Hello. I am a cis-gendered white male. You can safely discount my opinion on this outright, so don’t worry. But as a cis-gendered white male, I am going to tell you my opinion anyway.
In a recent conversation with my wife we discussed gender fluidity and gender identity, along with the idea of sexual orientation. We came to the not unreasonable conclusion that, personally, if sexual identity hadn’t been so distinguished into one of three categories when we were children (those categories being straight, gay or bi) that it would have dramatically changed our lives.
Note: Bi wasn’t really an option in my upbringing mind you. If I’d kissed a man I’d have been gay, no matter how many times I’d screamed that I was bi.
There was also this idea that if you “went” gay, you were always gay. Kiss a man, as a man, and you were gay, forever more. Nothing like this couldn’t be more apparent than when some of my close friends were coming out, and the idea was basically permeated that they couldn’t ever “go back in”, as it were.
This seems quite odd. These days, labels have become rods around which people hang certain ideals. They can be used powerfully to determine someone’s own identity, and also pejoratively as a way to cast them out. Someone who is gay is obviously then not straight, but then again maybe their explicitly saying their not straight deliberately - and so on. This is not an argument about what you personally identify with - I’m not in the business of saying you can’t call yourself something that you feel or believe you are and want to call yourself; that’d be batshit crazy.
Except, of course, that’s one of the biggest issues that the world is trying to grapple with.
One of the hottest topics that has permeated on Twitter is this idea of “TERFs” or Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists. Now, I could go on for hours and hours trying to explain this, but I am not fully qualified to do so (see my disclosure at the top of this post). Instead, I’m going to call it as I see it - these are people who are worried that transwomen (that is, men who have transitioned to be women, so we are clear) are invading spaces that should be “women only” (that is, women born biologically female). They believe that this is an affront to the progress that women have been making towards feministic equality.
The arguments are heated and deep, and also not for me to really talk about (see my disclosure at the top of this post, again). One thing I have noticed though is that it is not really approaching the idea of what the discussion should be about. In the other side of the argument, the idea is that a transwoman is a woman, and that’s something I agree with. I disagree with the TERF argument, for what it is worth (see my disclosure at the top of this post, again please) but the issue I have is that this isn’t the point. It’s like arguing what speed someone is driving at when the car is going in the wrong direction.
It is arguing on a dogmatic basis that the words and labels are the battleground; not the actual rights. See, transwomen have little rights, and almost zero equality or equanimity. So instead of arguing the battleground rules, maybe we should be challenging what purpose the labels actually serve? In time, like the slow move towards sexual orientation becoming a non-issue, so too will gender identity. Those who cling to the idea they are men, or women, or transmen or tranwomen, are having to do so in our society because they are coded that way - that’s the way that the world is, and has been, for years. Like my admission in my first opening salvo - if I had been told that as a kid men and women can fall in love with women and men in any order, combination, or any variation, in a panromantic way (that’s a new label, conjured because the old labels are bullshit) I’d have felt far more secure about feelings that I had about people when I was younger.
And that’s the take away I feel - I’m a man, yes. I have a dick and balls, yes. I am biologically a man and identify as such - I am cis, as in I identify as the biological sex I was given at birth. But as a man I am not the same as any other man - I’m not a stereotypical man, as my wife would attest to. I am a spectrum of feelings and emotions that are not set in stone and are certainly not defined by my penis. My privilege is of course (my curse, I know) but the idea that when I was younger any “feminine thoughts” were supressed for not being “manly” is the same social construct that affected my romantic and sexual feelings towards men and women.
I am not saying I am trans, nor gay - what I am saying is that the spectrum exists and it has to be considered the true battleground, not the archaic definitions of what men and women are. My only solace is that there is a generation of kids growing up who are not caring the same way I did about gender, love and relationships. They will hopefully understand that you will fall in love with a person, and their gender is really immaterial to love, and that they don’t feel any shame or pressure to disavow that love for anyone, and I feel that gender is something that will follow on from that as well.
The Spiral of the post’s title comes when people tie themselves in knots in the old defined labels. Take, for example, the use of “people who menstruate” rather than the word “women”. The argument against this is that you’re erasing women if you change the term to the more generic “people who menstruate”. You’re battling the idea that women are being excluded - deleted, if you will. And you’re right to be worried about that when you consider that every single women right up until maybe right now has been deleted or excluded.
But the issue comes that that are women who don’t menstruate. There are women who have gone through menopause, have had hysterectomies, and biologically don’t menstruate. Then there are transwomen who are women but don’t menstruate, and then there are transmen who do menstruate. So the spiral becomes that trying to be progressive about the term “women” it ends up actually becomes an excluding term.
That’s the spiral. And it’s caused by the labels that exist. And that's the battleground. Don’t play by the old rules, instead make better rules that work better for a future that sees everyone be treated better - and personally, call yourself what you identify as. But be respectful of what others thing and feel.