Sunday, April 24, 2016

Lionel Shriver on gender and identity

Novelist Lionel Shriver wrote a lengthy piece on the trend of gender as feeling for Prospect Magazine. Whether you think gender is innate of societal, the entire article is worth chewing through. (Personally, I tend to see the gray area, which is, apparently, unfashionable these days). She says:
We have entered instead an oppressively gendered world, in which identity is more bound up in one’s sex than ever before. (Note: dictionary definitions regard gender and sex as interchangeable, and I will, too.) As Jemima Lewis wrote in the Daily Telegraph in March: “You can be agender, bi-gender, cisgender, demigender, graygender, intergender, genderless, genderqueer or third gender—but by God, you will accept a label.” The gay and lesbian world having gone so mainstream as to become a big bore, western media has moved on to an enthrallment with trans- genderism bizarrely out of proportion to the statistical rarity of true gender dysphoria—though children and people generally being so suggestible, the condition will doubtless grow more common. Facebook has extended its gender options beyond the 71 it reached a year ago (thrillingly, two options in this dizzying smorgasbord of self-definition are “Man” and “Woman”). Users are now allowed to infinitely customise their profiles. As the Facebook Diversity Team published, “Now, if you do not identify with the pre-populated list of gender identities, you are able to add your own. As before, you can add up to 10 gender terms…”
Age has a lot to do with this, as a lot of the pushback has come from women my age or older who grew up in a world with fewer opportunities, but also fewer sexualized images from an early age. As someone who could probably claim a "genderqueer" or "agender" identity, but doesn't, it does feel as though we're creating more boxes instead of opportunities, and the option to not identify with gender somehow doesn't exist. If there were a stagnant definition of cis, I'd be fine to use it for myself -- or not. As it stands right, if cis simply means not trans, then I guess I am. If cis means "identifies" with birth gender, then I guess I am not. But claiming a different one (particularly as an old person) feels a lot like opting out, and even though I don't "feel" female I feel a responsibility toward womanhood.