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Transgender Rights Push Us All Toward Equality
(The gradual demise of the gender binary is good news for feminism. Roles and stereotypes become harder to pursue as gender identity blurs)
The archetypal blushing bride with her handsome groom is an anachronism in today’s society. Part of the reason for this is a newfound fluidity of roles that men and women assume in today’s world. Another component is the increased occurrence and visibility of lesbian and gay couples but the third, and arguably most powerful factor, is the coming of age of the openly transgender community.
The gender binary is dead. Now gender has become a continuum which, like that of sexual attraction, is individually perceived and defined, so much so that even putting forth the concept of transgender identity as a unilateral entity comes with inherent problems. The transgender community has traveled a great distance since the days of Christine Jorgensen when the word “transsexual” narrowly referred to a man who had specific surgery to invert his penis into a vagina, took hormones to build breasts and sometimes had surgery to minimize protruding facial features.
Now, transgenders and intersexuals (the less stigmatized term for hermaphrodites) of both female and male origin are making decisions such as whether or not to pass as one discrete gender, how much surgery to undergo and what level of homones to take. Unlike in days gone by, these decisions emanate more from an inner voice instead of outward pressure to from social norms and sanctions.
This is an important distinction. In Iran the government will pay for transgender surgery. This is not because Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his chronies have a high regard for LGBT rights. In fact, Mr A. went so far as to deny the existence of lesbians and gays in Iran in a speech he gave at Columbia University. In his country, surgical gender transformation is granted for the most reactionary of reasons. Not only are cross-dressing and transgender people allowed to have reassignment surgery, they are compelled to have it. Once it has been performed all documentation of that person is changed to the new gender. For all practical purposes they can now live their lives as heterosexuals. It totally diffuses the problem by simply eliminating same-gender couples. However, a person who desires a sex change to pursue relationships with people of her/his own identity would, obviously, not qualify for gender reassignment.
The rainbow gender continuum in the United States has implications that resonate far beyond the issue of marriage into the very fabric of society. The first thing everyone is told about us, before birth, is our gender. Baby clothes come in pink and blue and, it could be argued, that all the colors of life are painted with this same brush: In our very recent past job opportunities, voting rights, inheritance rights, the right to serve on a jury, financial rights like the ability to hold a mortgage or have a credit card, all of these options and more were denied to women simply because of anatomy. Discrimination against women is not only a phenomenon of the Middle East and Africa. It is still alive and well, flourishing in the western world.
Transgender sexuality and indeterminate sexuality of all kinds, by their very definition crush stereotypes. What are we to think of a person who comes across as a mélange of gender, not quite male, and not quite female? Well, after we get past the feelings of discomfort and move beyond knee-jerk prejudice, what we think will depend solely on our connection, or lack of it, with any given individual; nothing more and nothing less.
As all shades of gender expression flower, not only is the issue of one man, one woman marriage made irrelevant. The entirety of sexism itself loses all viability. It is the transgender population that will help push us all forward into a future where each person’s individual character traits and preferences carry more weight the shape of their body parts, a new world that transcends the narrow limits of gender and could well be the culmination of the feminist dream.