Over at Everyday Feminism, Suzannah Weiss explains her personal journey into the land of non-binary understandings of her own gender identity. It’s quite instructive to read, for a variety of reasons.
Apparently, as a young woman she was socially discouraged from identifying as non-binary or genderqueer because she didn’t perform the right mix of behaviors to fit the label. Understandably, her peers wanted her gender identification to be based on some kind of evidence, and since she wasn’t providing evidence that she was non-binary or genderqueer by behaving in a manner suitable to that identity, they were reluctant to recognize it.
Nonetheless, I’m sure they all agreed with her that it doesn’t make sense to call people “men” or “women” based on the evidence of their physiological characteristics. That is just a basic truism of those who embrace the methods of Critical Theory as it relates to gender these days. They’re pretty sure that the individual is the only one who can determine his, or her, or (whatever pronoun might be preferred)’s true nature. It’s a subjectivist ontology.
But that isn’t their only truism, and Weiss does a good job of explaining a few others.
- Gender Can Change From Moment to Moment
- Gender Is a Social Construct
- There Aren’t Any Rules
I really like #1. It’s brutally honest about the implications of their perspective. It doesn’t matter how respectful you try to be to people who are gender non-conforming in any sense, because their preferred pronoun can change at any time and you need to respect that or be labeled oppressive or perhaps even a bigot. And there’s simply no way to keep up unless your entire life revolves around doing so, which isn’t possible or practical.
Nevermind that it’s first and foremost profoundly confusing for most other people, and that their response is understandable, it has to be oppressive and bigoted to be a fairly average human being with perfectly normal emotional responses to sudden dramatic changes in another person’s identity without any evidence of such a change.
#2 is a hackneyed cliche of a dead horse, but it has to be beaten a few more times. Sure, gender is socially constructed in the sense that the boxes we put people in with regard to their gender identity are indeed socially constructed.
#3 is the perfect summation of what this is all about. There should be no social conventions around identity. Disregard physical evidence, social evidence, or any other kind of evidence. Just identify as whomever you feel that you are in the moment based on socially constructed understandings of what it means to be non-binary or genderqueer. And later, when those categories are deemed by a consensus of the few people who care to debate the issue any longer to be oppressive themselves, we’ll have even less precise or useful terms.
Actually, let’s just get rid of labels altogether and have multiple undefined genders; it’s the rational conclusion to all this. Personally, I’m ready to just accept people as they are rather than trying to navigate the minefield that is contemporary theories about how gender totally isn’t a real thing but it’s super important nonetheless, so important that we all need to pay obeisance to the God of Sex.