I am a phenomenologist. Truly. I have a degree in psychology and I studied phenomenology. I am here not to make judgement as much as I am to observe and describe what I see.
I was just talking with my daughter and her friends about transgender issues and modern gender issues in general. I'm pretty open minded, transcendental. But I am human and was born in a time where a certain paradigm was prominent even though I was usually ahead of change due to my love of science fiction since the early 1960s.
We had talked about Bruce Jenner, my daughter and her friends, and individuals we've all known, personally. We were talking about how one relates to a transgender person. How is that defined?
My daughter said it's all about how the individual wants to be defined. But I think there is more to it than that.
As I see it there are three versions of gender. How a person defines themselves. How the person's gender is defined legally (what's on your birth certificate). And how you are defined by your physicality.
It used to be easy. There was an order to that, it wasn't a concern or consideration. No one thought about it because there was nothing to think about. Or so it seemed.
You're born either male or female, you're male or female, respectively. Surely a small percentage are born without a physical and prominent distinction. One in 1,500 babies from one report. So more than one might think, or have thought at one time.
Then things like gender reassignment came up. We were defined by our physicality but eventually we were defined by the individual's beliefs more than their physicality.
So Bruce Jenner takes hormones, comes out to the world as a woman. He's a woman? But he said he will not go the full course and lose his penis so physically he will be a man with breasts and a feminine appearance. What's his gender then? Female? Male\female? Male? What's the defining factor?
My daughter said if someone dyes their hair from blond to green, isn't it green or will you say, "No, you're still a blond."
I said that wasn't how I saw it at all. It was more like they were blond, dyed their hair green and said it's red. If that is the case, do we accept then that it's red? Or is it blond. Or green? How do we define their hair color?
Still there would be the three ways to define that. Legal, physical, personal. But in this case the hair would physically be green, though called red, and fundamentally blond.
It occurred to me that part of the issue here is in those gender reassigned or partially reassigned individuals over-complicating the issue.
See, it's really a fairly simple issue.
But individuals need to feel, well, what they feel. In the old days, they'd have gotten therapy. Basically, that is what they do need IS therapy. But the therapy has gone from mental, to physical and therein lay the confusion. For everyone.
I've always been told I was over complicated. But as I saw it, I was merely able to see the complexity in things that most people couldn't see. In this issue it seems to me that these people are overcompensating things for their therapy. They are over complicating their gender issues (yes, gender issues are complicated, I'm not denying that, just bare with me), so they will feel normal.
Now look. I don't have a problem with people trying to feel normal. Up to a point. We all have limits, right?
I mean, if you're a serial murderer, or a pedophile, you need to kill or molest to feel normal. Well, I don't want you to feel normal in that case, I want you not to feel normal. However for most people I do want them to be able to feel normal. I don't have a problem with THAT. Not if it doesn't affect others (as in death I mean).
But there is more to life than a person simply needing to feel normal.
As I'd said you can call yourself a rocket ship even, if you like, but you are still going to have to be designated on legal documents as something discrete, a compartmentalized unit. Such as male, female, or even, let's call it, trans. I don't think we need legal definitions to go to the lengths of Facebook and allow fifty-six gender titles. We just need a general idea of what we all can agree that you are.
I mean, really Facebook, do we really need 56 genders? Well it's social networking so, sure why not? I do think that's going a bit far, though. Okay, perhaps not for social media, but certainly for legalities. Three should be enough, or six, but let's not get carried away.
Here's in part my point. Some will over complicate their gender or title because they need to in order to feel either special, or that is, normal. I'm more concerned about the special, but the normal can also be an issue.
When you over complicate your gender to the group, you are also asking them for something for you. Understanding, if nothing else. I mean you can call yourself anything in the privacy of your home but when you go out and expect others to relate to you in non normal (general, average, etc.) ways, you are entering a different realm. You are then asking the group to help you make you feel normal. That simplifies things for you but complicates them for the group. Whether or not they see it that way really doesn't matter, because it simply does what it does. And that's fine. To a point.
But it is more complicated than that, too. If I were to point that out then those who are over complicating the issue will rebel and say that I am over complicating their issue. So they are saying they want things to be simpler and I'm the one over complicating things on their agenda.
You can't have it both ways. It's either complicated, or simple.
Obviously we can just relate to someone as they wish to be related. But should we, really? If they aren't based in some form of reality? And what is reality but a definition of what is? What is which, physical, emotional, legit, intellectual? What? Where is the definition? What or which is more important? The individual? The group?
Basically the individual is expecting the group to take on part of their therapy. And that too is okay, up to a point. We all do that and the individuals who do it too much are labeled as troublesome, possibly to be avoided and at some point they are usually locked up.
Thankfully we don't do that anywhere as much as we used to. There are people walking around free today who at one point in time would have been locked up in a prison, or an asylum. Of course there are those in prison now who should be in a mental institution for help and are instead being brutalized in prison because we are too cheap as a country to pay for the proper care in the proper environment.
So someone gets gender reassignment and doesn't change their genitals. Male or female? Is it only their decision? Well, for the most part outside of legalities, sure, why not. However, when it gets into things like pronouns, how much can they require before it gets out of hand?
What if it carries over to their pets? Do you call their dog a "he", a "she", a "their"? Or some other form. When it gets to the point that when someone meets your pet for the first time and they have to ask, "Oh, what pronoun does "she" ("he?") like to be called?" Isn't that kind of over complicating things?
At what point does it become over complicated to the point that it is too complicated and unacceptable, or should be unacceptable?
Here's part of the consideration. It's easy to just be accepting and say, "Whatever an individual wants to be referred to as, is what I will refer to them as." It sounds pretty, it's feelgood. but when you consider a group of all non standard gender types, the consideration becomes something else; as I was indicating above about the hair dye.
Sure, on an individual basis you can refer to someone as however they prefer to be referred to. At some level, it's just good manners. We should try to be considerate and cater to our fellow human's identity of who they see themselves to be.
But you can also reach a point where it simply isn't reasonable, or where it isn't even good for the individual making the claims in calling for their desired designation.
For the most part I think, just refer to someone as they choose.
But when you start talking about it in the abstract as we are here and now, and as I was with my daughter and friends, it really grows into a bigger and more inclusive issue than just the consideration of a single individual as you initially wish it to. It quickly grows into a societal issue and not just a personal or subgroup issue.
That is where some of this can quickly become very emotional to discuss. Because you can get one person talking about it at an individual level, even though they are or may also be discussing it on a much larger scale. Many times debates run into that issue. It's why you see so many heated discussions or arguments on topics like this, not even going into the potential pathology of someone arguing about their own identity.
Bottom line I think is, just treat someone kindly and compassionately. Outside of that and in the larger sense, just give it a little more thought than you might normally have done. Life isn't simple anymore. We have masses amounts of information to deal with, ways to behave are more sophisticated, people can more easily be hurt by way of inattention or ignorance, or a fear of the different.
Don't be one of those people. Be thoughtful and kind and try to understand. If you find yourself reacting negatively, then try to find a more productive way to deal with it. You may find that many times what you fear or hate, find distasteful or disgusting, is out of ignorance, or unfamiliarity. Consider if it's based in elements of what you have grown to see as reality and where any of that might wrong, or if you are right but you can still treat others strange to you with compassion if not at least, common good manners.
To each their own. And maybe we can tall talk and get to know one another, regardless of how annoying they may be, or we may be, to them.
Speaking of which, SCOTUS, the Supreme Court of the United States has just declared same sex marriage legal in all fifty states. It's nice to see sanity rule the day for a change. From them today on this..