Progress is Regressive

I think, when I was young, liberal humanists were more progressive and more accepting of individualism than we are now. (Even the conservatives, though more entrenched, seemed less vituperative.) Everybody wore their older brothers’ and sisters’ hand-me-downs; boys frequently had long hair, not as a statement but because their parents couldn’t bear to cut their beautiful tresses. 

Now, however, everyone is encouraged to join a defined identity group as early as possible, and then to conform to the definition of that group, denying all aspects of themselves that might conflict with that definition. 

My son has opted to grow his hair very long. It stretches right down his back, almost to his waist. He is repeatedly asked, at school, if he is “trans.” He is only 13 and not fully pubescent. Meanwhile, some of his pre-pubescent friends are claiming to be gender fluid or gay although (because?) they don’t feel sexual attraction to anyone, yet, have only just become aware of gender constructs, and know little of current affairs. 

Of course, children should be free to explore these issue and to debate and discover their extent and power. However, they should not be pressurised into coming to definite conclusions about gender constructs and sexuality when they are not even fully familiar with them. 

Nowadays, if someone is unhappy with enacting the expectations of their biological sex, they are encouraged to think they can, and should, become another, by force of will and consciously learned behaviour. This, ironically, makes gender as superficial, stereotyped and rigid as the most conservative societies of the 1950s: girls look and act in one way; boys look and act in another. If you are unhappy with your tribe (Beer! Football! Porn!), you must abandon it totally and wholly adopt the trappings and behaviours of another (Make up! Fashion! Relationships!) 

Because femininity has been more flamboyantly advertised in our patriarchal society, many male to female Transsexual people seem to spend years wandering uncomfortably through the liminal borderlands between genders but only by adopting very definite parts of feminine body-semiotics. (fake eyelashes, a sashay.) Their lack of ease comes, perhaps, as much from the difficulty of working out how to be truly womanly, than from rejection by their society. It seems a little easier to be a Female to Male transsexual, as the less explicit focus on the outward appearance allows them to merge much more easily with the “non-binary.” That’s a much more easily tenable position.

Except that, if non-binary people were really so uncaring about gender stereotypes, surely they would be happy admitting to their biological sex? Maybe they could refer to themselves as Liberated Men or Liberated Women (“Libs”.)

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