Moving back into my dorm at the close of winter break, I noticed that the bathrooms in my hall now both read, “Gender Neutral”. These are far from the first restrooms to have made this change on my incredibly liberal campus, so it wasn’t an enormous surprise to me. It was a big disappointment nonetheless.
I am disappointed by changes like this because I tend to be far more swayed by fact than feeling. Feelings, however, seem to be the champions of the identity arguments of our world.
Now, the concept of one’s gender and sex being different things seems relatively new, at least to me, and I’m not sure where it’s come from. Sure, as children we may have struggled with knowing who we were, but it used to be something you moved past. Things are different now, and I think it’s largely due to the universal validation that permeates particular communities (especially the internet, where more and more young people are spending more and more of their time).
The school of thought that requires us to learn a whole new list of pronouns (words like “ze,” “hir,” and “thon” get thrown around a lot on campus) is the same one that overarches these gender-based identity issues: the idea that gender is socially constructed. I hear this argument a lot, but it’s fundamentally flawed. They say it’s possible for a biological male to be born with a female brain, but seem not to realize that this presupposes the existence of a “female brain” in the first place. If that’s the case, it isn’t something instilled by society after all.
Ultimately, the transgender movement doesn’t offend me too greatly, because if it makes someone feel more comfortable and they’re not bothering me, it’s harmless. I feel a little silly being bothered by the bathrooms, but what does bother me is what the logical conclusion entails. If gender is socially constructed, why isn’t everything else? My gender is far from the only aspect of my identity. Is society telling me what my race is? What my hair color is? That I’m tall? Is society the reason I live and breathe Rush music (I don’t think it is)?
We’ve already seen people like Rachel Dolezal and Shaun King who identify as African American, but clearly aren’t African American if lineage is any indication. But we accept that, and move on. On the internet, I see people who identify as dragons or elk, and (at least on the internet) we have to accept that, and move on. Accommodating a transgender student by giving them their own bathroom (as was the case in Illinois recently) is one thing, but who decided to draw the line there?
I recently heard a news story from my hometown about a group of students who spelled out the N-word with letters on their shirts and took a picture. A huge group of Twitter users was up in arms, petitioning the school district to suspend or expel them, because the students were white. But let’s apply the same logic as we do with gender: If a biologically male student on my campus can be a female, how do you know that these six students don’t identify as African Americans (who, you must remember, are allowed to use that word)? Why can’t I enter the Society of Women Engineers, or my campus’s African American theater club (I really love Othello)?
A friend of mine recently told me she signed up for a scholarship that was made available to “LGBT+” students. “Aren’t you straight?” I asked her. “For $1,000,” she responded, “I’ll be whatever they want me to be.”
Matthew Sielaff is a freshman in the Honors College at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where he studies Computer Science. An Arizona native, he attended a classically-based college preparatory charter school in Chandler and developed a fascination with philosophy and great literature. He learned to argue by growing up with two older sisters, and the politically-charged nature of every discussion that transpired at family gatherings gave him an interest in political philosophy in particular. In his senior year he wrote a 25-page thesis on More’s utopian societies, and considers that his greatest achievement behind memorizing 100 digits of pi.
Image by Cory Doctorow via Flickr.