Are there more than two genders? Is human sexual expression limited to straight, bisexual, and gay? How much should people ‘enforce’ these assumptions on others?
The battle for pronoun supremacy is a battle for control over who gets to define what is and is not accepted orthodoxy on human expressions of sexuality and gender. But are the participants in that battle even asking the right questions? Is the question about gender and sexuality, or is it about co-existence?
My Starting-Point Assumptions: Men and women ARE different, biologically, and, through biology alone, they have built-in tendencies, in aggregate, that super-majorities of “male” and “female” share.
Language reflects that super-majority reality. There are many people who either have more in common with people in a different biological group from their own, or they fit (at something approaching an even distribution of shared tendencies) with both “male” and “female” groups.
Yet still, I believe, the biological reality of human, at present, and, at least for the foreseeable future (let’s just be real conservative and say 20 years, though I imagine it’s much longer than that), will continue to reflect fundamental biological differences between a super-majority of people who share mostly “male” or “female” built-in tendencies that match their genital-reality.
I suspect, at minimum, significant minorities of people who sexually connect to either the opposite biological sex or have multiple potential biological sex connections, still mostly fall within the built-in tendencies of ‘gender’ groups that match their biological sex reality.
As a result of this ‘reality,’ languages MOSTLY evolved to reflect this male-female framing of the world. This reality may, to some degree, be an intentional social influence signal to continue to reject sexual and/or gender expressions that don’t match the more prevalent, and currently prevailing, gender and sexual expressions (male and female only, heterosexuality).
I suspect that, while this use of language as a social influence signal could very well be a factor in this development and preservation of ‘male-female-only’ pronouns in language, the ‘practical’ necessity of male-female-centric languages is born from the overwhelming majority of people who fit into those categories.
The Language-Structure Problem: The question in language becomes, is it even possible for language to express what seems to be an unlimited number of classifications for the new gender and sexual expression reality? Introducing these types of pronoun structures adds a whole layer of complexity across a vast range of language expressions. For instance, each new pronoun requires a mastery of not just the new base pronoun, but all of its variations (past, future, present tense, etc.).
For a language like Spanish, that uses male-female endings on verbs, adverbs, adjectives and nouns, the level of complexity introduced in that language would be even greater, I believe, than it would be for English.
If your mission is to actually foster environments in which people who have “alternative” sexual and gender expressions can coexist with everyone else, then expanding our understanding of “male,” “female,” and all points in between and even outside our current conventions, can preserve the usefulness of a male-female-centered language, while counteracting the tendency of that language structure to inadvertently stigmatize deviations from the convention of language “norms” like pronouns for ‘gender.’
An expanded understanding of what “male” is, what “female” is, and how people sometimes fall outside these parameters, would combat the tendency of male-female-centered language to reinforce negative social signals that demonize people who fall outside that prevailing paradigm.
Because of this, I don’t favor fundamental structural changes to reflect a ‘reality’ that a significant minority of people actually experience.
The Coerced-Enforcement Problem: For reasons that have to do more with how I fundamentally view human governance than my view of expressions of sexuality and gender that fall outside ‘traditional’ parameters, I oppose pretty vigorously ANY attempt to invoke government guns to ASSURE a preservation of this current male-female paradigm OR to assure the DESTRUCTION of this current male-female paradigm.
With that out of the way, I am open to these discussions. I am open to exploring ways in which we can become more self-aware of the potential of language conventions to reinforce cultural ‘assumptions’ that are no longer prevailing assumptions.
The problem is, the conversation begins with invalidation and dismissal of anyone who falls into the traditional biological and sexual expressions of male-female, and heterosexuality (or upholds their ‘usefulness’).
The Top-Down Strategy: The conversation begins with assumptions of guilt (cis privilege, etc), and an assumption of penance that never actually redeems you (become an ‘ally’ and sacrifice your life, your happiness, your resources, for paying for the crimes you and your kind made, and will continue to make just because of who you are biologically).
It does not require an act of intellectual jujitsu to assess that the type of top-down impositions of anti-traditional expressions of sexuality and gender being pushed by very vocal, and near-militant minorities will soon create (is already creating, albeit in what are, so far, small minorities of people) a negative stigmatization of traditional gender and sexual expressions.
The closing of doors, the cessation of discourse, all follows from people who recognize the fundamental disadvantage to them personally of accepting the new terms of engagement being proposed and imposed (wherever and whenever possible) by the enforcers of this top-down imposition of ‘new’ gender and sex expressions.
The space to accommodate without devastating is near-gone, as the ‘traditionalists’ and the ‘alternativists’ find themselves feeling the need to invoke government guns to impose, strengthen, and preserve THEIR gender and sexual expression orthodoxy on everyone else. After all, if they don’t do it to them first, they’ll end up getting it done to them.
The Imposing Limitations of Enforcement through Coercion: Facing the complexity of human expression in gender and sexuality is, I believe, an ultimately positive development in aggregate human understanding.
Efforts by BOTH ‘camps’ to place the other in the category of subhuman for merely expressing support or opposition to traditional or alternative human expressions of gender and sexuality, are significantly stifling what could otherwise be a progressive advance of the aggregate human understanding of ‘gender’ and ‘sexuality’ as an observations of what is and not an attempt to enforce subjective valuation of these expressions on everyone, with the implied and direct threat of government guns behind the enforcement.
Without the threat or execution of government guns or protected near-monopolistic corporate state-protected and enabled actions, the ‘evolution’ of human understanding of ‘gender’ and ‘sexuality’ will organically, and from the bottom up emerge in the languages humans use to communicate with one another.
With the threat of government guns and corporate market assassinations looming over increasingly minor “infractions” of the accepted ‘alternative’ codes for expression, the ‘traditionalists’ are bound to become even more militant to ‘alternative’ expressions than they were before the top-down impositionists began their damaging, community-destabilizing ‘work.’
The opportunity to understand the nuances of human expression, the opportunity to experience live-and-let-live coexistence that would allow for less-common expressions to flourish (without demonizing more common expressions) is diminishing as the total war for total control between ‘traditionalists’ and ‘alternativists’ continues, so far, unabated.
Concerns for individual self-determination are dismissed as veiled bigotry, with the language of the concerned individualist being deemed dog-whistles for racists and bigots. Of course, the expressions of people concerned for individual self-determination versus orthodox compliance with alternative expressions of sexuality and gender ARE actually dog whistles, sometimes, for ACTUAL racists and bigots.
But these dog whistlers, for the most part, represent a significant minority of people who use the same terms (but not as dog whistles).
Thus, the Alternativists have created subhumans, subhumans you don’t talk to, you destroy. So, in that climate, the people who would still be bold enough to speak out are actual racists and bigots, and a few courageous people who find risking their lives and livelihoods worth attempting to beat back the tyranny they perceive is coming (or, for some, is already here).
On the other side, the traditionalists, recognizing (I think rightly) the very bad disadvantage to themselves for allowing these coercively enforced anti-traditional standards to take hold, are working to have the power to do to that alternativists what they fear is already being done to them. Their reaction is the same as the alternativists, who (I believe) are operating every bit as much (if not more) from a defensive mindset rather than an offensive one.
They (like the alternativists) mostly don’t care how other people live their lives, but they perceive a ‘need’ to destroy them before they themselves are destroyed.
Of course, I believe MOST of the fears of both camps are unfounded and exaggerated but, there is some truth (mostly) to even some of the most seemingly outrageous claims by both camps. If I am right about this, then the small amount of truth enables a big amount of exaggeration and demonization of the other.
I have little doubt that BOTH camps have elements within that truly and deeply hate one another. These people are ACTUAL bigots and/or racists. I have little doubt that the noisy bombast of these camps will feature, disproportionately, glaring examples of this racism and bigotry. But I still assume that the overwhelming majority of people don’t so much as HATE the other as they FEAR the other. By that I mean, for them, the mere existence of the other camp is not a threat to them at all, if they didn’t believe that the existence of that camp MUST be an existential threat to their own camp.
If you removed the perceived threat, these camps can coexist. This is not true for all competing camps, but, I believe, it is true for these camps, the ‘traditionalists’ and the ‘alternativists.’
I believe it is fear of assault rather than direct hatred of belief that gives ‘legitimacy’ to supporting actions that do not align with an authentic live-and-let-live approach to your neighbors.
Humans stifle their own (in aggregate) opportunities to come to more nuanced understandings of who and what humans are, at their core.
I suspect that until the assumption of diverse, less common, expressions of human sexuality and gender have become a ‘natural’ assumption that still gives “respect” and “tolerance” to more common expressions of human sexuality and gender, the ‘traditionalists’ and ‘alternativists’ will continue to fight a winner-take-all-war.
That war has a grand prize, the means of enforcement (be it with DIRECT threat or use of government guns, or INDIRECT threat or use of government guns through state-protected and enabled corporate monopolistic actions) of the preferred expressions of human sexuality and gender on everyone else.
The False Choice:
1. ‘We’ gut culture intentionally of all the structures that support the vast majority of people.
2. ‘We’ continue to perpetuate dangerous climates for people who don’t fall neatly into the traditional understanding of human sexual and gender expressions.
Either outcome is not appealing to me, not in the slightest. Both outcomes reassert authoritarian assumptions that legitimize violence against people who have not DIRECTLY harmed or threatened to harm others.
Both outcomes continue to give the ‘state’ the ideational power (people assume the state’s role in enforcing the proper language expressions on people is a natural function of the state) that it can hurt you for deviating from the accepted expressions of sexuality and gender (be it traditional or alternative).
The Traditionalist Perspective for Peace: So long as I am not deemed evil, racist, bigoted, etc, for daring to believe that homosexuality is a sin, or that transgenderism is a mental illness, I might be more open to hearing critiques of how I can express myself in ways that, though I might not approve of your sexual or gender expression, I can accommodate individuals who fall outside the prevailing expressions of sexuality and gender in ways that could make visible to them my preference to assess them on the merits of their interaction with me as an individual and not how I might feel about how they express human sexuality and gender.
I am not existentially threatened by your expressions. I do not wish for you to feel existentially threatened by my expressions.
The Alternativist Perspective For Peace: So long as I am not deemed a freak, so long as I’m not called evil, so long as I’m not called a thing, so long as I’m not outlawed and criminalized, I might be more open to hearing how traditional expressions of human sexuality and gender might have their usefulness after all. Maybe I can begin to see that my desire to reflect non-traditional expressions of gender and sexuality will not be impeded, or demonized, by the continued existence of traditional expressions of sexuality and gender.
Summary: We don’t need to approve of each other to resist demonizing each other. Traditional and alternative expressions of sexuality and gender CAN coexist, the moment they stop demanding conformity, demanding approval, demanding protection by government guns, demanding enforcement by corporate powers.
As humans grow in their understanding of sexual and gender expression, it is possible that some form of new traditional sexual and gender expressions will emerge, ‘naturally,’ organically, in an emergent way, not in a top-down, central planning and engineering of the masses kind of way. I’m not afraid of those possibilities.
And I would ask “alternativists” not to be afraid of the possibility that ‘traditional’ gender and sexual expressions might for a very long time be the biological ‘reality’ for a VAST majority of humans.
Either way, the use of coercion to enforce, protect, and strengthen your particular assumptions of what are ‘legitimate’ expressions of sexuality and gender only helps to perpetuate the oppressive and rewarding nature of the state, which has the power to pick the winners and losers in society, with little actual regard to aligning those selections with the underlying biological reality of ‘human.’
There are a lot more win-win opportunities out there that are being cut off with this winner-take-all battle for the enforcement of YOUR particular notions of what should be deemed “legitimate” and “illegitimate” expressions of sexuality and gender.
The potential to co-exist far outstrips the artificial hindrances we have created for one other, all to give us space, comfort, security in “knowing” our actions (which might, on the surface, appear to be pretty vicious and unwarranted) are justified by the fact that we’re destroying a virus that could kill us all.
No one needs to die or be financially destroyed for peaceful people to coexist, even when they don’t full approve, or even understand, others’ expressions. All you have to do is remove the assumption of the ‘right’ to coerce dissenters for merely having a different ‘expression’ than you have.