Dr Liz Gordon: The Gender Liberationist Front

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Some of you will have read about a ‘gender reveal’ party in the USA last week which went horribly wrong.  A whatty what, I hear you say?  This is apparently a pre-birth get together with friends, last chance to celebrate before the birth, where the parents flash around the latest scans and reveal the biological sex of their nascent child.

The one that went wrong included the use of a certain amount of explosives which caused certain disruption, as you would imagine.

A gender reveal, as any young person will tell you today, is a load of rubbish, as what is actually revealed is the appearance of biological sex organs, not gender.

Confused? Well sex characteristics are the physical bits that we all – or most of us – have that remain ours for life (without surgical intervention).

But gender now… gender is a much more powerful thing. You don’t have to look far back in history to see that the majority of power across nearly all societies was held by men.

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The gender ‘binaries’ are powerful: pink for girl and blue for boy; Mr/Mrs/Ms; cars / dolls; tradie or secretary; high or low earner; carer of children; the list goes on and on.

In short, a gender reveal party heralds not only the sex organs but the living of a particular kind of life.  While in recent generations there has been a significant loosening of who can do what, gendering is still a powerful process.

In some recent research I have been doing, I have been interested to see that there appears to be a significant generational breakdown in views around gender among younger people.

In particular, views about sexuality, gender allocation and the application of pronouns (which used to occur all together, but are now unbundled) have changed and expanded out. It is almost irrelevant whether you identify with the

Sexuality, emerging from that heralded ‘sex’ at pre-birth parties, might now be conceived as straight, gay, bi, pan, queer or any other name that one chooses.

Gender identity is often seen as a fluid state, where a person may choose to be female or male (independent of biological bits), nonbinary, gender queer and so on.  Such identity may change over time.

Pronouns are chosen, not made and may include she/her, he/him; they/them or any or none of these.

The implications of this will be profound.  They already are.  The debate about gender in sport is alive and well.  What about schooling? On what basis would someone go to a girls’ or boys’ school, and could they switch between them depending on their gender identity at the time?  Why would you have sex-defined schools if gender is disengaged from biology?

Many of the organising principles of society are currently based on sex and gender.  If both become fluid, will we have to reorganise our society in different ways?  Is this already happening? Will such movements come down like a thunderclap on institutions such as the Church, which are heavily invested in both sex allocation and gender roles?

I must say I find it all quite liberating.  It is like finding feminism all those years ago, to realise that our whole future did not have to be limited simply because we were women.

There are a few questions that need answering.  The people I have been speaking to on these matters were originally categorised as ‘female’ on the basis of their sex organs.  (Their gender reveal party was Pink! Pink! Pink!). Are those originally categorised as males engaging in such debates as well? Or is this one part of the spectrum again shooting ahead of the other in evolutionary terms (if it is a leap forward?).  Having gained (most of) gender equality, are once-women now looking ahead to a different kind of future?

The thing that separates humans from all the other animals is that between birth, reproduction and death there is a life to be lived that includes contemplation of past and future and transformational opportunities.  This is both a blessing and a curse.  Windows can be opened in human thought that are available to no other animal.  

So before you have a go at me, and the young people I have been speaking to, and before you call us names (God knows I have had enough of stupid ‘Woke’ talk), have a think of the upsides and  difficulties that the Gender Liberationist Front might bring to our existence.  It is interesting, I think.

 

Dr Liz Gordon is a researcher and a barrister, with interests in destroying neo-liberalism in all its forms and moving towards a socially just society. She usually blogs on justice, social welfare and education topics.

18 COMMENTS

  1. I recall reading that in ‘olden days’, pink was the colour for little boys as red was considered a mans colour (re: the British army red).
    Pink was the ‘diminutive version of red’ as pink didn’t exist as a colour, re: Robin red breast (that is more orange/pink).

  2. “A gender reveal, as any young person will tell you today, is a load of rubbish, as what is actually revealed is the appearance of biological sex organs, not gender.”

    And whence do the young people of today obtain such wisdom? If you hark back Dr. Liz, you might recall that young people tend to know a lot less than they think they do. That’s because our brains aren’t fully formed at that stage, and because we have precious little life experience.

    “In some recent research I have been doing, I have been interested to see that there appears to be a significant generational breakdown in views around gender among younger people.”

    Yes, it’s called indoctrination e.g. Mates and Dates.

    “I must say I find it all quite liberating.”

    Is it liberating, do you think, for insecure young kids to be persuaded they were “born in the wrong body”, as a result becoming dependent for the rest of their unhappy lives on hormones peddled by Big Pharma?

    “The thing that separates humans from all the other animals is that between birth, reproduction and death there is a life to be lived that includes contemplation of past and future and transformational opportunities.”

    Is this really true? OK we probably have more going on up top than any other species on the planet, but recent evidence shows some animals are capable of contemplating future opportunities. Like the Kasakela tribe of chimpanzees, that systematically hunted down and exterminated the males of a breakaway (Kahala) band of chimps that had ceded from the tribe, thus taking over their territory https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gombe_Chimpanzee_War

    Highly “gendered” behaviour it was too, the Kasakela males systematically targeting and ambushing the Kahama males. I wonder if “gender roles” are in our simian genes.

  3. There is nothing wrong with acceptance and allowing people to be liberated into their gender.

    BUT, children and youth are always very confused especially as they start developing sexually, and before more and more go into very complex surgery and becoming obsessed with exploring how their gender defines them which is very trendy at present, there needs to be checks and boundaries…

    My view is this is another neoliberal tool, aka gender (and race), is being used as a distraction. Many in society may never get well paid secure employment or be financially free, but that’s ok, because you can spend the next few decades exploring yourself and being part of the new religion.

    Yep, society never did get equal pay for men and women or equality and financial parity in sports between Men and woman. But it is ok, because you can change into a man or woman, instead.

    • Agreed saveNZ, identity politics is often the handmaiden of neoliberalism. The irony is that Dr. Liz thinks she is “destroying neo-liberalism in all its forms and moving towards a socially just society”.

    • Agree. This is yet another neoliberal tool, being promoted as a societal distraction. It is unfair on children who are in the process of accommodating their sexuality or their sexual identity, and may lead to premature sexualisation of children.

      One adult transgender acquaintance male to female, saw it as an escape from a dysfunctional early life and upbringing, alcoholic mother, absconded father, foster homes, violence. She envisaged life as easier as a woman, lives on benefits. A closer male to female friend had always identified with his, again, alcoholic mother’s femininity, rejected his father’s verbal cruelty and philandering, and was suicidal at the time he decided to become a woman. Both these sad persons are offspring of Brit immigrants, coming to N Z as kids, and both see changing their gender as the answer to personal problems, when few things are ever that simple.

      A third very elegant Maori woman I worked with, lunched with etc for over a year, unaware that she was trans, as unlike the first two, she didn’t talk about it all the time, she just did it, and did it well, and I know not why.However it looks like another dysfunctional family set-up as she recounted attending her father’s funeral and seeing her brother in a wheelchair, and thinking, “ Good. “

      The change from teaching kids about stranger danger, to now requiring pre-school two year olds to refer to their vulvas and vaginas, so that they know the correct terminology to use if “molested” is plain nutty, and sounds like an extension of the hysteria generated around the tragic Peter Ellis debacle; it forces sexual awareness upon little girls when most of them don’t really need this, and should be left to learn at their own pace.

      I see nothing “liberating” in gender swapping, and the reason why, is that anything, anything at all, which makes anyone’s life more difficult or complicated, can be bad news.

      Clearly there are children who should be gently nurtured if they are experiencing problems or difficulties, but all children should be gently nurtured always : they are our most precious taonga. There should be no hard and fast practices with puberty blocking meds for pre- adolescent children if this hinders or obstructs the freedom to accommodate the changes which may occur anyway in the fullness of time before, or when reaching adulthood, when they may acquire the greater ability which may, or may not lead to a greater understanding of themselves.

      Seeing shrinks is one thing, but buggering around with meds and binders and scalpels is another thing, and has to be treated with very great caution. Nor does it necessarily make a female into a male or nice versa – we humans are massively complex machines – with ill-understood brains – ask any neurologist.

  4. Here here Pope P 11.

    The denial of biological sex is deeply problematic imo. Women are not just “people with vaginas or menstruators as referred to by some trans gender activists. This movement based on ideology is actually de constructing the identity of women (and men too for that matter). Imo it is a ludicrous and in many ways dangerous ideology. I am a woman because I have female genitalia, am of smaller stature, have less muscle mass, less testosterone and more oestrogen and progesterone. I also have some small brain differences to men. I can get pregnant, give birth breast feed etc. I need to get specific health tests as a women. If I don’t acknowledge my own female anatomy in this way, I may well get very seriously I’ll, with cancers specific to my sex.

    There is debate about nature/nurture in terms of gender role development.

    I really fail to see anything liberating about gender identity theory. Trans people have shocking mental health statistics and this has been shown by research to be in part community attitudes but also the gender dysphoria that is almost inevitably linked to not identifying as the sex one was born as.

    Are you aware Liz of the tactics being used both overseas and in NZ to shut down women who question the de construction of their identity as a women? Have you read what JK Rowling said about Trans gender and the subsequent brutal cancelling of her that ensured? Do you have young daughters grand daughters, between the age of 4 -18? Are you comfortable with people with male genitalia using female change rooms with them? Are you comfortable with the proposed gender self I’d bill, offering no guarantees that sexual predators won’t make use of this change in the law to gain access to women and children in places like change rooms? Liberating not!

  5. My young friends with different views on gender have a long row to hoe, don’t they? Yes, I am closely related to an it who identifies as gender fluid and prefers the masculine, a gender assignation different from that at birth. This too will come to you. I stick by my views.

    • Liz you sound disappointed to find this site isn’t always going to be an echo chamber for your own views. There is diversity of opinion on this site. How about engaging with some of the arguments put forward by the various people who have commented on your article?

    • Hi Liz,
      generally I agree with your columns & can see the truth in your comment above about “young friends with different views on gender have a long row to hoe” although as a few of the other comments mention there is still discussion about the cause of that gender confusion. I prefer to take an evidence-based approach to things (even my faith beliefs) & there has been plenty of time for research to find a biological or chemical reason for gender preference with no evidence available to show a link so the obvious conclusion is that it is all in the mind. It is sad to hear that you have had to suffer abuse for your views as there are many parts of life that people disagree on but manage to coexist in relative harmony. It is especially obnoxious when people with faith-based views condemn people with different opinions when a major teaching of the Christian faith is not to judge others.

  6. Not sure I understand the question. Are you asking what would our society look like if we attempted to remove the symbolism and limitation of gender defined forms from everything we do or say, in NZ?

    I’ll assume that in good faith, since it has the happiest possible ending. Lord knows the pink/blue binary is boring as hell.

    What do your friends say about:
    Language
    Architecture
    Law
    Fashion
    religion
    education
    community
    Industrial relations?

    As long as a person isn’t an asshole, I don’t mind what they see, and find it interesting if their orientation or gender has an influencial effect on their world view. I’d be very interested to see new architecture or fashion free of gender arrangements. If they just want to have sex with whoever or however, or not at all, and not be called freaks or face sanctions, that isn’t my business and I don’t oppose their plans.
    I can see many upsides to equality across what could be called a gender spectrum*, but the bridge to get there is kinda complicated. Enforcement, understanding, and appreciation, are different stages. I’ve gone on long enough on other topics about how these things can turn into bad laws. I wouldn’t advise turning it into an organised fledgling political movement, but I think it’s too late for that warning. Would be disciples should be able to go to the old school homos and get good advice, but there seems to be a war on right now, and the sides aren’t clearly defined. They might not get the reception they were expecting.
    I’d use Art to drive it. Not just pics on walls, that too, but the artist as artwork. You can’t fake that, and all sorts of problems are sorted by it. Might be a lot more fun for everyone, too. Build from the ground up, and not rely on the appearance of stability offered by established top-down politics.

    Comments on “the church” are fair only at a superficial level. Admittedly, when the churches willfully become social clubs, serving coffee and offering rock band intermissions, there are only theoretical concepts to defend. What they are supposed to do, has little to do with making sure men marry women and that gays don’t have any fun. The best of them realise the complications and difficulties in everyday life. Gender discussions aren’t a required catalyst for what isn’t presently being offered in that area. Anyone who wants to be a feminist and gender fluid and a christian could maybe read the book of Ruth, and learn something marginally useful. Masculine and feminine energies are even a hot topic in spiritualist circles so switching churches isn’t going to help. Could just refer to recognising “receptivity”, put much less focus on “accumulation”, and be done with it.

    Down sides… hmmm well… kinda obvious, don’t you think? It all depends how we/they start. Avoid politicising it, and chances of success are far greater. Unofficial outbreaks of inclusive culture inside existing frameworks is possible: one minute there without warning, next minute gone, no trace, all benefits dispersed effectively, nothing left to fight.

    If these people are young enough to not have a clear view of what they want my suggestion would be for them to find allies where they’re at, and accept that while change in our society moves slowly it doesn’t mean they cant have anything. Focus on how to create and maintain communities that support their imagined futures, despite the shitty confines they were born into. Make sure they don’t end up identifying their community with a geographical place, or buildings. The how is easier (for the young) and more difficult, because inexperience can also confuse. Tending toward deliberately ignoring established cultural definitions would save time, but not adopt a hostile stance toward them either. Direction would be better moving with intuition, not just feelings. Younger people need to learn as quickly as possible why they are attracted to certain things, ideas, styles or personalities, and what those motivators are. If they sort through them they’ll start to get a clear self portrait, and they won’t waste time in dead end premaid, badly fitted, cultural offerings. Being comfortable with being in their own company will give them a level of emotional security, but no need to push it too far. This stuff should go without saying, and people who have always been on the out will learn it early, but everyday I see evidence it’s being forgotten and trouble occurring. And yes, steer away from twitter-based arguments about who called who a she or a he. It’s self-defeating. Those arguments are mostly English specific. If people in NZ spoke Swedish, they would barely exist.

    *I like to think of it as a gender sphere. I have no proof, but pro-spectrum activists often talk in concepts that contradict spectrum format. The only thing that matters is that something exists.

  7. People are either Male or Female.

    It’s just gnostic, esoteric garbage to think otherwise. The Daily Blog is very atheist and claims “science” on a myriad of things.. except gender..

    You can claim to identify as a lizard, but no esoteric mysticism is going to make you that. People may present themselves with the affectations of the gender they wish to be, but it doesn’t make it so.

    Ironically advocates (like the author of this article) decry gender stereotypes, yet the people they advocate for embrace them as their desired way to be. The cognitive dissonance is clear.

    I don’t particularly care how people present themselves or whom they sleep with, provided consent is given. I don’t particularly mind using preferred pro-nouns if I can’t remember [or know] someone’s name and they’re somewhat convincing in their affectations.

    People obviously OFTEN don’t fit into their gender stereotypes, however you’re either Male or Female. It’s just how it is. No hate.

  8. The thing that separates humans from all the other animals is that between birth, reproduction and death there is a life to be lived that includes contemplation of past and future and transformational opportunities.
    Yeah and most people get that, they just dont need wokesters like you continually pointing it out as if your elevated to higher plane if consciousness.
    My kids dont need you to bat for them they will figure out who they want or wish to become, with the full support from us.

  9. I suspect that what is happening is the species/herd reaction to overpopulation of a species. Nature is deep within us in ways we don’t always understand and measure. Something has to reduce reproduction of humans for the sake of all life and the planet itself.
    Just look at the tools of destruction the US economy is directed to the manufacture of. It could all be a part of the same natural forces.
    D J S

  10. I am way way too old to even begin to want to think about the fact that medical science can pretty much make you into anything you want as long as you can swindle the money to pay for it. The world is full of beastly divisive advertising that ensures your dissatisfaction with life. Young people have a different vernacular and good on them but again, divisive. Everyone is categorised and stigmatised. Divide and conquer.
    Gender reveal-such a wank when you think about it. Nothing has changed for me since I applied to do auto mech at a polytech. Three men in the interview, asking why I wanted to do this? Why couldn’t I just buy a new car and pay a garage to fix it? I mean, please. I don’t want to be a man. I just want to be able to buy decent work clothes with pockets, not ponce around with a handbag that looks like an aeroplane.
    Anyone gender revealing with two months worth of fireworks or explosives out to consider how many humans get killed making the damn things. 67 people died in an explosion in a fireworks factory in India just recently.

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