On Gender Nonconformity

Gender is everywhere. Although there is evidence that suggests that, for example ancient Yoruba culture had no gender roles, it is hard to deny their pervasiveness today. From FGM and foot binding (now outlawed), to rigid expectations of manhood, the socially accepted ways in which we are expected to behave are arbitrarily decided on what genitalia we happen to have been born with.

Recently, a six-year old Argentinian was permitted by the state to change her identity. Born a boy named Manuel, she is now a girl named Lulu. Her mother, Gabriela, told The Telegraph “By accepting that my son was not the son I gave birth to, but a girl, I accepted her identity and put myself at her side.”

I fully support individuals being able to identify as the gender that suits them. That may be neither masculine nor feminine: In some societies, there are people who are considered to be a third gender, neither a man nor a woman. In Nepal, “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and inter-sex Nepalis will be able to register as ‘third gender’ for the first time in the country’s history and campaign openly for legislative seats in the planned Nov. 19 elections.” (source) While politicians have accepted LGBTI individuals, says Purushottam Dahal, a political science professor at Nepal Sanskrit University, traditional society has yet to be as inclusive. Allowing them to appear be registered and run on the tickets of major political parties will pave the way for their acceptance into wider society.

Both the Nepalese and Argentinian governments are setting a good example in supporting their citizens who may not fit into the rigid and sexist roles. Although my ideal world is one in which gender doesn’t exist- where people aren’t given a set of behavioral and sartorial expectations based on how they were born- that scenario is unlikely. Still, Argentina and Nepal are encouraging evidence that societies evolve.

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