Behind the Mirror: Adventures in Genderland (part one)

gentlemind

Behind the Mirror is a four-part series on the ideology named Gender. Part one explains the framework of Gender’s terminology.

“Those who are not shocked by quantum theory cannot possibly have understood it” – Niels Bohr

The two competing views of Gender are Theory and Ideology. Gender Theory regards gender to mean the way in which sexual difference is socio-culturally expressed/managed (say, the belief that only females can be nurses). To theorists, Gender Ideology means “an ideological approach to sexual difference” whereas to gender ideologists it means “the ideology named Gender”. Theorists say the State has included gender theory in law; Ideologists say Gender’s inclusion has meant the body’s exclusion. If the State currently recognises our sex and gender, both are protected in law. But if gender is protected (by, say, permitting females to use male loos), how can the State also be protecting sex (by, say, barring females from using male loos)? The State can protect body or mind, not both. Since the State does allow each sex to use either loo, sex (and therefore the body) is not being recognised in law. The ideologists are right.
Unlike any other ideology, Gender affects everybody. Since it is a profound lie about the human person – and since lies reflect truths – Gender reflects profound truths about us.
Three names are going to guide us through Genderland – Ben, Len and Lynn. We need to properly understand who/what they represent and how they relate to one another. Imagine Ben’s memory is so poor that, each morning, he looks into a hand mirror to learn his identity. This routine is so important that Ben gives his reflection a name – Len. One night a stranger breaks in and glues a photo of Ben’s face over the mirror. When Ben wakes up he does not realise Len is no longer a reflection. The next night, the stranger swaps the photo of Ben for a photo of the face of a female named Lynn.
The mirror represents the legal world. What we see in the mirror is what I term our “avatar” (the legal version of who we are). Our avatar ought to be (and used to be) a faithful reflection of our body. But Gender has swapped our legal body for our legal mind. We didn’t notice for the same reason Ben didn’t notice Len had become a photo – the change occurred on legality’s side of the mirror, not reality’s. Since we can change our mind, we can now change who we legally are. Lynn is a possibility arising from the relationship between legality and Gender. We will use male pronouns for Ben, Len and Lynn (this helps keep track of Ben during his adventures). Difficult though it is, the only way to “see” Gender is to view it from legality’s side of the mirror.
To clarify: Ben stands for a male body; Len stands for Legal Ben (Ben’s avatar/legal identity); Len used to represent Ben’s body, but now represents Ben’s mind; since Len always represents Ben’s mind, and since that mind can be changed, Ben can change legal identity by changing Len’s identity. Each of Len’s possible identities is called a Gender (or Gender Identity); if/when Ben changes Len’s identity to legally female, we will call Len Lynn. This might sound familiar: Ben the father; Len/Ben the legal son; Lynn/Ben the legal spirit. All identities are made possible through Len.
The identity of our sex is our “sexual identity”. Why, then, is the identity of our Gender our “Gender identity”? It looks as though there is a word missing, but there is not – “Gender identity” is a tautology (since Genders are identities). Nevertheless, we will use the term Gender identity.
One projectionist needs only one projector in order to project countless films onto his one cinema screen. In the same way, Ben’s one mind needs only one avatar in order to project countless Gender identities onto his one body. If Ben does not like the reel star, he changes the real. Asking Ben his Gender identity is like asking Harry Lime who Orson Welles is. Instead, we have to ask Ben what the identity of his avatar is – “Who is Len?”
Since his body is physical (external) Ben’s sexual identity is apparent to all. Since Len’s Gender identities are legal (internal), they can exist without being known to anybody bar Ben. The State permits Ben to play out Len’s Gender identities here in reality through Ben’s body. The bringing of Len’s Gender identity into the physical world is termed Gender Expression. In reality Ben is always being Ben and doing Ben. But viewed from legality’s side of the mirror it is Len that is being Ben, and Ben is merely doing Len (or Lynn/whoever). Gender gives Ben permission to haunt his own body.
The nature of the relationship between identity and expression poses a problem for gender theorists which they try to answer through Gender Performativity, a controversial concept positing that identity is dependent on expression. This does not mean theorists regard identity to be performance. Instead, they regard it to be constituted of acts and therefore to exist in the form of doing. According to theorists, we say “expressions are Ben”, not “Ben’s expressions are Ben”. Through performing an act, we come to regard ourselves to be a person who performs that act: a guitarist builds finger memory; a table tennis player “grooves in” a shot; repetition builds memory and identity.
Imagine we apply layers of papier-mache to a balloon. Reality tells us that the balloon allows the layers to be applied (to the balloon) whereas Performativity tells us the layers (expression) form the balloon (identity). But if Ben has no identity unless it is being expressed, who first expresses it? Theorists cannot answer because their understanding of gender (as socio-cultural) recognises only two factors (body and mind), whereas the answer requires three (body, mind and law).
This is difficult to follow (we find it hard to think of somebody without thinking of, well, some body), but imagine Ben’s mind existed before his body: Mind Ben creates Len (who exists only in Mind Ben); Len’s expressions form Ben’s body. Performativity “makes sense” when viewed from behind the mirror. To adopt the projectionist illustration:
  • We are in a cinema watching Citizen Kane. As an image of Orson Welles fades out, the projectionist changes the film to The Third Man and fades back in on an image of Orson Welles. We turn round to see that the projectionist is the mind of Orson Welles. Turning back around, we realise that the screen is the mind of Orson Welles too, with the images being his imagination.

Freaky stuff, huh? Len is regarded to be superior to Ben, with Ben regarded to be a reflection of Len. Since Len is a reflection of Ben’s mind, Ben’s body is legally regarded to be a reflection of his own mind. We are a reflection of our legal reflection.

The term Gender Binary denotes the out-dated view that only two Gender identities exist. This again conflates sex and Gender: if Gender denotes sex, the Gender binary is inescapable (male/female). But since Gender denotes mind, there can be no Gender binary (more than two states of mind exist). However, each of Len’s countless possible Gender identities belongs to one of only two types – either the same as Ben (Len), or different from Ben (any Gender identity bar Len, such as Lynn). Cisgender (Cis) denotes sameness, and Transgender (Trans) denotes difference – the male/female sexual binary has been replaced with the Cis/Trans legal binary.
Since both Cis and Trans denote a relationship (between Gender identity and body), Ben is neither Cis nor Trans. Instead, Len/Ben is Cisgender, and Lynn/Ben is Transgender (from hereon in, we need only refer to Ben, Len/Ben and Lynn/Ben). We cannot own a TV licence unless the State issues them. Ben cannot be Transgender (Lynn/Ben) independent of the legal concept of Gender. To be Transgender is to have a legal identity that does not reflect reality. All else is illusion.
Cis is to Trans what “straight” is to “gay” – a relational false category necessitated by the invention of a false category. Imagine 30 year-olds Tara and Sara are given permission to legally be any age they feel. Tara feels 20 (“trans-aged”). Sara can still legally be 30, but she cannot be “legally 30 because physically 30”. Instead, Sara has to be “cis-aged” (legally 30 despite physically 30). Cis shows Gender’s true purpose, namely to deny access to legal recognition of our body. This effect cannot not happen (it happens even when everybody is Cis/nobody is Trans). Gender legally ejects our physical identity from law. If our avatar is “genderless”, that is our Gender identity. To have no Gender identity we would need to have no avatar. Sex is a natural gift; Gender is a legal weapon.
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