Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Is gender non-conformity immoral?

Recently I re-read Christine Jorgensen's autobiography.  The copy on the back cover includes this:
"Fifteen years ago [in 1953], a slender young woman stepped off a plane from Denmark to be greeted by howling reporters and an outraged American public."
Now I ask myself, why were they "outraged?"  Why that in particular? What is there about a sex change to invoke outrage, when it ought to be a personal decision that does no harm to anyone?

A little friend of mine on Facebook joined a group called "I hate it when you can't tell if someone is a boy or a girl." I decided to take a look at it.  I believe that everyone in the group is young, because most of the incidents described happened at school. Also, they sound very young.  And several incidents took the form of "I said, 'Wow, that cute boy smiled at me' and my friends said, 'That's a girl, stupid!'"

In other words, what they hate is feeling attracted to someone who turns out to be the socially unacceptable gender for them to be attracted to.  This gets back to the homophobia I touched on in my earlier post.

I'm discussing gender non-conformity in general, rather than focusing on transgender or transsexuality, because I believe that gender non-conformity is what really bothers people - probably because it's something that more people have experienced for themselves.  Nobody can conform completely to their gender stereotype.  And I believe that everybody knows at least one person who really can't conform, who causes the people around them to feel outraged and disturbed and complain about it on Facebook.  (Unfortunately that's not all they do.)

Some reasons why gender non-conformity is considered to be "immoral":
  1. Cross-dressing is forbidden in the Bible.
  2. Genitals define gender . . . anybody who imagines their gender to be based on something else is insane. (Does that mean that insanity is immoral?)
  3. People are supposed to conform to their gender roles, because society is based on the arrangement that men go out to work and women stay home and take care of the kids.
  4. I don't know any transgendered people, therefore there is no such thing; aka Transgendered people look like freaks, therefore they are freaks/The trans people I've known are neurotic, therefore all trans people are neurotic/I've never wanted to change my gender, therefore anyone whose life choices are different from mine is immoral, ie, wrong.  (Again, that's a very long-winded example of objection on the grounds of non-conformity.)
Gender non-conformity is a sin in the sense that all non-conformity is sinful.  Also gender non-conformity is strongly linked to sexuality, which makes everything worse. (This is what puritanical Americans are taught to believe.)

Examples of gender non-conformity:
  1. Women wearing pants.
  2. Women smoking cigarettes.
  3. Men doing laundry.
  4. Men letting their hair grow below their ears.
  5. Women getting college degrees.
  6. Men taking care of children.
These are all horribly shocking things which have caused the breakdown of society. Right? Also they may encourage transgendered people to think, "Well if they can do that then why can't I transgress a few gender norms myself?" None of the items in that list make a person transgendered or transsexual. But this does:
  1. People deciding that they are not defined by their genitals.
That's the danger zone right there. And really, I mean, what's wrong with that? Why would we want to be defined by our unmentionable bits? (Okay, I'm being sarcastic. But that's what sex is all about in Western culture. We say it's disgusting but we can't get away from it.)

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