The end of male & female: what is the belief behind gender mainstreaming?
Evert van Vlastuin, RD
“Mum, when will I become a boy?” a girl once asked. Mother laughed. “You are a girl, my child, so you will never be a boy.” Many mothers today will answer less candidly. Because in this age of “gender mainstreaming”, gender is also a choice.
In the English city of Brighton, secondary school pupils received a questionnaire. Among other things, the teenagers had to indicate which of the 23 gender options they most identify with. The list began with girls and boys but continued with variations: male, female, neither, in between or flexible.
The German publisher Gabriele Kuby (author of “The Global Sexual Revolution”) thought she was well acquainted with all the indications. Until she stumbled on “cis”. “It is the same as heterosexual. By using new words for normal things, the gender movement wants to break through the bipolarity of man and woman. And that has to start with children”, she says in a telephone interview.
Questioning is creating insecurity
In The Argus, Brighton’s local newspaper, columnist Katy Rice complained that the school creates insecurity by asking such questions. This will “unnecessarily make all teenagers question their basic identity”, Rice wrote.
She hit a nerve with this. The school was heavily criticised, but it turned out that the school was not responsible for the list. It came from the British Child Protection Agency. The government organisation admitted: this was a mistake.
Now Brighton is a modern city that likes to lead the way when it comes to sexual rights. The government strives for an “inclusive and tolerant society”. No less than one in six of its inhabitants counts as LGBTQI (the still-growing abbreviation for a particular sexual minority).
Let children enjoy innocence
In April, therefore, a new action followed in the coastal city. The city council asked parents of upcoming toddlers to help their child choosing the correct gender. Of course, the box could also remain open if the child was not yet ready to choose.
Parents reacted furiously. “Four-year-olds do not generally have fixed views and often don’t fully understand that their sex, colour or even species is fixed.” Others called it dangerous to expose young children to this kind of ‘big people stuff’. “They are not adults – let them enjoy the innocence and creativity of their childhood”, the Daily Mail recorded.
Simon Calvert of The Christian Institute in England also reacted to the publicity. “To feel safe, children need to know there are some simple boundaries in life. The basic biological categories of male and female are amongst the most simple and fundamental boundaries of all”, according to Calvert.
According to progressive thinkers, however, Brighton is a shining example. In the past, you received a form to fill in with your name, date of birth and gender. Today, parents must guide the child in a choice. After all, now that they are at an age where gender can still go either way, it is not good to expose children to stereotypes.
Gender is an English word for sex, but not only in a biological sense. In language grammer, it indicates whether a word is feminine, masculine or neuter. The term sex refers to the biological gender, not to the experienced gender.
The theory of ‘gender mainstreaming’ uses the word for the social or psychological perception of one’s gender. So, gender is the sex ‘between the ears’. The biological sex is ‘between the legs’.
There is a unity between gender and sex in almost all people, but 1 in 2,000 people lack this click. Transsexuals have the feeling that they are in the wrong body. In the list of psychiatric disorders (DSM-5), this gender confusion is called gender dysphoria.
Psychiatric treatment is aimed at getting people to accept their biological sex. But another route is also possible: gender reassignment surgery. Gender clinics in all Western countries report that the number of registrations for this has risen sharply in the last five years.
Neutral language in Sweden
The ‘mother’ of feminism, Simone de Beauvoir, already said it in 1949 in her book “The second sex”: “You are not born a woman, you are made a woman.” Against this background, many parents today prefer a gender-neutral upbringing.
In Sweden, the leaders of a group of progressive crèches address the children as “friends”. The use of “boy” or “girl” is taboo. The leaders do not speak of “he” or “she” either but use a new neuter word in Swedish.
This approach gives children “a fantastic opportunity to be who they want to be”, said one of the leaders in the media. In other words, the realisation that they are boy or girl is a hindrance for the child.
But critics say that in Sweden, this approach actually misjudges children’s identity.
In Sweden, too, not everyone is enthusiastic about this principle of neutrality. “Research in Stockholm has shown that highly educated parents keep their children away from it,” says Swedish Maria Hildingsson, who works in everyday life for the French Federation of Roman Catholic Family Organisations in Europe (FAFCE). “Less educated people are more susceptible to modern views on education, I suspect. Higher educated people are harder to convince”, according to Hildingsson in a telephone interview.
Advocates of gender blindness complain a lot about the stereotypical pink and blue clothes for girls and boys, of which sweet advertising brochures are full of. On the other hand, the idea that all children’s rooms have no different colours is, of course, quite stereotypical either.
Make an end to the pigeon-holing
With children, gender blindness is perhaps still reasonably harmless. A boy is an Indian today, a dinosaur tomorrow and a woman the day after. Some adults think they have this flexibility too, but it is expressed differently.
An example of such an adult is the Dutch-Egyptian Monique Samuel, who said on TV that her name changed to Mounir last year. Was she a man now? Eva Jinek asked. No, not at all. “I want to think outside the box. I want the freedom to find out who I am”, Samuel said.
Publicist Asha ten Broeke (author of the Dutch book “Het idee M/V”) recognises herself in Samuel. She experiences male and female seasons in her life. She is married, and the mother of two daughters but has always felt more like a man than a woman, she writes on her website. “How strong that feeling is changes over the years.” As soon as the boy phase returns, she asks the hairdresser for “boy’s hair”. “I’ve never felt the need for a male body,” she writes, “but when I wear a skirt, I feel like I’m taking part in a costume party.” She calls herself gender fluid. Her message: “Make an end to the pigeon-holes”.
Those pigeon-holes (in technical terms binarity, or: bipolarity of man and woman) are something from the old days when people still counted on the biological sex. In our age of gender thinking, everything is fluid.
Creators of self-chosen identity
Gender today is a self-chosen identity. The gender movement says that it is completely arbitrary to refer to a son or daughter on a birth announcement to family and friends.
The pattern m/f (male/female) is too restrictive. Someone said in a message to Facebook in 2015: “As someone who does not identify with female or male pronouns, I feel excluded by FB.” And with success. Facebook members can choose from as many as 60 variants. If that is not enough, they can add new ones. The idea is that people are their own creators. Of course, you can change your gender also.
Changing birth certificate
Of course, this has political consequences. For example, the Dutch government is currently considering whether to ask for gender when registering births. The background to this is that some political parties believe that this would place too much of a burden on the child.
In the Netherlands, transgender people can also change their birth certificates without sex reassignment surgery. The Netherlands is not entirely at the forefront of this, as a doctor’s statement is still required to guarantee that this is the person’s permanent wish. This is no longer necessary in other countries, such as Denmark, Ireland, Colombia, and Argentina. So, there it may happen that a civil servant must register someone with a beard and a tuft of chest hair as a woman.
Transgenders are riding on the success of the gay movement. And that success is enormous. The new Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau, for example, now wants to expand the legislation that protects gays with measures that make insulting transgender people a punishable offence.
It strikes Mrs Hildingsson with all these initiatives that politicians are not really critical. “They find it difficult to ask questions about the rights of homosexuals and related groups. That is why these kinds of group rights for sexual minorities are at the top of the agenda at the European Union and the United Nations these days. The Netherlands is an important advocate for it.”
“No one has a gender, everyone has a sex”
The whole gender debate also arouses strong resistance. The small, conservative paediatrician group American College of Paediatricians (ACPED) speaks of an ideology that is not rooted in facts. “No one is born with a gender. But everyone has a biological sex”, the college says. “People who identify as “feeling like the opposite sex” or “somewhere in between” do not comprise a third sex. They remain biological men or biological women.” According to ACPED, this movement mainly brings uncertainty and therefore longer queues at the gender clinic.
There is also criticism from the gay movement. David Berger, former editor-in-chief of the German magazine Männer, believes that the “gender thing” is misleading. It makes people think that they can throw off the “shackles of biology”. “The goal is to achieve a society without gender”, he said during an event of the Christian Democrats for Life in Berlin (the CDU’s pro-life movement), a speech that got reflection in the press.
According to Gabriele Kuby, the gender movement promises freedom but brings slavery. “It is a frontal attack on family and motherhood. The forced sexualisation through education in German schools is also an attack on childhood. It is the worst thing there is. The result is a demographic crisis.”
Genesis: Male and female He created
In reactions from Christians worldwide, one text recurs regularly, namely Genesis 1:27: “Male and female He created them.” Together, man and woman radiate God’s greatness. Being a man or a woman is a privilege and not a sad fate.
The Scottish pastor David Robertson, the moderator of the Free Church, recently made headlines when he called gender politics “a state-subsidised indoctrination”. “Teaching children they can choose their own gender is itself arguably a form of child abuse”, according to Mr Robertson on his personal website.
German theologian Prof. Rainer Mayer sees in the gender vision an “inner contradiction” regarding homosexuality. Mayer: “Those who call homosexuals to change are dismissed as frauds today. But gender mainstreaming says that we cannot fix anyone’s sexual identity and that every person can choose and change their sexual orientation as they see fit.”
Future of gender movement difficult to predict
Mayer is supported in this by the publicist Asha ten Broeke, an advocate of the gender theory. She disputes the idea that sexual preference is fixed for life. On her internet page, she seeks debate with the famous Dutch brain researcher Dick Swaab, the infamous ‘gay swab’ discoverer.
It is difficult to say where gender thinking will end up. What is clear is that the objectives are in line with gay rights and that politicians in many countries are determined to advance their acceptance. At the same time, there is a lot of doubt everywhere. Hildingsson: “Especially when children come into play, people are very protective. That makes it difficult to predict the future.”
Obama wants to open all toilet doors
The 16-year-old American student A.J. Jackson is a boy. But it is only recently that he discovered that. Physically, he is still a woman, but he has already changed his clothes and hair.
He attends school in Chester, Vermont, USA. In The New York Times last week, he told how he recently went to the boys’ bathroom for the first time. It felt like coming home. Some boys thought it was “silly” and protested. Others resigned themselves.
When AJ had his period, he had his doubts again. Because as long as Jackson doesn’t take male hormones, it goes him to the way of women. And even in the US, boys’ toilets are still not equipped for menstruating visitors.
AJ as Rosa Parks
School director Tom Ferenc had still suggested using the neutral toilet but was fine with AJ not doing so. “It reminded me of Rosa Parks, honestly,” said Ferenc in The New York Times. Rosa Parks provoked the protests of blacks in 1955 by sitting in the seat of a white person on the bus. She is considered a hero.
By comparing a girl in a boys’ toilet to Rosa Parks, Ferenc gives the issue an extra weight: resistance to sexual identity is the new racism. And there are no excuses.
Should AJ want to use the male changing room and shower during sports lessons, the Obama administration will support him, as was revealed in a letter from Washington to all public schools in the country last week. AJ can also demand access to the boys’ section of the school’s overnight accommodations without justification. Only when it comes to putting together sports teams are schools allowed to put together ‘real’ male and female teams. This may be the new battle line.
In the letter, the government refers to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which came out of Parks’ civil rights movement. It prohibits discrimination based on gender.
This week, eleven states decided to sue the Obama administration for this. Opponents of Obama’s ‘open’ toilet policy warn against abuse, among other things. If transgender people do not have to justify themselves, female facilities can also attract peepers. American media give examples of this. In Seattle, a man undressed in a women’s room. He said, “The law has changed; I have a right to be here.”
Separated toilets worldwide
The custom of separating toilets, changing rooms and showers by gender spread in the second half of the nineteenth century and is now a worldwide norm. The Dutch Occupational Health and Safety Act also stipulates that these facilities must be “separated according to sex” (Arbeidsomstandighedenbesluit Article 3.24).
Dutch Minister Koenders (Foreign Affairs) speaks up for Obama. According to him, North Carolina’s toilet law, which requires everyone to visit the toilet that corresponds with the gender in their passport, is “discrimination” against transgender people, which goes against international treaties, he said this month in the US.
The question is whether the matter is legally as simple as Obama and Koenders make it out to be. North Carolina’s toilet law confirms the legal rule that toilets and changing rooms are separated “by sex” (i.e. according to the biological sex). As long as the biological sex is involved, A.J. Jackson is still a woman.
South African Constitution
The term “gender” hardly ever appears in laws. As far as we know, only the South African Constitution of 1996 mentions both gender and sex. Therefore, it is up to the courts to decide how the Civil Rights Act of 1964 should be interpreted.
Many schools and institutions solve the matter pragmatically and convert the disabled’s toilet into a gender-neutral facility. A progressive university in New York, the Cooper Union, does not want to wait for the debates and verdicts. Last year, this university removed all male/female signs and so created all universal restrooms.
This article was published previously in the Dutch Reformatorisch Dagblad on June 1st 2016.