A Superlong Essay. Of sorts.
An infant boy in North America heard the words no boy ever wants to hear whispered over his head at his own circumcision:
In a case that has now become extremely influential in how we study and look at gender, the unfortunate parents of Joan/John were simply advised to raise their even more unfortunate son as a girl after a horribly botched circumcision. It’s all coo’, the doctors may have told them. After all, what is gender? A mere construct of society. We’re not BORN girls or boys… we only know we’re girls because we’re put into pink dresses or know we’re boys because we’re told to be tough. Give anyone the right hormones and the right colors from an early enough age and they’ll be any gender you want them to be.
30 some odd years, countless heartache and one suicide later, it seemed that with Joan/John at least, this wasn’t the case. And some people picked up their heads and said… wait a minute. Wait one hot damn minute. Maybe…. this is crazy guys… but maybe… sex…. might not be an artificial social construct after all…
In 2011, it turns another circle. A couple in Canada are now supposedly raising a ‘genderless’ child. What does that mean, you’re asking? That the kid is a hermaphrodite? No, the baby was born with a definitive sex, but they believe that the gender of their child is ‘private’, that nobody has the right to know what you have between your legs unless you feel like telling them, and since society is what determines our gender, other than the family members and the few people they have chosen to tell, the baby’s gender will remain amorphous until… well, I don’t know until when. Until the child can choose it hirself.
As one of the most gender flexible-tolerant people I know, all I can say to that is:
What. The. Crap. is WRONG with people?
Puttin’ the Cart Before the Horse
Think back to the Beaver Cleaver era. Of TV dinners and Little League games and vacuuming with your pearls on. Seemed like back then all anyone wanted to be was ‘normal’. Parents might have thought: Please, let my John not be gay, please let my Marsha not be a stinky hippie. Now it seems like a lot of ‘progressive’ parents are falling right to the other end of the spectrum. Please let my Jeysihn (pronounced Jason) not be straight; please let my Isabellynna Evangelinica Twilight not want to play with a Barbie doll. It seems like in the rush to not be the stodgy, intolerant parent who fucks up their kids by not accepting them for who they are, parents are trying to make their kids as weird as possible. ‘My 7eys92 (pronounced Kevin) likes to stick his penis in a jar of peanut butter while he wears his sister’s scrunchy around his balls, but I don’t want him to think I don’t accept him, so I’ve just bought another restaurant-sized tub of Jiffy from Costco.’
Jesus. Everyone wants their kid to be yoonique.
Take this Canadian family– no, no, having two genders was good enough for the human race for the last fifty gazillion years, but not for their kid. Kids shouldn’t be hemmed in at birth by such rigid standards! They should be given choices! Obviously, these people have never been tour guides. If they had been, they would know the golden rule: NEVER GIVE PEOPLE CHOICES. It just dragon kicks everything in the face.
Let me explain:
All I Need to Know About Parenting, I Learned From Being a Tour Guide
Being a tour guide is kind of like being a parent. You realize quickly that if you give people options, you’re fucked. Here’s how to lose a lot of people on your tour:
-Uh, so… the bus USUALLY gets here around 4:30, but actually, it doesn’t leave most of the time until 4:35, so you can be here five minutes later, but it’s best if you’re five minutes early, but I can wait for you if the nice bus driver is here today; so if you want to be on time, make sure you take the trail that runs by the snack bar, unless you’re really a fast walker, then you can cut through the secret trail behind the ice cream stand, unless it’s closed, then take the trail down by the waterfall, but only if you walk really fast, so maybe it’s best if you go by the snack bar after all, unless you do really think you can walk fast…
Yep. 50 % of Chatty McTourguide’s group is now lost and being raped by Austrians in the mountains. Game over.
To avoid that, here’s what I say:
The bus if here at 4:30. If you’re not here by 4:30, you will be left behind.
The trail to get to the bus is the one behind the snack bar. If you take any other trail, you will be sexually assaulted by Bavarian bears. See you all at 4:30 sharp. ^-^b
Nobody can teach you how to be a good tour guide. Just like nobody can teach you how to be a good parent. You just gotta go out there, do your job, see what works and what doesn’t–but you can have fun or just as easily stress you and the customers the holy fuck out. I worked with another guide once: She was a great guide, and funny, but from the first half hour, a veritable ball of nerves. Why? Because she kept giving her customers all these OPTIONS. Which confused them–so they kept coming back and asking her the same a-hole questions over and over and over. (And getting lost and not showing up on time and da da da.) I think she figured she was doing them a great service by giving them all these choices, but she was stressed as hell–they could tell–and I wanted so much to tell her. Stop. You are making your job WAY too hard. People who go on a tour do so for a reason: They crave to be told what to do. And I remember thinking then that this was just like with little kids. Little kids also crave to be told what to do. They need that. They have all the time in the world to learn that the world is screwed up, adults are fallible, nothing makes sense, and that wars and politics are just deadlier extensions of games based on rules hardly more substantial than what they play in kindergarten. But try explaining that to a six year old and you’ve really got a problem on your hands. Just like you’ve got a problem if you try to outline the delicate subtleties of Bavarian bus-timing to your customers on your tour.
I say, when you go on a vacation by yourself, you can do whatever you like. When you’re on a tour though, you have to do what mean mommy says. By extension, when you’re an adult, you can have any kind of ideas about what it means to be a boy, girl, male, female, queer, dyke, translesbotron–but when you’re a kid, you should initially be given only two. You’re a girl. Or you’re a boy. (To be continued.) Otherwise, you’re looking at a world of pain; from and for yourself and everybody else.
Before you try to wrap your head around 2 + 2 = 5, it might be helpful to be taught that 2 + 2 usually equals 4.
Get Out of Gender Jail Free
But that’s brainwashing my kids! That’s forcing my world view on them!
To people who think it is constructive to teach little kids from an early age that they can be everything and anything they want to be. I’d like to say: You’re big fat liars. You can’t make societal norms and gender go away. It’s the socio-biological equivalent of insisting Santa exists. Because we are animals and animals all have a sex. Like you. Look between your legs. Unless you’re a very very small sector of society, you either have a dick or a vag. Now, if you are older and you are not happy with what you’ve got, you can put on alternative clothes, use makeup, eat hormones, or deal with it in whatever way you have to. But on the base, biological level, you remain what you were born. Even if I, moof, with my short hair and rather blocky body, were to wear a tux… I have breasts. I have a woman-ass. Others can see that without me wearing pink. True androgyny (true confusion) is elusive and pretty much non-existent. A man can have a woman’s beautiful face, but still have no breasts/adam’s apple. A woman can have a broad shoulders or a flat ass, but still have breasts. Clothes, hair and makeup can mask these things to a certain degree, but unless you have done a serious operation and are taking vigorous hormones, you can’t fool people beyond a double take. i.e., Clothes and hairstyle make a statement about how we feel about our gender, but they cannot define our gender–that is plainly visible for anyone to see.
So the idea that you can ‘hide’ your gender from somebody or that it should be private is incomprehensible to me. You don’t hide your eye-color or your height or your face from people. These things are superficial, so why couldn’t anybody see them? They are not the definition of you. Just like your dick or your pussy or your facial hair is not the definition of you. Your gender is how YOU feel about who you are vis a vis malefemale in your soul, and that has nothing to do with dolls or fire-trucks. It can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. It can be something you think about all the time. It can be something you never gave a second thought to in your life, no more than you questioned your height. It’s individual, which is not the same as personal, private, or secret. And it doesn’t change just because you wear a pink dress or tell people clearly: Yes, this is my son.
There’s no such thing as iGender.
Did Steve Jobs Make Gender Up?
If I want my kid to fly to the moon, telling him gravity doesn’t exist will get him fuck-nowhere. But teaching him about the limitations imposed by gravity, of physics and of aerodynamics, when he is old enough to understand such concepts, might. If I want my kid to be open-minded, teaching him that he has no physical/social limits will only warp his sense of reality. Because that’s not how it works. Instead, why not teach kids once they’re mature enough to get it: Hey. This is how you were born. You cannot change that. This is how people will see you and expect you to act. You cannot change that either. But there is the way you can see yourself and even reflect that onto other people. There is the freedom of the mind, as a wise friend of mine said to me once. However.
The freedom of the mind does not manifest on the playground with other six year olds. Nor does it express itself on your dentist’s fill-out form. These are not the venues for complex, subtle ideas about genders–they are the places where ‘check M or F’ should suffice. It’s crude, sure–to paraphrase Churchill, like democracy, it kind of sucks–but it’s still the best we’ve got.
And who knows? In this day, when everyone wants their kid to be so different–some kids (a lot even, I would argue) still probably want to be like everyone else. Whatever that is. And I’d argue that if people have the freedom to be different, they should also have the freedom to be the same. Ordinary even. There is nothing wrong in wanting to be an ordinary little girl who likes pink and lipstick. Freedom isn’t about being totally unclassifiable; that’s just vulgar freakishness for freakishness’ sake.
I say it’s about feeling comfortable with yourself, no matter who you are; a freak of nature; a weekend wacko or totally ordinary.
So here’s the card, moofies. Take it.
Get out of jail free.