How many genders are there? Male and Female he created them; says one hallowed book.
But if you were to google this subject, you might get any number from two to just under 400. Owing to moral latitude, the gender millis always in overdrive, churning out complex labels which continue to influence the tenor and tone of the gender space. Any attempt at keeping up with the number of genders will always be a Sisyphean task. What a confusing world! Or rather, a confused world!
There are people out there who feel left out in the gender space. They claim to be victims of a global gender identity crisis. What really determines one’s gender? Is it a complex 1.5-kilogram organ nicely positioned between our ears or the reproductive one lying between our legs? Is it a factor of one’s genetic makeup or a cocktail of creative acumen, strong views, emotions and sentiments? Or is it simply self-imposed moral and ethical strictures?
A few years ago, against the backdrop of gender amorphousness, not too keen to assign an inflexible gender to their children, some celebrities decided to teach their children that they were neither male nor female. Children were advised that, in time, they would decide their gender. Whereas there used to be a time when parents would take pride in revealing their children’s gender, for some, that is history. Asked what gender their children were, some parents would confidently say, only time would tell.
Reflect on what Maia Kobabe, a nonbinary American author and cartoonist said, “Some people are born in the mountains, while others are born by the sea. Some people are happy to live in the space they were born, while others must make a journey to reach the climate in which they can flourish and grow. Between the ocean and the mountains is a wild forest. That is where I want to make my home.” Between the ocean and the mountains is a wild forest! Vast swathes of forest inhabited by 400 human genders!
Naturally, a wild forest would have an indeterminable number of species. The Amazon rain forest is home to tens of thousands of plant life, birdlife, amphibians and fishes. The analogy about the wild forest, the mountains and the ocean, explains why there is an almost endless number of genders in the world. Bemoaning the way the world assigns only two genders to homo sapiens, Elizabeth M. Hamill, an American author,lamented, “Male? Female? Both? No one’s ever asked me that question. I see myself as neither. I’m something different all together.” Note, ‘all together,’ not ‘altogether!’ In Hamill’s view, none of the two ‘mainstream’ genders fit her physiological profile.
Do you ever get the feeling that the world is getting more and more complex by the minute? Steeped in an inherent culture of permissiveness? That the more we acquire knowledge,the more we appreciate how unenlightened we are! While the conservatives are left at their static station of male or female, the liberal have long moved on, exploring the expansive gender terrain. Considered two sandwiches short of a picnic, the conservatives are at the receiving end of a set of multiple unkind labels; ignorant, benighted, unsophisticated,and many more.
Peddlers of gender fluidity do not deny that there are only two sets of genitalia and that ordinarily, these organs of sexual reproduction account for one’s sex, not one’s gender. In their view, there is a whole world of difference between sex and gender, and this accounts for the disharmony, perceived or otherwise, between physiological genitalia which is extrinsic in nature and gender identity which is intrinsically innate. For them biological sex assigned at birth is not a life sentence. It is meaningless in that it fails to give practical expression to one’s gender. And gender is non-binary. It is a product of one’s feelings. Not biological makeup. Hence, it would be absurd for people who choose to see the world in black and white, denying all the glaring shades of grey, to attempt to pigeonhole over eight billion people scattered across six continents in to two distinct genders. Wax philosophical? Confused? You’re not alone.
The notion of gender fluidity as explained by a psychiatrist named Margaret Seide is intriguing, “Being gender fluid means that you don’t have a set gender or set place in the gender spectrum…How you experience your gender can change over time.” For them, gender identity is not rigid. It is dynamic. A journey that traverses stimulating, diverse and picturesque landscapes over one’s entire life. This is the confusing part for the mainstream society. That gender can be fluid! That at the flip of a coin, one can be male today, female the next day, somewhere in between the day after and non-aligned the other.
When people struggle with understanding that, some gender fluid people would throw a pity party. They are often incredibly dexterous in playing the pain and anger card, claiming the society is unfairly tossing them into an excessive and irritating state of glumness called gender dysphoria. It sounds like gender identity for fluid people is a matter of choice. A dynamic choice that rests on the whims of feelings. In fact, the argument that has over the years been used by gender fluid people, obviously irked by the pressure and rigidity of societal expectations is, ‘What authority do you have to determine how I feel about my gender?’ In other words, it’s not what I am, but what I feel I am, that counts.
The truth is, it is not outside the realms of reason to constructively question gender fluidity. And hard-nosed gender fluid people should not be quick to dismiss such questions as fatuous airy-fairy hate speech. All too quick to vilify inquisitive minds and dissolve probing views with cutting responses like, “Mind your business. I’m not accountable to you. My gender identity is not an agenda item for debate.” The gender identity debate cannot be reduced to a competition of who can bawl with the most thunderous voice.The world thrives in intelligent debates. So much progress has been made in the world, thanks, in part, to heated debates that take place behind the scenes and in public forums.To live in peace, we are duty bound to understand each other. And this does not mean we will see eye to eye on everything, especially in areas considered personal turf. We cannot be expected to take in everything gender fluid people churn out like droughty kittens keen to sop up the last droplet of milk.
We do not need to struggle to convince gender fluid people that some people are confused by such terms as, Androgyne; being gender neutral, Bigender; having two genders, Demiboy; someone who partially identifies as masculine, Female-to-male; trans males born with female reproductive organs, Gender apathetic; flexibility in gender identity, Intergender; a mixture of male and female, Polygender; multiple gender identities. Gender fluidity terms are peddled with the wild and impulsive abandon of a hyperactive kid jubilantly throwing bright-coloured confetti at a matrimonial ceremony. What on earth is gender fluidity?