is presented to us. I am sure I do not need to explain why that is a flawed belief.
Perhaps answers have to be binary, because that displays resolution. As biological beings, we have to come up with a concrete answer for all things, even when the required answer is more fluid than initially thought. A third way. A synthesis, maybe? Frankie Arren thinks so. He wrote a great article that I also encourage you to read, exploring how in reference to individualism and collectivism the idea that we should be having this conversation denies the validity of both. Yet I’m not 100% sure that the synthesis works. To my mind, the synthesis still works within the parameters of the binary and still invalidates other ideas – preferring instead to take it as the word of law that because both established ideas work to some degree, the combination of both must lead to a successful idea to a much greater degree. That seems dangerous, even if it is formed on the basis of pragmatism, there is nothing to say that it will actually be a success.
Regardless, I classify myself as transgender because I need an answer, and I’m happier because of it; now I have a community to belong to, one that supports me and one that I support, the options aren’t always bad but I ask you to consider if the concept of binaries are in fact more dangerous than just being unideal. Decisions constantly have to be made on a personal and political front, and honestly I am not sure the answer can be found in a simple yes/no answer. Thinking it would may result in politicians deciding to trust the public with a life-changing referendum on the constitutional basis of the UK’s international relationships – lucky for us, politicians are smart and they would never let that happen.