Another Aside (on Gender)

I’m doing an online course with a university, so I’m technically one of their students. I recently filled out a questionnaire for their Students’ Union. One question was “Do you identify as the gender you were assigned at birth?” This has a flavour of adolescent “I-didn’t-ask-to-be-born” ingratitude to it. It suggests that your mother, (possibly) harassed and terrified father, midwives and doctors are conspiring together to impose some awful injustice on their new-born, at the point of birth.

This seems deeply unfair. The activity of birthing is not “assigning”. A birth is usually a collaborative activity (although the burdens are not equally spread!) that sees a new life, a new consciousness introduced to the world. The child’s gender is recognised, as part of that miraculous (and hopefully joyful) arrival. It is a registering of a small part of your biological, genetic identity, as made apparent in your physiology. This is who you are, to start with, for better or worse: do with it what you wish. 

As attested to by all the other people helping with your birth, we are part of a community, and our identity is negotiated between the members of that community. You do not come into being spontaneously, at your own request. Nobody ever asked to be born. We are all press-ganged into existence. Who you are is not purely up to you. And, unfortunately, you are committed by this to having certain experiences or expectations imposed on you by the world, and being excluded by others. If you are born male, you will never experience menstruation or pregnancy or child-birth. You will experience the prejudice and expectations levelled at men but not those levelled at women. If you are born a woman you will never experience the biologically determined aspects of masculinity. Gender is an affliction as well as an opportunity, but it is inflicted on every one of us equally. 

Of course, you have a greater interest in, and knowledge of, your identity than anyone else, and should have the most sovereignty over it. You should be allowed to think of yourself, and live, in a manner other than the one expected of your phenotype, by society, if that is what you want. But you should acknowledge where you come from and that this urgent desire in you is your psycho-biological state, not a social restriction that, if lifted, would lead to a flowering of latent woman- or manhood and a resumption of a lost psychological wholeness. 

If other people are good and kind, they will treat you as you require, but it is difficult to insist upon it. People like to think and say what they want, and to curb this is an infringement of their civil liberties (“rights” aren’t a genuine property of existence.) In fact, to insist that you must be thought of, and talked about, as a woman, when you were born with a Y chromosome and, consequently, male sexual characteristics, is not only tyrannous, it is to promote the most rigid, restrictive and reductive version of the difference between men and women. The sexes are reduced to superficial and highly artificial, in fact grotesque, stereotypes of entirely socially constructed differences, of make-up and fashion and gossip and girls’ nights in and social media and “oh-I-know-darling” versus football and beer and gaming and boys’ nights out and “fucking-twat-him-one-the-cunt”.

Surely the answer to the problem of gender prejudice in society isn’t a campaign of even more aggressive reverse-coercion, the identification and destruction of the normies and cys-gendered, it’s to work towards a society where everybody respects and accepts everyone else as equals, where everybody reaches out, with kindness and understanding, to everyone else, no matter that all 7 billion of them are a bunch of fucking wierdos.

The national Census’s version of the same question was (something like) “do you identify as the gender registered at your birth?” Much better. It seems a small thing, but I think it makes a big difference. 

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