Rethinking “Gender Queer”

By PATRICK WOOD

By accommodating those who feel that they were born into the wrong sex and wish to live life as the opposite sex, we do trans individuals a world of good. Using preferred pronouns and treating trans individuals with warmth and understanding helps them feel comfortable, gives them courage to take steps regarding transition which they feel are appropriate, and likely dramatically decreases the elevated risk of depression, suicide, and other social ills that trans people experience.

The worst possible course of action, which happened in North Carolina, is an approach that treats people as stuck with their sex at birth. The law requires people to use the bathroom that corresponds to the sex on their birth certificate even if they have had sex reassignment surgery or otherwise appear to others as their self-identified gender, i.e, “You have a beard but you were born female? Legally you should be using the ladies’ room.”

As a society, we have at last largely accepted the fact that some people are born homosexual and that it’s okay. Our willingness to take that step followed our recognition that some people simply can’t or shouldn’t have to conform to  behavioral norms for sexual orientation.

It seems prudent to extend this recognition to the trans community, but just how far is this line to be extended? In addition to those who identify with the sex opposite that of their birth, there are some individuals who openly identify with both genders or neither.

Perhaps you have seen the video of this individual who was born a human female but identifies as a cat.

She is a clear example of someone who should not be afforded the same kind of accommodation as other members of the trans community. This girl (I am calling her a girl because I don’t feel it is beneficial to her to call her a cat) may suffer from a specific mental illness. This may just be extreme narcissism and an attempt to attract attention. However, this may also be the serious and rare disorder known as species dysphoria.

In my view, some self-proclaimed “gender queer” individuals are in a similar position. While some people are born with both male and female parts, identifying as both male and female or neither may otherwise be a call for attention, or it may be a way for naturally androgynous people to cope with a negative body image.

The majority of gender queer individuals, however, illustrate to me a larger problem — identifying as “gender queer” may simply reflect the stigma from not fitting into society’s perceptions of “male” or “female.”

Just as it is not beneficial to call someone with species dysphoria a cat, it may be a wrong-headed approach to accommodate someone’s pronoun request when that request is to be referred to as “xe” or “they” instead of “him” or “her.” The better approach is a long-term systematic strategy in which we collectively promulgate a view that accepts that males can have feminine qualities and do feminine things, and vice versa. Eliminating gender roles and gender expectations helps allow people to feel comfortable presenting themselves as male or female regardless of their interests or favorite activities, their social behavior, their appearance, or their sexual orientation. We can create a society in which “male” and “female” encompasses everyone and requires no one to change their behavior to fit into those categories.

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