note: this is a thread where I am asking questions. I'm not aiming to state things authoritatively and then defend those statements. I'm asking good faith questions because I aim to be a tolerant person and I have questions about these issues that are important to many people.
I'm going to throw out a few basic terms that I think
I understand as they are popularly used by progressives. If any of these rudimentary definitions are wrong, let me know.
- or any essentialism, really- is the idea that you need to possess a given list of traits in order to identify as whatever group or class. In this case, it means that men
have to be like this, and women
have to be like that. It holds these traits as fixed and defines inclusion or exclusion from the group not by self-identification, but by how you match these entries on a rubric. It's my understanding that modern, progressive thought refutes this concept. I totally dig that. It's wrong to tell people that you have to be like this
or you're not who or what you think you are. Boys can play with barbies. Girls can race monster trucks. Nice.
is a term that is meant to say that one who is popularly identified as belonging to one gender actually identifies as belonging to another. This also makes perfect sense to me. If you are born feeling like X, but society tells you you're Y, that is horrible and I can only imagine how distressing it must be. I experienced this a lot as a kid in an overwhelmingly [X religion/cultural group] nation when I didn't feel that way. I wanted to be thought of and regarded as something else, by myself and by others. And something like gender is more penetrating and integral than even that. So I get why this is important.
This is my confusion: modern refutations of gender essentialism say that in order to be X, you don't need to enjoy abc, or prefer abc, or behave like abc. My thought, though, is that this neuters the entire concept of gender. I understand why people should be permitted to say what kind of person they are, and that society shouldn't tell them 'no, you're this type of person'. But in this conceived scenario, where our self-identify is accepted by others as sovereign and primary, doesn't gender as a concept sort of cease to exist? Which is to say, in a world where 'the good guys' get their way and you're never ostracized, marginalized, or pigeonholed based on their expectation of how you ought to be, then don't those titles- those classifications- no longer exist? Doesn't the concept of being a man or being a woman dissipate when we say that 'anyone can be a man' and 'anyone can be a woman'? Note that I'm not saying this critically: I don't see a powerful argument for why those categories should
Now, I get transsexuality, even infinitely on down the timeline. You may be born with your body like this,
but you feel like your body should have been like that. In this biologically, only semi-malleable arena, there are concrete and tangible markers of sex. So no matter how progressive society grows, it seems that transgendered people will always have a spark for their discontent and sense of disorientation or misplacement.
But it doesn't seem like that holds with transgendered individuals. It seems like once we remove the other-ing implicit in assigning values to various genders (maybe a pipe dream, but what I think is the goal, right?) that no one will ever feel as though they were
'assigned' the wrong gender.
Does this mean that in an imaginary world, 500 years down the road, where you can be 'a man' however you want to be or any 'kind' of woman... that there would be no context for wanting to 'change' gender?