The new-to-me experience of living as an out Genderqueer person leads to many questions. I have an inquisitive nature, so I can never be content with accepting things as they are. On the contrary, I must explore, study, and analyze, in my best attempt to figure out why they are. One hypothetical I wrestle with is what my gender identity would look like if gender distinction didn’t exist. When I came out to my parents, my mother asked why we needed gendered labels at all. “Why define ourselves in that way? Why can’t you just be Josh?” Indeed, if gender distinction didn’t exist … if we weren’t defined by cultural ideals of male and female … if society didn’t insist on the gender binary, and these standards that determine “masculinity” and “femininity,” in all of their sub-cultural contexts, were rejected en masse … if the binary itself was rejected en masse … I could just be Josh. But that’s not the world we live in. The reality is that my identity as Genderqueer means something because gender distinction means something. My mother’s query raises an interesting thought. Gender distinction is one of the ways in which humans organize, it carries with it many complexities, behavioural expectations, and power dynamics. It influences nearly every facet of social and private life. It cannot be said that gender distinction is not important to our history … but was it necessary, and is it necessary for our future?
Everyday I hear comments that attribute certain behavioural standards to people based on what they have between their legs, the all-too-common mistaken assumption that sex and gender are the same thing. To be fair, those making the comments don’t generally realize that they are promoting unnecessary division. “I’m not as fond of being around women, because they are so dramatic.” “I told my brother, you’d better not let that son of yours play princess, ’cause that ain’t right.” “I don’t make my lunch for work, that’s a woman’s job. I have my wife do that. I’m old fashioned that way.” “Yeah, my wife and I both work full time, and when I get home I deserve a hot meal and a beer. She works too, but cooking, taking care of the kids, and making sure I’m happy is her job as a woman.” “He’s not a man, his wife makes more than he does.” Every one of these things has been said in front of me in the past few months, and every time I’m stunned at how unbelievably blind these people are to what they’re actually saying; not to mention the blatant misogyny.
If women are dramatic, how are we to view the ‘old boys clubs,’ where men get together to drink, assert their importance, and gossip? Who determined dresses are for women, and why? What really is the harm in a boy playing princess … and I mean what’s the real harm? Is it a woman’s job to make your lunch, or are you just too lazy and selfish to do it yourself? Why do you think you deserve more down time than she does? She makes more money … so what? If none of these comments could be made because it was understood that people are too complex to be defined by gender, what do you think would happen? Would the sky fall?
Is gender distinction necessary? No, I don’t believe for a second that it is. The truth, and I think most people understand this, is that male-female distinction has been a tremendous tool in the context of power. What I’m saying is viewed as dangerous, because as men lose privilege and women gain it, there at least remains a distinction that can be leveraged in what the despicable MRA’s see as a fight for supremacy. If that distinction were to disappear, it would be ‘game over.’ All of a sudden we would just be people. Each with our own talents, skills, and abilities, each qualified to fill positions doing what we do best. No male dominance, no wage gap, no power struggle between the sexes, no binary, no gender discussion. And we would find, despite what some people might think, that the world would operate just as well as it does now … arguably better, without so many of our current problems. We would still have problems, humans always will, but minus those dependent upon gender distinction, the number would drop dramatically.
There are those who identify with what we are told it means to be either male or female. There are some who identify with one, and a little bit with the other. There are some who identify as both. There are some who identify as neither. Sex is a separate issue, and what effect hormones have (ie: estrogen vs testosterone) varies too much from person to person to be used in an argument for biologically-driven behavioural groupings. Gender distinction is ingrained into our thinking, our interactions, our very way of life. It is both overt and subtle, but it is NOT necessary