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Why Are People Hiding What Gender Is?
No no no, not “The Gender Binary.” We all know The Gender Binary is “how closely you match shitty 1950s stereotypes as conceived of by early-2000s liberals”. I mean actual gender as it is actually used in the real world. As is obvious to everyone who has spent a lot of time in The Discourse, gender is personality.
I. The Evolution of Gender
Gender used to be a synonym for sex. As such it was binary, because sex is binary. As it was pried away from sex it was recast as stereotypes that are applied to the two sexes. In a certain cultural movement the stereotypes chosen were specifically the worst kinds — beer-swilling thugs and ditzy bimbos. Those who joined the movement cast themselves as outside The Gender Binary, and made themselves as androgynous and asexual as possible.
The memetic advantage of this is self-“other”ing. It visibly sets you apart from the rest of society, which forces the group to rely more on each other and makes integration into wider society harder. The Jehovah’s Witnesses won’t celebrate holidays, birthdays, or say the pledge of allegiance for this reason. It’s a common adaptation for startup subcultures.
As the movement grew and swallowed huge swaths of the population, this Gender Trinary became untenable. For the majority of humanity a choice between dumb stereotypes or castrated asexuals is a hard ask. Fortunately, there is another way.
Back in the Before Times, 10-15 years ago, one could meet women that preferred to "be in charge", women that "saved themselves for marriage", women that "liked to cook (nurture) for others", women that “liked to spit and fuck and swear”, etc. All that was fine, and you were still a woman, cuz “woman” just referred to your sex. That’s how it had been through all of human history—all sorts of expression and personality. And now now that Gender is no longer a synonym for Sex… can’t we just refer to all these different preferences, expressions, and personalities, as “Gender?”
Yes! We can, and now we do! In retrospect it should have been obvious that the culture would evolve a work-around as it grew to include tons of people who need to be in the culture but can’t stomach pigeonholing into one of two equally repulsive options (bimbo/orc or asexual). In every respect, gender is now a bunch of tropes that you choose among that best fit your personality.
I must admit, I was wrong earlier when I said there are infinite genders. There isn’t literally a unique gender for everyone in every mood, because a lot of gendering is ideals and archetypes. Like astrology or Briggs-Myer, there need to be solid easily-graspable tropes for people to grab onto. Fortunately it’s a lot more flexible than those two are. My gender, for example, is Househusband (Poly, Goth, Straight, AGP, Rationalist). There’s a lot of mix-n-match you can do as you identify your own gender. Every time you find an archetype you strive for, an ideal you feel euphoria at embodying, you are living your gender.1
II. The Obfuscation
A fascinating observation presents itself if you spend any time in The Discourse - many people don’t want this to be known. It’s hidden through endless wordplay and veiled language. Constant denials, claims that “it’s something else,” but every functional definition and example roughly distilling to “it’s your personality bro.” Why is this?
One possibility is that it’s a hold over from when Queering The Gender Binary was a major group identifier. Being “Outside The Binary” has to be something special that sets one apart from the pagans and gentiles. It can’t be just personality, because everyone has one of those, there’s nothing special about it. And yet it also can’t exclude anyone that wants to join the movement, so it has to be maximally inclusive. These mutually contradictory goals are possible only if the idea of a gender remains mercurial and ineffable, not unlike a soul.
Another possibility is that it has literally become a matter of doctrine that gender is a special thing that cannot be defined. To define it in a legible way is to profane it. It is supposed to evoke feelings of awe and mystery, which is almost always done by making a concept anti-coherent.
Maybe it’s as a misplaced attempt to protect from anti-trans rhetoric. If gender is just personality, one could ask why someone needs to change their body to have a certain personality. (Irrelevant, adults can do anything they want to their bodies). Or why someone would choose to change their sex but keep a gender that strongly correlates with their natal sex (Irrelevant, sex and gender are separate).
My most uncharitable hypothesis is that it makes for a good weapon to forcefully alter the speech of others. If someone demands you use a certain title for them because it matches their personality, that seems absurd to most people. If they claim is because the title matches their gender and gender is a special sacred thing that all of society agrees is Very Important and Not To Be Disrespected, they’re much more likely to get buy-in.
This, of course, was due to the fact that gender used to be sex, and sex actually is very important. This brings us to:
III. Those Left Behind
I’m quite bullish on this redefinition of gender. There wasn’t any good reason to have a single concept (sex) tied to two different words (sex & gender). And we didn’t really have a word for the kinds of tropes and archetypes that people deeply feel within themselves, aspire to be, feel good when they are expressing them, and want assurance when they are living up to these archetypes well. “Gender” being repurposed for this is perfect!
Unfortunately there’s a lot of people still stuck in the “gender is another word for being a sex.” These people were taught that’s what gender meant, and they are still being told that even by people who have moved beyond that definition themselves. When they get confused by the dissonance between what they’re told and what they’ve observed they are often harassed and shamed. Most find it easier to stay silent and confused. I find this unconscionable. Vandalizing someone’s map of reality is bad juju. It’s the same gaslighting that religions practiced for centuries that kept their subjects in enough epistemic confusion and helplessness that they just shrugged and accepted patent absurdities.
Anyone who cares for his fellow human should proudly reassure them that gender does, indeed, mean personality. Personality in a deep sense. Personality that is mutable over time, that grows and changes with the person. Personality that, for many, brings the most fulfillment and meaning when it shines brightly from a person and touches on everything they do and every way in which they present. There is no Special Gender, but every gender is special to the person that has it. Even Goth Rationalist Poly Househusbands.
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Yes, this means that when you ask What Would Jesus Do you are embodying the Jesus Gender.