Posts Tagged ‘magical thinking’

(Author’s note — In the “About” section of this blog, I noted that though I’m a liberal, I am not particularly politically correct. The post that follows is an example of that assertion. Though my intent is not to offend, I know that offense will be inevitable with such a loaded topic. Such is often the price of honestly expressing one’s opinion – I can’t please everyone.

In recent news, I’ve been reading more often about pre-adolescent children who consider themselves transgender. Most such articles are about how the parents have unquestioningly accepted their child’s announcement at face value. They consider themselves as now having a child of the other sex, to the point of changing their names and presenting them in public as a member of the other sex, including at school and other places where officials records are kept.

While I applaud them for their hearts being in the right place and acknowledge that they mean well, I have serious reservations about such a response. With the caveat that, as a feminist, I’m glad these parents are not responding by making their child conform to the gender role stereotypes associated with their sex, I find it imprudent to apply the transgender label to children, which has far-reaching social implications to a child at this stage of cognitive development.

During the formative years, children go through a series of stages in their cognitive development before reaching adulthood. They cannot think and reason at the same level as adults until they are into their teens and, preschool children especially, are prone to “magical thinking”. That is, the belief that one’s own thoughts, wishes, or desires can influence the external world.

It is in recognition that full cognitive development in humans takes several years to reach that children are legally prohibited from voting, marrying, living independently, are treated differently from adults in the criminal justice system for the most part, and so on.

I can understand a child (and an adult, for that matter) not liking or being comfortable with the gender roles associated with your sex, as well as feeling more comfortable with the ones assigned to the other sex. I also sympathize with the feeling that one’s life might be easier or more comfortable if one was a member of the other sex and also sometimes wishing that one was the other sex.

Where the cognitive dissonance sets in for me is the conclusion that being uncomfortable with the gender role associated with one’s sex and preferring the one corresponding to the other sex means that one actually is that other sex trapped in the “wrong” body. This is where it becomes magical thinking. I simply cannot make that leap of faith. For me, it defies all notions of logic and common sense; it is Orwellian doublethink.

The idea that one would make the determination of whether one is male or female based on the obfuscatingly slippery definitions of “gender”, that differ from culture to culture and have not been consistent throughout history, makes no sense to me. The notion that such ideas of gender would trump the biological reality of sex, which does NOT differ from culture to culture and have been consistent throughout history, in such a determination is just ludicrous.

A big part of the problem is that, in recent years, people having been using the words “sex” and “gender” as if they are interchangeable words. They are not.

As I see it, whether one is male, female, or intersex, is firmly grounded in biology: genitalia, gonads, hormones, chromosomes, and skeletal structure.

Gender, which consists of roles, personality traits, and stylistic preferences assigned to and associated with one sex or the other, is a set of cultural affectations intended to merely emphasize and call attention to one’s sex. It is cultural window dressing that does not determine whether one is male or female in the first place.

I see the idea of transgenderism as reaching a conclusion based on the wrong emphasis. Rather than a challenge to sexism, I see it as, rather, a capitulation to it, in that they see the culturally and historically variable ideas of gender as being immutable, inherent, and necessary to one’s definition as male or female, rather than just accepting the biological reality of their sex.

Instead of becoming their own kind of man or woman, they choose to change themselves in order to fit the stereotyped role that feels more comfortable. If the shoe doesn’t fit, they conclude they must cut the foot, rather than change the shoe or dispense with shoes altogether.

I was a child who was not particularly comfortable with the female gender role and bristled at the idea of having to be “feminine”. I, too, felt it would be easier to be a boy and sometimes wished I was one.

But feelings aren’t facts. I understood that, despite my discomfort with what was expected out of females in our society when I was growing up, that I was female, like it or not.

Instead of deluding myself with magical thinking into believing that I actually was a male in a female body, I decided to play the cards I was dealt. I concluded that there was more than one way to be a woman and that I would decide what kind of woman I would be.

I ended up throwing out the entire “gender” script altogether, and just live according to my own individual personality, which incorporates traits and preferences from both stereotypes.

As I matured, I realized that what is now commonly referred to as “gender identity”, was simply my individual personality and, as such, it wasn’t tied into having a particular type of body. In other words, I don’t have a “gender identity”, I have a sex and I have a personality.

I was fortunate to have parents who loved me and didn’t have rigid ideas of how a girl “should” be. My childhood was happily spent as an untroubled tomboy and I grew up to be a straight woman who still does not have a particularly stereotypical “feminine” personality.

I think true liberation will come only when people feel free to be themselves and express their genuine personalities in whatever kind of body they were born with and it won’t matter so much to them what sex they are; they’ll be able to be happy either way.

Something to think about.



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