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The Sharp Edge of the Fence

Alice Purnell

RGN, BSc, PGDC, Counselling Psychologist, First presented at the Norwich, University of East Anglia Transgender Conference Sept 2001

 
GENDYS JOURNAL

Issue 16
Winter 2001

 

Introduction

During the last eleven years as a Counselling Psychologist in my practice and over the last 35 years listening to gender dysphoric people's and their loved one's stories, I have become aware of several common themes which seem to often distress them. I have also developed a few theories which may help.

Many come to counselling because they have issues about not conforming, or not knowing what to do about the conflict between the "shoulds and oughts" in their life and their conflicting feelings, how to deal with their own need for conformity and that of those they care about. How do they cope with the reactions of a society which in reality is intolerant of difference?

It is hard to reconcile the existential with a sense of duty to others and scrutiny by society in a gender dipolar and patriarchal society in which many seem quick to judge difference as being threatening, sinful or wrong or at best a sign of madness.

Most of us are taught early in life that not to conform is dangerous. Parents generally nurture their child, as do most adults, but they also even unconsciously try to imprint on their child behaviours which they feel are important "good boy, bad girl." Almost all praises and rebukes are reinforced with a gender word - we do it with our pets too - "There's a clever boy" - though it is the tone not the words which count. The tone matters with humans too, reinforcing the words, building a picture of you are loved if you are "good" (i.e. conform) and not loved if you are "bad" in the girl or boy whose parent or caring adult is speaking to us or shouting at us.

This inner voice stays with us through life, the voice of the parent, of society, of God even.. It is not the same as conscience - it is the voice of guilt - the original sin perhaps. It speaks "conform or you will be punished" - it has little to do with good and evil, right or wrong, save when another is hurt.

"Do as I say or I will not love you, I may punish you if you do not." If you do, you will be rewarded with sweets, hugs positive feedback, a loving family, a Garden of Eden, Paradise even. Very negative feedback is given if any inappropriate behaviour is seen. A lot of behaviour is gender specific. We all know the rebukes gained by a girl if she ruins her clothes playing in the mud or by a boy is if he behaves like a sissy.

The part nurture plays in defining gender identity is in debate, nature clearly does play a major part in a society where there are such wide gender specific differences. The negative feedback's against crossing this divide are so large as to otherwise eliminate obvious gender inappropriate behaviours. Attitudes and inherent feelings are a different matter.

It certainly is true that nurture does reinforce gender specific behaviours as good, natural, appropriate, suitable in a society where specificity is so polarised. "Boys don't cry", "girls should look nice", "girls don't fight", "boys should be strong".

Your gender still is your destiny to a great extent. Assumptions are made that girls will grow up, find a man and have children, be a housewife with a little job (not paid at the same rate as a man's job); boys will grow up , find a partner and be the hunter gatherer working until he drops, leaving most of the child-care and housework to the little woman, providing for and protecting her and his family.

Our society assumes a set of heterosexual and heterogendered norms and expectations. Because of these strong polarities those whose internal brain map or body map or body itself is not severely polarised as male or female, masculine or feminine, heterosexual (or homosexual) fall into a dangerous and often uncomfortable middle ground, the sharp edge of this fence - that divides the genders, sexes and sexualities. Those in the middle of these spectra generally get the worst deal in terms of public acceptance: they are the intersex, the transexual, the transvestite, the transgendered or the ungendered, the bisexual, the asexual and often the gay or lesbian since society is largely heterosexually weighed; they get the worst rather than the best of both worlds, as is often assumed. They are ridiculed or marginalised by the majority.

In fact use of these words ( TV, TG, TS etc.) as nouns rather than as adjectives tends to create this one dimensional view of "them" implying that all that they are is this "aberrant thing" - this diagnosis, instead allowing for diversity by a view of this person as a one-dimensional other instead of describing for example a person who might be a transvestite man who is also a good parent, painter and a humanist, and interesting to talk with. It is a bit like saying "the Jews, a black, that Asian etc. . . ." Words are important they label people and can be used as arrows or balm, they can be respectful or used as collectives to describe those others who are "not like us," to be hated, mistrusted or feared.

The words can be reclaimed, just as "queer", "dyke" and "gay" have been reclaimed by homosexual and lesbian men and women, in the Pride movements like Stonewall. These words will still be pejorative when uttered by some.

The playground and school, childrens games and clothes and toys all conspire in creating the two real or imaginary doors marked "boys" or "girls" even in mixed sex schools. Heaven help the boy who strays into the wrong "door" the boy who wants to wear a dress, less so the girl who wants to play football. Games are usually gender specific, preparing the child for an adult life in which there are only two different sexes and genders., The words sex and gender are often used interchangeably without considering their proper use.

Since we are in a patriarchal society it is not surprising that if a girl strays into the traditional male domain she is admired as a tomboy, she is joining the top side, the "right side"; she is seen as strong or admirable, whilst a sissy is never seen as anything but showing weakness.

The Secret & Guilt

It is not surprising therefore that any such tendency to cross what is perceived as the fence which divides "gender appropriate" behaviours and presentation (clothes and body language) is taboo, suspect, threatening, challenging or confusing, so people often react against those who sit on this fence or cross over.

The result is that in order to survive many who do not feel strongly gender divided or who sometimes wish to express themselves as the opposite sex or those who feel clearly that they "belong" in the group other than that dictated by the midwife's "It's a boy or It's a girl", which states the entire destiny of that baby, in fact those people who feel compelled to oppose this tyranny either in secret or even openly, it becomes occult, hidden, a guilty secret.

Added to this there is that inner voice shouting all sorts of shoulds and should nots, good (meaning "normal") and bad (meaning "abnormal" i.e. diverse").

There is an inner urge to conform; it becomes a survival mechanism. This why so often there is in the trans-person a flight into hypermasculinity to hide his guilty secret.

This often happens to the transsexual as well as the transvestite person. At a Harry Benjamin Conference some years ago the surgeon general of the US Marines said he was amazed at how many decorated marine Vietnam Vets emerged as transsexuals. Certainly I have met TS and TV people who have been built like Rambo, or even slight men, who were racing-car drivers, paras, jet pilots, in the forces, or boxers in fact all sorts of chaps who showed no outward sign of femininity. Appearance and build are not co-ordinated in dividing the trans people into TV or TS categories.

Cross-Dressing - Into the Closet

The man who is a secret cross-dresser is often particularly good at this sort of camouflage, this flight into hypermasculinity, this denial technique. The guilt and the secret become a way of life, even a buzz sometimes, the risk becomes the source of gratification whereby this buzz becomes an adrenalin addiction. Hiding the cross-dressing by denial techniques can result in the person becoming internally divided, with an inner "she" or unhappy "he" who is not controllable or accountable to the man himself.

I wonder to what extent transvestism is a genetic propensity and to what extent there is some choice involved. It is a compulsion which behaves like an addiction: whatever, it does seem to be a very powerful element in the cross-dresser, part of what makes him who he is. I sometimes wonder to what extent are the cross-dressing clothes are really a sign of inner femininity. This is not intended to be offensive to male cross-dressers, but is an honest question. Generally transvestite cross-dressing starts as a sexual thing - entering a forbidden zone, which is in fact oddly heterosexual and sometimes fetishist, often starting with masturbation using intimate items of female clothing.

At this stage it has little to do with gender save that it crosses the gender division in terms of clothing, though not in terms of expressing femininity.

Later on a female personality needs to be invented, with her own name and wardrobe, but will she think and feel like a woman or remain a man in a dress?

I would then ask what is wrong with that, if nobody is harmed by it? Clothes do not make the person.

The dressing can become like a drug, with episodes of denial, burning the clothes and books then getting more. Often borrowing a wife's or family member's clothes, with guilt associated with this, by keeping the "secret woman" or the cross-dressing or fetish clothes in a suitcase hidden from view, spending money on this "unhealthy hobby" on books and magasines involving TV fantasy. Even having pretended to have stopped "doing it", this "dressing up in women's clothes" it continues. They are his clothes, his escape, his thing.

With a mix of fear and the thrill of the forbidden, he will keep his secret, even through many years of a marriage.

He will have judged that his partner will not be over the moon about this, but so doing he risks hurting her by the secret which oddly protects her so long as it remains a secret. By not trusting her acceptance he compounds her dismay when she finds out about it.

These days there seem to be few or any female cross-dressers since there is far more freedom for women in how they present themselves.

I have developed a theory based on listening to the dreams of many of my clients. As a child often it seems there was the observation that girls could be pretty, were handled more gently than boys, are usually hugged and shown physical demonstrations of affection more than boys. There seems to be a cut off date in a boy's life where he feels embarrassed if kissed or hugged in front of his peer group. Could it be that he sees this difference between boys and girls and wants love and affection, so grows in the belief that if he was a girl things might be better? Many describe dreams where they were the Cinderella figure, with no need for a handsome prince, but a fairy godmother who can make things right, make him into the belle of the ball -make him loved and beautiful.

Of course there is also the identification with mother, rejection of a stern or ineffective father, the tactile effect of the clothes, experimentation. I imagine all kids experiment this way by dressing up, but it is how they react when they do dress up which is probably most significant.

Guilt by Association - the Shared Secret & Partners

The secret itself is a cause of stress. This and the guilt associated with stealing or borrowing a partner's things can mean and often does mean he might develop moody outbursts because of the tension, often there is heavy drinking or violence if not given expression.

Even given expression there is often a need for more and more, shifting the goal posts, upsetting a wife or partner who may have accepted limited cross-dressing by her man. He becomes the other woman, even has a name for "her". "She" is often more glamorous than wise, or tarty or old fashioned, fixated on the sort of clothes he was first attracted to, with little regard for what might actually suit "her".

I have heard a wife say she fairly justifiably felt she wanted a divorce on the grounds of his bad taste alone, dressed like a teenage tart her man did look odd. But do not forget he has never had the benefit of other girls as a peer group to help him become a "woman".

A partner may blame him or herself, all sorts of recriminations and failures can occur. Blame does not help, it is not her fault, nor his for that matter, it is what they do about it that counts. She may be at her wits ends, he might be a selfish egocentric insensitive so and so, or be trying his best not to rock the boat too much. Who is this person who is ruining their life together? He may be aware of the pain his cross-dressing is causing adding to his sense of guilt.

When a dual personality cross-dresser emerges (like in Virginia Prince's "How to be a Woman though Male") this continues and separates the genders in the cross-dressing man and gender dipolarity itself becomes a sort of a fetish. It can be quite extreme, he may define himself as transgendered and live full time as a woman without the need for S.R.S..

A cross-dresser will not be satisfied by wearing pretty shirts or soft fabrics, or unisex clothes. It is the fact they are women's clothes which imbues them with a tokenic magic, seemingly healing his troubled life, helping him relax usually initially through masturbation or eventually by simply putting on these clothes. They themselves become an obsession, even though he may show no other sign of cross-gendered behaviours.

Of course this is not fetishism nor is it schizophrenia, but it is not good for mental health, when guilt plays so great a role, often resulting in addiction to risk, drink, drugs, sex or to mood swings, resulting in depression, outbursts of anger, envy, or even suicides. Life as a partner of a man at war with himself cannot be easy. These men are usually heterosexual, often high achievers, even sometimes fairly ruthless or egocentric and sometimes even chauvinistic. This is a paradox, in that to hide their feared own internal femininity, they may actually envy and even hate women. At TV-TS meetings there will usually be a chap in a frock talking and acting chauvinistically. Perhaps this is his smoke-screen to try to imply that although he is dressed as a woman he really is a full-blooded man, with nothing suspect or wrong or feminine about himself, or perhaps he simply has not been allowed in his mind, or by others, to acknowledge that women are also strong, bright, OK in fact. Perhaps he could allow himself to sometimes show his own femininity if society was not so hard on men who do this.

The dilemmas and the guilt and self disgust often felt by trans-people reminds me of the black child of ten who tried to wash away his colour in a bath of bleach who was admitted to a local hospital a few years ago. Now there are positive images of African and Afrocaribean people this dreadful self hate should not occur for those with dark skin.

Can a cross-dresser come to terms with and accept himself?

Acceptance Or Self Hate Strategies for Living

Self hate, doubt, the need to conform, concerns for the effect of being trans anything (on reputation, family, partner, children, work) act as breaks against which the need to accept oneself and be content with the sort of person one is, and if possible the best version possible of oneself, can create emotional pulls each side of this sharp fence.

Cross-gender behaviour or clothing worn by a female does not result in the same degree of hostility by society, but there certainly are FtM people who hide their inner feelings, their dislike of breasts or periods. They can wear their hair short, never wear skirts or high heels, but this will produce little comment from others.

There does not seem to be a correlating flight into hyperfemininity since no such smoke-screen is necessary in the West these days.

Sometimes the guilt felt by a cross-dressing man causes him to seek an explanation which frees him from this sense of guilt, and he may convince himself that he is actually transsexual, when in reality he is a man who likes to wear a dress, not necessarily possessed with the brain and mind of a woman. This is of course a dangerous and inappropriate strategy since the surgery is not reversible. I contend that there are ranges of brain sex, women may be and often are at home in a man's world, fewer men could say the same thing of a woman's world, unless they are unafraid of being labelled gay or effeminate if they live an openly feminine lifestyle.

The task of a counsellor in these cases of fear, self hate or guilt which may have propelled him towards the strategy of saying he is a transsexual, is to cognitively enable the client to come to terms with his actuality and to find a way of being for him which does not propel him towards inappropriate S.R.S. (reassignment) which he would eventually regret, since it is not fully reversible. We can not predict the future but can learn to be honest with ourselves.

If guilt at being a cross-dresser is removed then in theory it should be easier to be a well adjusted transvestite rather than a miserable post-op pseudo-transsexual.

There is as yet no litmus test to diagnose transsexuality.

There do seem to be several types of TS anyway, not simply primary and secondary or late onset, but autogynephilia and what I would term partial transsexualism, where there is hatred of genitals but little cross-gender manifestation.

The client will need to evaluate losses against gains and so far as possible see what is practical in his case with damage limitation for him and his loved ones.

Considerations of age, physique, ability to pass, family, employment, hobbies, enjoyment of his male sexuality may enable a client to see clearly the best way ahead. Only the client can assess these - appearance is no guide as to the feelings he may have. Some transvestite men pass well as women. Some transsexual MtF people will never look conventionally female .. Do they want to always stand out? Are they strong enough to disregard the comments of others?

Some cross-dressers are perfectionists and will want to eliminate facial hair, develop a bust instead of use a prosthesis or rolled up stockings to fill their bra, but they do not want to have female genitalia or live full-time as a woman. Some take it to the extent of living full-time "in role." This means just what it says, they live a role, rather than that they are women. Increasingly these people are termed transgendered, although apart from the name and clothing change they still hang on to their male attitudes and their genitals -perhaps I should rephrase this, they do not opt for surgery.

This, the gradual elimination of the masculine, will of course make a partner fearful she will entirely loose her man, that he is a transsexual. If she stays with him does that make her a lesbian?

Partners - Shame, Fear and Disgust - the Oppression of Labels

The sense of fear and shame is often shared by a partner, who may be troubled by the possible effect on children, on family or friends or employment and the effect on the neighbours. She may allow cross-dressing away from home but disdain him wearing a nightie in bed, shaving his legs, bringing this into their sexual and personal relationship. She may decide to take him under her wing and get him more appropriate clothes, advising him what looks best, a lot depends on her own sense of what is acceptable. Life alone may after all be worse than life with a cross-dresser. She may be fearful he is gay or bisexual or that he is transsexual, this may mean she has to review her own long held view of herself. She may feel horrified of being thought a lesbian or odd by those she knows, she may want to leave the area and cut herself off from others, whilst he is getting support from the helping agencies and groups, she may herself become a victim of isolation and fear, which is why WOBS is so important.

Others may enjoy finding they have a "new friend or sister" to shop with and share the household chores. It all depends on her own sense of what is acceptable or enjoyable or what is painful for herself. Her greatest fear may be the effect on the gender development of her children, whether they will be bullied at school, whether sons will follow in their fathers high-heeled footsteps.

When the family is grown up and the man reaches his middle age there may be a sort of mid-life crisis, in which he tells all or is discovered. His partner will probably be in her own mid-life and trying to cope with menopause and this on top can only contribute to her despair.

Counselling couples or a partner involves trying to find what the priorities are, what is acceptable, defining and sticking to realistic goal -posts, defining strategies for redeveloping trust and safety.

There are also financial considerations in one partner having two wardrobes. These are only some of the concerns of the partner, she will need to feel secure about her own gender and sexuality, and to develop a pride in herself beyond damaging labels.

Transsexual People - Crossing the Wall

There are sharp places too for a transsexual person. The first question is am I a transsexual or not? Then, what if anything can I do about it? It is a condition which is over pathologised, but does need help from the medical professions. In my view much more counselling should be available throughout the process.

Unlike cross-dressing it cannot be a secret if a person has identified that she or he is transsexual and needs to live and be the woman or the man 24 hours a day that her or his brain dictates .

I have found that for many so termed Primary Transsexual people, that is to say uncomplicated by doubts about their actual gender in spite of bodily evidence, there was usually little or no autoerotic component to the dressing, neither did TS boys always play with dolls, dream of marrying a man or be obvious to their parents. The prohibitions against a boy being a girl are so strong this too becomes a guilty secret, for child or adult, so this follows a similar pattern to the transvestite in terms of personal confusion inner doubts and guilty secrets. Often the child will act out or become somewhat quiet and isolated, or have problems at school.

The FtM person will usually be more open about preferring to have been a boy than the MtF will usually admit he is a girl in childhood. Both have usually adopted a secret inner self. If you ask about their dreams it is possible to glimpse the inner child who has had to pretend to be the boy or girl their parents believe they have. Even in adult life most parents will be dismayed by the change, often disowning their new daughter or son. It can be a lonely world, without family support. This accident of nature takes its toll in suicides and breakdowns. There is an inner conviction of body dysmophophobia, a hatred of genitals rather than a joy in them, a wish to be like other girls or women, or boys or men, a wish to be complete and ordinary.

Any wise child will soon realise that all the wishes in the world will not enable this MtF to have a baby herself or this FtM to make one the way other men do.

She will always be a second class woman and he a man who can't, but that is preferable to having to live a lie.

The sharp edge of the fence is in determining if the dysphoria can or will receive treatment. This is often incomplete and harsh, with hoops to jump, gatekeepers who do not really seem to appreciate how hard it can be or how lonely. In the need to prevent mistakes being made and to protect the professionals, often barriers are put up, it becomes a matter of surviving the process rather than feeling or being supported in their process by the doctors. Some of my clients suffer what I would term abuse at the hands of those ostensibly treating them. There is not much evidence of respect either way. In transactional terms it is easy to see how the roles of stern-father against naughty-child dynamics occur because of the need for gate-keeping. But hoop jumping, an obstacle course without support? It sounds harsh and is so.

Finally the question always remains how and who to tell, it is for life not simply an evening. There is justifiable fear of negative discrimination and ridicule by the press. There is the difficult search for a partner who has no agenda in seeking a trannie for a mate, rather than accepting her or him as they now are. The partner needs to be strong and secure in his or her own gender and sexuality for acceptance of the person, not the history. The partner needs to know they cannot have children the usual way. Some people are trannie followers, attracted by the TS situation: this is not necessarily what she or he wants, the drive is to be accepted as a reality, not as "different" although in reality her or his history intrudes on that wish. Perhaps that is why sometimes TS people will find solace with each other, rather than with so called "normals".

The MtF person will have severe doubts about whether she will be acceptable her body may let her down, too large boned, too deep voice, too large hands and feet, Adam's apple, masculine features. In the case of the FtM secondary sexual characteristics can be eliminated, the voice will break, a beard will grow, he can get rid of breasts and the vagina, but he will not be able to get an erection, he may be below average height, he has "missed out" on having had a boyhood or the "advantages of a male education". This can leave him resentful, frustrated and insecure.

Interestingly one problem seems almost universal, since there is a reaction against all things "male" in an MtF person she will often have very polarised views about what a woman's life should be, disdaining previous hobbies and interests for fear that these things will let them down. There is also the curious business of an adult going through all the teenage uncertainties, mistakes and experimentation during her second puberty.

Sometimes an FtM may move from being a feminist to being a chauvinist.

Regarding the battle of the sexes, there is a particularly apposite joke "She's had the world's most complete sex change - it was three operations, vaginoplasty, breast construction and she's had half her brain removed".

This says something about the hostility some men have to women in the battle of the sexes.

I guess all polarity can result in conflict.

Being Intersexed - No Man's Land

There is a view that cross-gender manifestations are a type of cerebral intersex, that the brain is genetically programmed that way, the body map is "wrong", the brain sex is different to the anatomic sex. There may also be some compromise of the fetus because of hormonal or other problems in utero. Let us not forget that there are also thousands of children born with problems like hypospadias, Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, Adrenogenital hyperplasia, Turners Syndrome, Klienfelters Syndrome as well as a host of chromosomal anomalies, as well as a very few true hermaphrodites.

Of course many Transsexuals ascribe their condition to one of these anomalies to get off the guilt trip, however there are perhaps one in two hundred such babies born, each has his or her gender challenged by the "abnormality".

Often surgery is performed on the baby as a medical emergency, to assuage the parents horror at such a thing, the result being that sometimes mistakes have been made as to the assigned sex, or the surgical or hormonal "correction" of this, which denies that person the right to determine his or her own gender and often the ability to enjoy sex or have children. A new protocol must be devised to give these babies some rights.

Most such adults I see who were or are intersexed have been greatly let down by the medical interventions they suffered as babies or infants. As adults they tend if wrongly sexed and consequently gendered, to be treated as part of the TS programme

and asked the same questions as the transsexuals, although the remit of the H. Benjamin Standards of Care were devised as to not include these groups.

The task of the counsellor in these cases as in others who feel such intense suffering is to try to help the client not to feel like a freak, a monster, punished by a horrid sadistic creator in some way, to help the client to forgive and to move on. There is often expressed thoughts from all clients like "I have wasted most of my life" I have been denied any dignity, any say in what happened to me."

Conclusion

The strength of any species is it's diversity, whilst we see that in colonial creatures like ants, termites or bees, non-conformity in shape or scent results in death, unless there is some advantage in it. Even in Darwinian terms surely human beings need now more than ever to allow for diversity, even if we ignore the ethical implications of not doing so. To transcend all this confusion and pain self acceptance must surely be the cornerstone of attaining fulfilment and a balanced life with good mental health.

A counsellors task is to help her client come to terms with his or her feelings, see him or herself in the whole, to overcome the emotional confusions, to sort out the difference between morality and the pressure to conform, which if at all possible limits damage to self and others. The approach should be honest, holistic and I believe cognitive and pragmatic.

As a reaction against assigned gender many trans women and men are initially too stereotypical in their view of how a woman or man "should" be, and fail to attain a more gender liberated view of how to live. Having often lied to the psychiatrists it becomes all too easy to lie to themselves. After all, as society moves more towards sexual and gender equality and liberation there is "permission" to be oneself rather than live a stultifying stereotypical life.

One common confusion which arises is "If I am a woman why don't I fancy men?" Who you are sexually or otherwise attracted to is not defined by your gender or sex; ask any lesbian or gay man.

The counselling process needs to offer support and understanding at deep levels My practice is by working in Rogerian mode and by an eclectic mix of working with dreams, and exploring fantasy, delving deep into the client's unconscious mind with her or him and by giving the client the task of thinking about a particular topic between sessions, working over time, offering empathy, support, in eventually an adult to adult transference, client taking personal responsibility and pride, so enabling the client to decide assists the client to find inner truth and an honest view of him or herself, whatever their gender.

The counsellor should avoid acting in any way a provider of permission for courses of action the client may take, it is her or his responsibility, nor should the counsellor set themselves up as a gatekeeper in any way.

A client will benefit by encouragement to engage her mind as well as her or his feelings and to grow in personal strength regarding concerns about what others might think or say. It generally helps a client if you can assist her or him in being beyond the generalisations and labels, effectively to be him or herself. There is little to be gained by losing almost everything to gain permission with self to wear particular clothes or behave in particular ways.

It is also vital to listen rather than to pigeon hole clients: all are different, individual. None are simply a TV, TG, TS, or simply a parent or a partner. Above all each is an individual with personal feelings, circumstances, emotions, abilities, beliefs, strengths and weaknesses and vulnerabilities.

So long as there are such things as strong gender and sexual polarities in a falsely viewed human world which consists only of blacks or whites without the rainbow hues of sex, gender and sexuality and diversity which it actually consists of, society will reinforce and inflict sharp guilt-trips on those who do not conform with the norm, the average, the critical.

Nobody needs to conspire with the bigots or ignorant and intolerant in throwing rocks at those who might be "different". To quote Emnerson's non-conformist testament "nothing is as sacred as the integrity of your own mind".

Counselling psychology perhaps assists a client truly realise and experience this.

In the past when Homo Sapiens was one species in harmony with nature, indeed often threatened by it, there was a Darwinian rationale for maintaining fertility, defining the roles of the sexes in relation to protecting the young and consequent protection of the gene pool, it was probably an advantage to develop a society where women and men had strictly defined roles and rites of passage. The earliest societies were probably matriarchs, and if we study anthropology there have been many societies where individuals could cross the gender divide and be accepted within the tribe.

An appalling example of group hatred was the recent atrocities in America, where individuals were prepared to give their lives in order to destroy others who are not like them. Hate is always destructive, whilst diversity is healthy. During recent centuries with national wars the need for cannon fodder and for patriotic motherhood seems to have reinforced this divide and created the taboo which persists today. With world population now at almost six billion and nature itself threatened and dominated by our species there is a good case for abandoning the urge to have large families and a "gender war", there is more scope for relationships not founded on the family unit, for individual ways of being, for a range of gender behaviours to be acceptable.

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