The Word Rabbit

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This article was written on 14 Apr 2016, and is filled under Uncategorised.

Gender binaries

When I was a young child, I think under the age of five, I had three favourite toys. They were a red wooden sweeping brush, a plastic tea set and a toy iron. Nobody thought this was in any way remarkable and I was free to play with them to my heart’s content. For a long, long time, way past the period when it was considered appropriate, I ate my breakfast from a Peter Rabbit bowl and was quietly implacable about doing so. I was a generally happy, contented kid.

And yet now there is a new school of thought. This school of thought chooses to see life in terms of a fixed gender binary in which there are masculine things and feminine things. A flirtation with either means that person is, in fact, ‘trans’ and should make the transition to the gender whose chosen behaviours match with the hard definition they prefer. It’s as simple and reductive as saying that a preference for pink should make you a boy and a preference for pink should make you a girl.

So if I’d played with that red wooden brush, my parents should, by rights, have filled me full of meds that stopped puberty happening and whisked me briskly through surgery, sharpish. Seeing as I was born in 1973, when gender reassignment was something that the tabloids showed a vile interest in and most definitely not something that happened in our world, I couldn’t have been less interested in it. Life carried on regardless.

I grew up into someone who was not the most masculine of men. Much as I look the part, being quite tall, broad and fundamentally very hairy, I’m not really very good at being blokish. Single sex groups appal me and what is supposed to pass for male banter seems witless and deeply, deeply stupid. Men’s clothes strike me as essentially quite dull and my heart sings when I see a woman imaginatively, brilliantly attired. I find myself caught between the conventionally heterosexual desire to do rude things with her and the much more unsettling desire to wear them.

Were I born now, or perhaps twenty years hence, then I hope that wearing what are now seen as ‘women’s clothes’ in the same way that I played with ‘girl’s toys’ will not be a thing. That said, I’m not a hero and don’t want to stick my head over the parapet. You’ll no sooner see me striding down the high street of my village in high heels or wearing a wrap dress than see me skydiving naked because I don’t want to invite violence or public opprobrium.

But there is now a challenge to this. A narrative abroad in the land tells me I should be a woman if I want to this and nothing is further from the truth. I like being a boy. I like having a cock, like toying with it idly and like the sweet release that comes with a really, really good wank. I have no desire to forfeit this in gender reassignment surgery. Equally, I don’t like makeup, like having my hair cropped short and, although I’ve kissed a couple of boys in the past, remain heterosexual and rather like getting down and dirty with my female partner.

And the narrative is telling other people this, too. For the life of me, I don’t understand why. I’m not anti-trans by any stretch of the imagination. If you feel that you are genuinely in the wrong body, then it must be bloody awful. But people are being forced to conform to a ‘hard’ gender binary which seems to be based on nothing more than muddle-headed tradition. Life is better, people are happier when we realise that many things are neither right nor wrong but can live in a grey area in between where real, genuine freedom lives.

Telling children, whose brains are still developing and whose sense of the world is evolving every day that they’re alive, that they’re the wrong gender is nonsensical and I would almost certainly have run foul of it. Saying the same thing to adults who have had time to think and reflect and to at least think and reflect whether their true gender is congruent with their birth gender is a different thing. It is argued that experiencing puberty would be distressing. If it is, then that’s another thing entirely, but we also need to be aware that for children, distress can be a movable feast. I used to sleep face down in case somebody stole my nose and was distressed if someone took the plug out of the bath before I’d got out because I’d worried I’d go down the plughole with the water. Neither is a good guide to life.

What I’m saying here is that we need to get better, a lot better at living in grey areas between these fixed places that are, in this case, labelled ‘male’ and ‘female.’ People need to be able to choose what characteristics they like based on no more than their own preferences, rather than ones chosen for them based on fealty to a set of stupid qualities whose origins nobody can ever hope to remember. Whether the gender roles are the old fashioned ones, like daddy fixing the car and mummy cooking, which are laughable, or the newly modern ones that look oddly like them and in which mummy wears dresses and daddy wears trousers, they don’t work.

For the sake of our future happiness, we need to move beyond this. All we have to lose are concepts that might make sense to some traditionalists or diehard activists, both of whom are confusingly singing from the same hymn sheet. In exchange, we get the joy of being ourselves. And that’s not a bad swap.

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