We Live in communities, and one of the ways that communities work is that they apply collective pressure on individual behavior to conform to a set of common values or norms. “This is how we do things, so if you’re going to be part of this community you can’t do that and you need to do these other things instead. If you fail to conform, there may be consequences that may have a negative impact on you. If you conform, you will reap benefits, like special recognition and improved social standing.” That’s how it works.
Years ago I read somewhere about some tribe in Africa that achieves conformity in a way that I like. When a member of the tribe commits what we might call a crime against someone else, they are brought to whatever the town square is and the tribe would love them up, point out what that individual is contributing to their community, and generally trying to fortify their self worth, maybe even holding them in an embrace to demonstrate love and acceptence. The theory behind the practice is that if someone does such a thing to the community it is a red flag that indicates that the person is feeling low self esteem or feeling separated from the Community in some way that’s important to THEM. It makes sense and I think we’d be better off if WE did that.
To be a part of any community you have to join or accept the values or norms of that community. When the norms or values of the community evolve or change, some members might find the new direction uncomfortable or unacceptable. When they do, the individuals are then faced with deciding what to do in response. Sometimes they might acquiesce and sometimes they might separate from the community. Maybe spin off, like a TV series, and form their own community where the offending value doesn’t exist.
We each live in a series of communities, some are ahead of us and some are behind us. For example, I live in the Gay Community. Communities ahead of me would be Portland, The State of Oregon, The Unites States, the Global Community and then, maybe, Humanity. Behind me might be things like, the Drag Community, the Gay Recovery Community, The Leather community and the Gay Social Service Community; stuff like that. Some values or norms filter through those communities from ahead of us. For me, that would be something like stealing or murdering is not cool.
The Gay community splintered off from the Portland, and those other communities forward of us, because we found discrimination against us unacceptable. Those values and norms excluded us. I’m a member of that splintered off community and some of the communities behind that. The reason I bring this up right now is that the Gay Community I’m a part of is changing/evolving and this one feels like a big one. Gender Identity.
I have a FaceBook friend that I believe is a lesbian woman. She is being absolutely pilloried in the comments, sometimes with a viciousness that I find appalling, for her belief that, because of gender identity, there is no longer a definition of what a woman is. She reports that she is receiving pressure from her community to conform to the idea that anyone of any gender can identify as any other gender and, to be accepted/respected in the community, SHE must accept and respect that, up to and including dating a man who identifies as a woman. She feels she is being ostracized from her community for not being open to dating men who identify as women. And,,, well,,, she IS!
I want to stand up for her today. Right now, and I sincerely hope this is a phase in our evolution, we are in a space of inclusion of gender diversity. I think that’s a GOOD thing. The inclusion part, I mean. How it is occurring? Maybe not so much.
To respect gender identity diversity, we are being taught a new language. Men can no longer be assumed to be men, and women can no longer be assumed to be women. Neither of them can be assumed to be any gender at all, or any combination of the above. The debate in our community is whether a man, who identifies as a woman, IS a woman, or not? My answer to that is, No, and I THINK My FaceBook Friend’s is too. Is a woman, who identifies as a man, actually a man? My answer again is, No.
There are only 3 biological genders: Male, Female and Hermaphrodite. I consider Transgendered people to BE the new gender they have medically transitioned to and maybe they always were. During the transformation, I don’t know. Maybe temporarily hermaphrodite? But, can a man, who identifies as a woman, be treated and respected as a woman? My answer to that is, yes. Can a woman, who identifies as a man, be treated and respected as a man? My answer is, Yes, to that too.
The problem is that we are speaking English and the English Language is gender specific to male and female, when it comes to people. Some other languages are even worse in that they even assign gender to inanimate objects. One of the reasons I love English so much is because throughout my educational career it could ALWAYS be relied upon to rescue my grade point average from the damages caused by my math scores. I also love it because it’s one of the key methods I use to communicate. My life’s work, and my only degree, has always revolved around communications. That’s what I do.
So we need to develop new language skills. Got it, but the new language, the way WE’RE doing it, contrasts with the rules of the language we speak. The very foundation of any language is that we have a point of reference for what the words we use, mean. If we don’t agree on that, we aren’t communicating. There’s little point to having language to begin with. For example, we use They and Them to refer to a plurality of individuals. Now we need to adapt to using They and Them to refer to an individual as well. It disrupts communication and diffuses the meanings of words. Are we talking about 1 person, or more than 1 person?
I like Star Trek. It’s very forward thinking in a way that I think we, as a community, are trying to be. In the first Star Trek MOVIE, I found it striking when I first heard the new Captain of The Enterprise Referred to Kirstie Alley’s character as Mr Savik. Throughout the movie everyone was referred to as Mister, or their respective rank, regardless of what gender they appeared to be. It had that definitive sound to it. Like, “We’re not going to get distracted by this semantic debate, we have work to do.” Everyone, regardless of gender is referred to with the same term. Frankly, I wouldn’t bat an eyelash over being called Mistress Franklyn if it were the universally accepted term of respect for all genders. But, please, let’s just pick one! I’ll adapt. That’s PART of the intent in changing the language in this new era of a gender identity rainbow; to treat everyone equally and with respect. We don’t have to learn a new language to do that. We already have everything we need. Besides, with the door open to this new rainbow of gender identities, I wonder if anyone noticed NABLA trying to get in under our umbrella.
The OTHER part of gender identity, the part that my FB friend is referring to, is not so easy. I love Drag Queens! I think my credentials in that regard are pretty secure at this point. I love them because I enjoy their company and because of their role in our fight for human rights as our “Canary in a Coalmine”. Throughout our History Drag Queens have been the tip of the spear for us and I haven’t forgotten. (And, let’s not forget, most of these girls are a boatload of fun to hang out with and I will NEVER attempt to drink one under the table again,,, full stop!)
I would not, however, have sex with a Drag Queen, in face, and I’m not having anyone, including my community, pressure me into doing so out of political correctness, or for any other reason, for that matter. That’s a bridge to far for me. That’s personal and you don’t get to decide that. I do.
I love the Gay Community, and for all intents and purposes, it appears to love me too, for which I’m forever grateful. But if the day ever comes when it tries to “apply collective pressure on individual behavior to conform to a set of values or norms” that requires, or even encourages, me to couple up with someone I don’t want to be with, it will be time to re-evaluate my choice to be a part of it.