What accounts for the growing number of young people who don’t identify as either male or female? My friends and I floated various theories in a recent conversation. Some thought there are too many freaky deaky chemicals in the water supply, and it’s messing with our hormones. Some thought it’s nothing new, and that people simply feel more free to accept and announce what they’ve always felt inside. Some think it’s the result of cultural pressure, and calling oneself “non-binary” or “asexual” or “gender fluid” are merely the newest way of irritating one’s parents and asserting one’s individuality, like growing hair long in the early 60’s, or wearing pants backwards in the 80’s.
And some, including me, thought it’s not only a combination of the above, but also sometimes a sign of good psychological health. Let me explain.
Some of the folks I see calling themselves neither male nor female present in such an aggressively counter-cultural way, they appear to set themselves irredeemably apart from anyone who values ordinary, bedrock principles like fidelity or monogamy. But under the strident “I’m not like you” exterior, most aren’t looking for anarchy or even libertinism. Many of them are saying something true and valuable. They are saying: “I reject the idea that you have to chose between being a girly girl or a macho man. I hate the notion that I have to sign on to spending my time obsessing over either makeup or sports. I don’t see myself primarily as always passive or as always aggressive. I reject both silly, simpering, bubbleheaded femininity and slavering, swaggering, manhandling masculinity.”
In other words, they’re not rejecting masculinity or femininity, so much as they are rejecting what 2017 is telling them it means to be male or female. 2017, in case you haven’t noticed, doesn’t know its ass from its elbow. So if people are opting out of a binary system that’s pure caricature, then opting out is the right thing to do. Certainly, it goes too far to say, “I’m not male or female,” but at very least, it’s a sign that folks are embracing the idea that who we are is more than just an assemblage of clothing and hobbies. They are rejecting constrictive, reductive, dehumanizing stereotypes, and that’s a good thing.
Okay! So this conversation came back to me this morning, as I listened to the talking heads on the news chatting about the Roy Moore election. Now that our president has openly endorsed Moore, the GOP has decided to go ahead and fund his campaign after all.
This move has left a good many voters in the lurch. A lot of folks who call themselves “republican” have lost their damn minds — but a lot haven’t. They hoped (because man is, at heart, irrationally optimistic) that the party of God, family, responsibility, and values would somehow find their way to saying, “Maybe let’s not rush to elect a likely sexual predator.”
A lot of voters, like me, are basically conservative. We reject abortion. We think marriage should be between one man and one woman. We only reluctantly accept divorce as a necessary evil. We think immigration should be approached with care and caution. We think gun ownership should be protected. We believe freedom of religion exists outside the walls of actual church buildings. We think America is special, and has something to offer the rest of the world.
But we reject the caricature of American conservatism, which says that you have a moral obligation to anyone who yammers about being “pro-life” when he wants a vote, but who has no qualms about crushing single mothers and their kids, the poor, the disabled, and the uninsured.
We reject the caricature of American conservatism that says marriage is holy and sacred when you’re selling cake, but if you’re a politician, then you can swing your dick wherever you like.
We reject the caricature of American conservatism that says it’s a crime against nature to have too much melanin in your skin or too much of an accent in your voice.
We reject the caricature of American conservatism that says the Bill of Rights is mainly about not getting in the way of evil men with an arsenal and a grievance.
We reject the caricature of American conservatism that believes in a young, flat earth populated by Muslim lizard people masquerading as secret Kenyans who hate Christmas.
We reject the caricature of American conservatism that says anything America does is good, right, and just, and we can teach the rest of the world to be like us by alienating our allies and nuking everyone else.
Oh, and we reject Nazis and rapists, that kind of thing.
Since I reject all of these things, does that make me a liberal or a progressive? Not unless you’re insane.
But listen. Progressives are suffering their own descent into grotesque caricature. My progressive friends don’t have any friends in the white house right now, but they’re also not thrilled when they think of the backlash that’s likely to come next.
Remember, Americans love that pendulum swing. The moment Donald Trump is gone, a reactive voting populace will ram through some equal but opposite horror, who’ll undo all Trump’s bad deeds and replace them with a whole new set of equally bad deeds, but different ones. Read your history. This is what happens when a country allows something terrible to happen. It makes amends by lurching toward something even more terrible, but opposite.
When there’s a natural calamity — say, an earthquake or a tidal wave — there are the initial casualties, and then thousands more are left homeless in the aftermath. This is what’s happened politically. Trump vs. Clinton was an earthquake setting off a volcano, or a tidal wave triggering a mudslide, or Mothra vs.King Ghidorah, or whatever. There was no good guy to root for, but there sure were a lot of innocent bystanders left with nowhere to go after the monsters moved along.
So that’s me. I’m homeless. I’m a non-binary voter. I’m politiqueer, or something. I reject all the petty caricatures. I care about the Ten Commandments, and that’s why I reject Roy Moore. I care about women, and that’s why I reject [Margaret Sanger’s reanimated corpse, or whoever the dems will put up next].
You can’t make me say I’m on one grotesque side or the other grotesque side, and you can’t make me say that if I’m not one, I must be the other. As currently presented, neither one of them is anything worth being. There’s more to me than an assemblage of cruelty, extremism, and reflexive ideological posturing. Show me something good, and maybe I’ll vote for it. I’m a citizen of the United States of America, and I reject all the monsters.
Images: Destoroyah: Bandai Namco Entertainment America, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48781603
Gigan: Bandai Namco Entertainment Europe [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
ballot: Pixabay https://pixabay.com/en/elections-vote-sheet-paper-pen-536656/