Saturday, October 15, 2011


I'm male, white and straight. As my friend said to me 'your stars are all aligned' I have a frictionless path through the norms of the society I live in and thus little to gain by understanding the world through the prism of LGBTIQ issues.

Why then touch anything remotely gender studies related? Well for me the exercise is probably intellectual, reexmining 'gender' is like having your thumb pressed over the hose of a beer bong (hear me out). The social conditioning of gender is so omnipresent in everyday life that the exercise of actually thinking about it is like removing your thumb from the onrush of alcoholic beverage that you have no choice but to swallow and makes you feel confused and disoriented in a short space of time.

I thought though I should post my views about gender before I actually get enlightened so I can go back and compare after the process of reading books on the subject. So here in no particular order is a list of my probably naive and ignorant views.

Lou Gehrig

Malcolm Gladwell is fond of an old Jewish saying 'To a worm in horseradish the world is horseradish.' To which my operating assumption is, to people whom Gender is an active part of their identity... I should clarify what I mean by that. My gender is not a part of my identity, by which case it is, but it's just a box I tick and don't think much about much like my street address or postcode, it occupies the same conscious importance. Although I do feel like a Northern Suburb person trapped in an Eastern Suburb often... so yes.

But for people who are oft, identified as having a Gender Identity Disorder (GID) clinical words not mine, I imagine gender becomes a big part of your identity, not just a box you tick but a constant confrontation. If you don't neatly fit in one of two boxes, that struggle to define your gender can occupy a large part of your conscious life. To be melodramatic it can become your whole life.

Now if you are not already aware or have deduced, pretty much all the thinking I do is of the 'quick and dirty' variety, I argue almost always from analogy, and equivocate things. So to borrow for convenience the dubious GID label, people identified with GID to me are similar to people suffering Lou Gehrig's disease. That is it's A) beyond their control, B) a huge part of their life C) not broadly thought about by society.

I imagine that there are differences as well to having a debilitating condition and GID's for one thing, if you are suffering from Lou Gehrig's disease your family will probably rally round you in support rather than passively or actively oppose your treatment/identity etc. Also, you are probably more likely to be in sync with your families desire to NOT have Lou Gehrig's disease. This is why such thinking of mine is quick and dirty.

Gender is Quick and Dirty

All binary thinking is. And it works, in the same way as a 'rule of thumb' works. Or in the same way that left and right handedness works, with exceptions like Ambidexterity and people with no coordination whatsoever like John Howard.

But when I say 'works' I must admit that it is confronting to think of how few situations where it actually needs to. All of the situations to me involve sexual preference. That is public change rooms, and people's aversion to perverts.

I have a sexual preference, I don't want a cock in me, ever. I'm sure there are many guys that identify as straight that wouldn't mind being penetrated by a ladies finger or taken to by a woman wearing a strap on, I am not as far as yet, one of those guys.

Some people have two preferences, others a whole rainbow spectrum. But nevertheless, women who want women and women who want men would probably neither appreciate me arbitrarily identifying as 'F' and taking a seat in their change rooms. Or even getting changed in their changerooms.

Will the future see more unisex public toilets? This is often the norm in small restaurants, many public parks, some bars and the Ally McBeal office. As someone who quickly and dirtily identifies as male, I feel this would only result in everyone losing. There are a bunch of guys, who piss all over the seats. I don't understand their psychology, I don't think I want to, I don't identify with these 'men' as being in the same gender category to me and often affix 'not-real' to the identifier men.

Aside from that, mens and womens clothing is pretty arbitrary and 'men's and women's jobs' is archaic. Gender shouldn't actually crop up that often.


'Real' is the important qualifier. I most often hear the term 'Real man' and can't think of a time when I heard somebody use 'real woman' more often hearing 'whole-lotta-woman' or 'proper lady'. But real-men is used, by myself and others.

If I had to guesstimate, to anyone transitioning genders or even gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, the issues are mostly centered on the word 'real'. I feel notions of 'real men sleep with real women' and vice versa to be not worth my talking about it, because anyone educated enough to use the term 'zenith' or 'nadir' in a conversation is probably not going to rough up gays and lesbians.

But to somebody born with an Xand Y chromosome that feels trapped in a 'male' body and wishes to become a female faces the uphill battle of ever being acknowledged as female.

This is gender identity issues as far as I thus far understand, these labels that seem obligatory in our society and the difficulty with which some people find to get identified as one and not the other, both or neither.

So you were born, raised as a female on account of your vagina, told you were a female but always inside knew you were male. You manage to consciously articulate this to yourself, then to others, then chose to start identifying as a male, then you told me and I was all like 'dude, you're a lady.'

I reject your chosen gender identity. This is not because I have known you for ever, disrespect you and wish to oppress you, but because your life consists of situations where you are introduced to a stranger like me and my eyes, ears, possibly nose are making quick and dirty decisions about whether you are male or female, and I will come to a (probably) subconscious decision one way or the other as to your gender and in most if not all cases will think it rather than say it.

And that is annoying, upsetting etc. for anybody transgender or 'suffering' from a 'GID'. I after reading up, may come to be less assuming about what one's gender is upon meeting and even now would probably say 'I stand corrected' if my normative assumptions are contradicted by what people report to me.

But seemless, frictionless integration into what my life is like as a 'male' is the dream and the nightmare to achieve by anyone transitioning in the male direction. They can have surgery, take hormone treatments and order a whole new wardrobe, but children 6 and upwards are going to look at them like something isn't right (and some will come to identify with them, which is heroic) in the same way that people don't trust assymetrical faces instinctively.

To my current speculation/understanding surgical solutions to gender identity are imperfect, and in my view perhaps quite imperfect, in the same way that somebody who's conscious experience rejects the 'normal' number of limbs and has a strong desire to have an arm amputated that is mechanically and cosmetically 'perfect' is hard to understand, I'm sure if growing a new 'male' or 'female' body in a vat and then having your conscious transferred to it was an option, almost no gender transition surgery or hormone treatment would take place.

If we could hang our physical bodies on a rack in a wardrobe and switch as easily as we can clothes, almost none of these issus would exist and they'd be replaced with a whole bunch of new ones.

So in summarium of the 'real' man and 'real' woman topic, I empathise with both sides. It is far easier to negatively screen man and woman than it is to come up with a checklist of qualities that make you a man or a woman. Having said that even negative screening is a difficult undertaking.

I chose to identify myself as 'tohm' that's my name. It is annoying and perplexing to see people inevitably pronounce my name 'to-HM' when they first learn of this vanity, even after people figure out it's pronounced 'tom' like 'john' is pronounced 'jon' people often miss the fact that I always spell my name with a lower-case 't' and don't use a surname. Because of all the boxes in society, I am required to fill out a surname for email accounts, jobs, facebook etc.

My choice to identify as tohm is not one I ever expect the world to embrace, that a consciousness raising campaign would rectify and that my wikipedia page wouldn't include 'born Thomas William...' somewhere in the introductory paragraph. It's annoying, but it is part of my identity, and not as actively or passively rejected or confronted as something like gender. But people's insistence on pronouncing the 'h' is what I would call a normative or natural reaction. It is not worth actively getting frustrated with, people get over it and come to accept it.

I imagine one by one, people will accept your gender or sexual preference in time, their ability to do so also becomes their problem not yours. (though yes, there may be real consequences for you).

A numbers game

I have little to say beyond the fact that I believe gender to simply be one of those quick and dirty rules that works for most but not for some. They are clusters though rather than boxes, with overlap and hazy edges, and simplifying them into boxes has come with a huge bunch of problems for a relatively small bunch of people.

I just read that 1 in 2000 babies born has 'ambiguous' genitalia and requires an expert to determine the 'true' sex of the child. Physicallity of sex aside, the number of people who are queer in gender and/or preference must be a significantly larger proportion.

I don't know/don't care to much about the exact numbers, suffice to say I'm sure that any of the LGBTIQ crowd or combined are still a minority. I am a member of a minority myself being left handed, and as a lefty I wonder if that ratio were to hit 1 in 10 or higher (and for LGBTIQ to achieve some kind of actual solidarity, I have seen little of the LGBTIQ but I'm pretty sure it's a capital 'L' a giant 'G' and then diminishing b-t-i-q's in terms of causes identified with by the protest turn outs) then many of these issues would need addressing.

Whether you have the most obscure gender identity issues on the planet, I firmly believe that nobody, NOBODY is worth neglecting, or passive or active rejection from society. Well, fucken antisocial 'criminals' but gender identity is neither anti social nor criminal in my view. But if the numbers were large the issues would probably be addressed.

I was in primary school at a time when I actually had to ask for left-handed scissors and teachers went scurrying off to find the few pair the school owned. They had their own colours and picked me out in class like armbands in a warsaw ghetto. Except primary school bears no real comparison to the holocaust (or Poland), but eventually some genius figured out that it would be easier just to make/order ambidextrous scissors.

I hope increasingly society defaults to pansexual solutions, and gender identity becomes an ever diminishing part of everyone's life. In the same way I hope for a future where it is no big deal for any guy in any bar to approach another guy romantically and for 'sorry I'm straight' to be the response rather than 'get away from me you fucken' queer!'.

Which I guess I'm saying, how I would naturally react when meeting Chaz Bono for the first time in said future, I don't know, I really don't know.

But I should point out that Lou Gehrig's disease is a horrible condition and we should all do what little we can to help find a cure, ease the lifestyles of those who are afflicted with it.

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