19 Jan THE THIRD (FOURTH, FIFTH AND MILLIONTH) GENDER
In an intriguing feature #itchysilk writer #semtex explores the contentious proliferations of gender categorisation.
Indeed, this has become a real topic of conversation as newer categorizations like non-binary are depicted in popular media. The character Taylor Mason from the show Billions a landmark case in point.
#semtex ultimately asks how many gender and sexuality categorizations are too much? While recognition of these differences should form an integral part of inclusion in any society, are we at a point where certainly in the Western world, ‘we’ are becoming just a bit too obsessed with categorizing the; ‘she’ ‘they’ ‘bi’ ‘genderqueer’ ‘he’ ‘gay’ ‘trans’……………..?
The hotbed issue of gender in the twenty-first century is perhaps only so hotbed because the third gender du jour puts such militant emphasis on classifying itself–or rather, insisting on not classifying itself. Yet with “do not address me as this,” “call me they,” “call me he,” “call me she,” “don’t call me Shirley,” etc. bandied at every turn, it feels like the problem with all this underscoring of categorization is, in effect, what’s causing the problem.
Though proponents of genderlessness may want to carve out a place for themselves in public restrooms and beyond, this constant beating upon the head with what one should be deemed as by society seems only to cause more undue contention. And it isn’t just about the desire for the freedom of being non-binary (we’ll get back to that term in a bit). There is something else underlying the increasing elation over an expanded number of genders and, therefore, sexual permutations.
And it’s a feeling that pertains most specifically to millennials and Generation Z–the latter still not in possession of a cute nickname just yet as we try to figure out who they are and how we can bulk assess them in a catchy one-word fell swoop. Yes, these culprit generations are illustrious for craving the attention that will make them feel “special.” That specialness they were long told they possessed in their youth by everyone from parents to teachers to other “odds and ends” adults, you know, babysitters, tutors, soccer coaches, etc. And, speaking of soccer, it’s the very sport Chuck Klosterman notoriously maligned in 2004 for promoting the type of false self-confidence that has, in part, launched the offshoot of this gender barrage, noting,
“It’s not xenophobic to hate soccer; it’s socially reprehensible to support it. To say you love soccer is to say you believe in enforced equality more than you believe in the value of competition and the capacity of the human spirit.”
Erroneous self-assurance promoted by recreational soccer played during one’s youth aside, there is a genuine phoniness to the current declaration of being non-binary, gender fluid, et. al. It’s just too chic to be believed in some cases. I mean, you know it’s bad when celebrities start to champion being an unofficial “spokesperson” for a certain type of sexuality. Like Miley Cyrus for pansexuality (mind you, Liam Hemsworth seems to have permanently toppled that notion) touting,
“I always hated the word ‘bisexual,’ because that’s even putting me in a box. I don’t ever think about someone being a boy or someone being a girl.”
It might be the usual straight person’s copout and predisposition toward close-mindedness but that just sounds, quite simply, overly voracious. And rather like one doesn’t have any grasp of their identity, as opposed to the message they’re trying to get across in having a staunch, almost militant sense of it.
…this constant beating upon the head with what one should be deemed as by society seems only to cause more undue contention.
So it goes that it isn’t even simply about assigning oneself a gender that causes a rabbit hole of potential partner malfunctions. It is also the appointment of a sexuality. At least trying it on for a few weeks until growing bored with its results. Yes, we’ve become Zeligs of sexuality and therefore commitment (apologies for making a Woody Allen allusion). Of course, just as it was with the civil rights movement before it, the barrier put up between whatever the third sex might be (because it isn’t just limited to “trans” anymore, at this rate) is bound to be shattered. No sect of humanity can suffer playing the fool to ostracism in the long-term. It is ingrained within each and every one of us–no matter who we are or what walk of life we come from–to be treated with respect and equality. The optimism of the U.S. Declaration of Independence has, in this sense, infected the rest of the globe with the notion of these so-called inalienable rights. Ironically, of course, it is the United States that has placed the most division between its classes, races and genders.
Elsewhere, on the other hand, acceptance of whatever gender a person wishes to be is often far more humane–primarily in European countries such as Ireland, Denmark and Malta. It is on this continent and in these countries that comprise it that “progressiveness” (which is typically a term used to describe ruffling the feathers of the old guard) has flourished most successfully. In Ireland, for example, rather than forcing an individual to endure sterilization before being permitted to change their gender on legal documents and ID cards, ‘he’, ‘she’ or ‘they’ can simply file a request without going through the process of acquiring the sanction of a medical professional. Even in places still viewed as “behind the times,” like Ukraine or Serbia, laws have been put into place to make discrimination based on gender identity illegal. Ah yes, identity–so firmly ensconced in gender, and yet, it’s precisely what the third sex does not want to be defined by. The paradox is real.
As time wears on and the government has less say in what a being can or cannot characterize oneself as–conceding the erstwhile luxury of self-determination as a basic amenity of existence–the Pandora’s box for not just a third gender, but a fourth, fifth and maybe, eventually (should civilization last long enough), a millionth one shall be further blown wide open. A delight to Magnus Hirschfeld, originator of the then more all-encompassing word “transvestite”. This gives rise to a new problematic scenario with regard to the one thing humans are supposed to inexorably be living for: love.
With so many sexual statuses to ascribe to at one’s whim, where does it leave the more, shall we say, constant, morphous ilk? In the realm of championing the formless, ambiguous body, can love remain indissoluble as we were once taught it could be in books and films? Or will it only make it more effortless to flit from person to person? For, in truth, the employment of the word “non-binary” or, to go even further, “pangender”, in the apps of dating profiles feels like a tactic for the person in question to ensure the maximum potential for orgasm options.
While some might appraise such a statement as small-minded, genderqueer-phobic even, the concern is valid. Can you truly love someone from a limitlessly genderless perspective, or is this a utopian ideal and/or a fantasy that can only be successfully rendered by Guillermo del Toro? And on that note, turning to an apparently well-endowed creature of the sea might just have to be where the last of the “straight” women turn to for gratifications of the sexual and amorous variety. Indeed, one needn’t look any further than the cinematic landscape of now for indications of the hetero fear about gender. Apart from The Shape of Water (2017), there are other plotlines “cleverly” shrouded in a focus on mutant-‘cross-bred’, if you will-animals (a crocodile-shark, for example) causing a wealth of issues for heteronormative people like Natalie Portman as Lena in the forthcoming Annihilation.
Then again, even going as far back as David Lindsay’s A Voyage to Arcturus, published in 1920, the strange, universal yearning to inhabit or at least experience a planet without gender has been present in our lexicon for many generations. So it is that the protagonist of the novel, Maskull, encounters beings who are neither man nor woman on his interplanetary travels, choosing to invent the pronoun ae in order to refer to them.
Elsewhere in literature, Ursula K. Le Guin’s 1969 book, The Left Hand of Darkness, is another long-standing foreshadowing and looming prediction of a planet in which we are all “ambisexual”. While a world without gender could signal a world without war, strife or malice, it might also very well signal an existence without romantic love. But at least we’ll all be super special, totally unique and hopefully having loads of sex with different entities. This will allow us to fully explore ourselves as we feel “an entire infinite gender spectrum that is possible for an individual to have” (quoting the definition of pangender).
Ah, Romeo and Juliet truly didn’t know how easy they had it, those crazy dyadists.
Featured image by Nan Goldin
Second image from show Billions
Third image by Dave Naz
Fourth image by Manuel Vason
Fifth image unknown
Sixth image unknown