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  • I wanna talk about Gender

  • I don't think most of us really know what it is. And not just because it's a slippery term that stands in front of a whole bevy of different ideas. It's because we don't like to talk about a lot of the ideas we put it in front of.

    Gender is a placeholder for a variety of cultural assumptions we use to grease the wheels of our socialization. It tells us how we should act and react around each other, what behavior is polite and appropriate, who is meant to lead and who to follow, who rears the children, who keeps the house, and most important of all, who does the grilling.

    In short, gender is a cheat-code. When you know someone's gender you skip over a whole lot of getting to know you that is very challenging in a society where talking about the details of how we like to be treated is verboten. But the thing is, in typical fashion we don't want to have to learn lots of different genders or understand the motivations and communication styles of all the different ways people might be treated. So we arbitrarily decided there were two genders. Only two cheat-codes to remember to know how to treat everyone correctly and not have to care about them or learn anything about them as individuals.

    It's really a lot more complicated than that. Because, generally, the rules of politeness have factors that confound or contradict gender. It is not universally acceptable for a woman to ask a man out on a date. But it is considered impolite for a woman to ask a gay man out on a date. What is 'Proper' treatment requires cross-referencing between multiple demographics. And those intersections are not always as clear cut as folks might like to imagine.

    Age too, plays a factor, as does race, class, and every other demographic you can imagine. In actuality the rules of polite society are an org-chart of privilege in a given culture. But as you get higher towards the top of the org-chart, your behaviors and relationships are that much more restricted, because you are essentially the paragon of all the folks beneath you.

    This is why politicians, as a rule, are so incredibly bland.

    But back to gender. I think it would all be much easier if we simply made those things clear. If knowing my gender meant that you know HOW I WANT TO BE TREATED. No complex hierarchy of oppression and class. If I wanted to be referred to and express myself primarily through a combination of stoic behavior towards women and macho behavior towards men my gender might be Male. Because knowing that I'm a male lets you know that I prefer you to treat me as someone ready to fulfill that role.

    Because gender can and should be a tool of class liberation. Because the most accurate term for my gender is 'submissive.' Because we will not be reduced to the clothes we wear, the shape or composition of our body, our favorite color, or our career.

    Because I want you to know that I'm uncomfortable being in charge. Because you need to know that I bend and defer easily and that I am genuinely happy to do so. Because I want you to know that I am smart, strong, capable, and effective. Because you should know that praise is important. Because belonging and inclusion is all I've ever craved and what I've often been denied.

    When knowing my gender can tell you that we'll have it right. When we can know how people want to be treated, and treat them accordingly we'll be far better off.