I used to think that in an ideal world, there would be no such thing as gender at all. People would just be people; you’d be seen as a unique person. gender would not only be irrelevant; it wouldn’t exist, the way some diseases have been eradicated. Gender construction is a kind of disease; it certainly can be dangerous and cause a lot more harm than good. It may be that if I come from another planet, as I sometimes fantasize about, on that planet there never was any gender.
But I’ve realized something that opens up things more rather than seeming to close it down. Gender is still here; but it’s now like: genders are here; they’re more plentiful and “confusing”. Get used to it. Non binary gender, gender fluidity, and all other variations of gender are revealing themselves rather than hiding. It’s changing in terms of how we view it and use it.
So: gender, like many other things humans do and use, is a tool. It is neither good nor bad, how you use it and behave with it are the issues. If we were using the tool better, there just would be more room for any and all genders, and nobody would assume your gender just based on a gender marker, like a suit and tie or dress. It would only be relevant as a tool in situations that are productive, and otherwise diverse and irrelevant. Like on the internet, which has contributed hugely to more widespread acceptance of gender diversity, most of the time gender is not relevant. At other times, such as a support group for a specific gender, or a dating site where to use it, you need to have gender as part of it, at least for now. Or, if you’re exploring and questioning your gender assigned at birth, the internet is a safer place to go to find support and information.
We are moving towards gender being less charged with expectations and judgments but it still is used terribly in hurtful ways because of people’s fears, lack of imagination and attachment to know,ing rather than not knowing and finding not knowing to be interesting, an opportunity to find out more.
I don’t know all the proper ways to use gender as a tool in an effective productive manner. I heard about a conference where the name tags had room for putting what pronoun you identify as; that’s using it well. Forms that don’t just give you the M or F box can be an example.
People being cast in roles not based on their identifiable gender can be powerful, even at fashion runway shows. In fact, the fashion industry has a unique opportunity to use gender in a much more effective way, being based on appearance. Makeup ads could feature various genders, as of course could clothing ads. Some designers have caught on to making gender non conforming lines of clothing, and some designers are being more inclusive in their choice of models and gender.
What happens when we think of gender as a tool that needs to be used appropriately and properly? Do new opportunities open up?