Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Politics Of: Gender Identity

In case you missed it, Facebook added something like 56 new genders to the user profiles. No longer need you be male or female. You can now self-identify (for example) as:
  • Transgender
  • Cisgender
  • Pangender
  • Neutrois
  • Transmasculine (but not transfeminie)
  • Two-Spirit
If any of that seems confusing (I had to look up Neutrois) this picture might help:
I Suspect On Most Forms, 'Gender' Is Just Supposed To Be A Non-Scary Word For 'Sex'
So okay: now if you identify as, say, 'Gender Variant,' you now have an option that describes you. For a lot of people this was intensely validating. For others, it was less so. Consider the Before It's News headline:
Leftists Celebrate As Facebook Launches 50 New Gender Options For Users
 and Hot Air's dry:
Awesome. Facebook now offering 50 choices for “gender” in profiles
Most of the major conservative outlets just posted the story and expressed befuddlement (the Daily Caller noted that similar issues had led to complete confusion over the use of pronouns at all). The story came and went. That was the end of it--right?


The Politics Of Gender
The politics of gender are, it turns out, the politics of gay rights and, by extension, the women voting blocs. As Republicans have a current 11% gap in women's votes. If Hillary runs in 2016, that could prove fatal. What am I talking about? How is Facebook's gender-list a women's voting issue? Let's look.

The Gender-List Issue Is a Proxy for Gay Rights
The first thing you have to understand is that the conservative negative reaction to Facebook's list of 50+ genders is based on the issue of gay rights (most prominently, today, gay marriage). If you don't believe me from the top-line stories (which were pretty restrained) let's take a look at some of the comments from each one. I have helpfully bolded the parts you should pay attention to. For example:
jong  7 days ago Good lord they really are letting all the nut cases in over there. For the record I am not homophobic I am however Homonauseous. Then again with liberals its really no secret they have a hard time telling there own sex much less any body else's why should that be any different they also have a even harder time between right and wrong
And ...
From the day it appeared, I have said Facebook is gay. It’s the digital equivalent of walking around all day wearing a sandwich board that says “Look at me! Please, please, please look at me! I need your validation! Approve of me! Please!”
That’s as emotionally weak as you can get. And that’s gay.
M240H on February 16, 2014 at 11:30 AM
or the short and sweet:
Brian V. Sitterley6 days ago
All of them fall under the definition of "pervert".
As you can see, non-traditional genders translate to gay / deviant sexual behavior to conservatives and Facebook normalizing variant genders moves towards normalizing that behavior across all of society. The reason this is important is because the objection is not actually just to the marriage of gays--that's a bit of a smokescreen--but to the mainstreaming of homosexual behavior itself.

To see an example of how this truth (that behind the curtain of gay marriage objection lies an objection to gay sex itself), let's take a look at one of the "Ten Reasons Same Sex Marriage Effects Your Marriage":
7. Same-sex marriage defeats the purpose of the state’s interest in benefiting your marriageA reason the federal government bestows numerous benefits on families with children, including child tax credits, is due to their social significance. The intent and design of heterosexual marriage is to provide the normal and stable conditions for the birth and upbringing of children.
It's like these guys have never heard of adoption or artificial insemination! Of course they have (conservatives are heavy supporters of adoption--by straight couples, anyway)--but this is supposed to be a sort of fridge-logic argument that seems to make sense at the time and will continue to do so as long as you don't think about it too heavily (the link is to the trope of something in a TV show that makes sense at the time but then hits you as being nonsensical when you, later, are getting something out of the 'fridge).

We see the same thing with slippery slope argument about pedophilia:
When the door to marriage redefinition is opened, a host of sexual moral obscenities can slip in. When and how do we close the door again?After pedophilia is accepted by society? What about polygamy, polyandry, and polyamory? Without a definite statement that marriage is between a man and a woman, and with it the natural biologically designed sexual union that is guarded within marriage, then anything goes -- pedophilia, bestiality, necrophilia, gender identity, and more. Philosophically, this can have profound moral ramifications for society, and when morals change society changes and everyone within it is affected.
Note the 'gender identity' underline--it's like screwing dead people! Does this make sense? No, the slippery slope is a logical fallacy. You can bet a lot of the religious writers putting this stuff out studied rhetoric for their classic educations. They just hope you haven't.

No, the real fear conservatives have about mainstreaming homosexual behavior (especially, uh, male homosexual behavior) is that you'll get more of it--maybe? A lot more of it.
The social history behind this piece is clear: once they’ve experienced sex with other men, Catullus tells us, men are unsatisfied with what their new wives provide them. Notice that the poet is unconcerned about the husband’s dallying with other women — it’s the other men around that threaten the marital union.

And so now we come back to the idyllic day of free choice and tolerance envisioned by the gay and lesbian movement. It turns out that that day has winners and losers. The winners — big time — are homosexual men, because the historical record shows that they can expect their potential pool of partners to expand exponentially. Of note here is that this expanded pool of partners accrues to gay men, but not to homosexual women. At the risk of getting too explicit, I leave it the reader’s basic grasp of anatomy to figure out why in ancient Rome a man who found pleasure in a woman, could also find pleasure in a man, while the record shows that a heterosexual woman rarely found sexual satisfaction in the company of another woman.
The losers from all this will be the vast majority of women. With full social sanction given to homoerotic activity, the historical precedent suggests that tomorrow’s women will have a harder time finding and holding on to suitable men. As women will suffer, so will the vitality and stability of the nuclear family.
Gay Rights Issues Are a Proxy For Women's Issues
The same way that the response to a 50-item gender list is a proxy for the conservative opposition to gay sex, women see gay rights as pertinent to them, whether they are gay or not. Look at this bit of polling:

What you see here is a 2013 poll that asks if gay/lesbian marriages should be legally recognized. For Democrats it's 69% 'yes' and for Republicans it's 65% 'no.' Pretty much what you'd expect. For women it's 56 ('yes') to 40 ('no'). The gap 16 points. That huge.

It may be because  SS-Marriage bans numerically effect more women than men and groups like NOW have come out in favor of same-sex marriage even if they aren't explicitly part of gay coalition--but I don't think so.

I think that issues of gender / sexual marginalization play differently for women than men and there is a sense of solidarity that plays out beyond the standard list of "women's issues" such as access to contraception / family planning, women's health policy, child-care issues, and so on. In short, all of this is bound together into a hard to dissect ball of interest groups that aren't always bright-line connected.

End Game: Collateral Damage
During the 2012 primary cycle I wrote of one of the endless Republican debates that Romney had definitely won it--but had said things that would haunt the party for a long time. It was the debate where Romney talked about Immigration law and applauded Arizona's draconian "papers please" legislation (where the cops can demand proof of citizenship on suspicion of being illegal--like having brown skin).

Romney lost Hispanics by historic margins.

So what next? Well the party is going to have to decide whether it's going to double down or walk away. You'd think with the numbers being firmly in favor of gay marriage the smart move would be to walk--to declare a 'truce' on same-sex marriage--but for the religious right, that's not an option. Kansas, as you may know, recently had its House legislature pass a law (looks to be defeated in the Senate) that would allow anyone--including potentially police and doctors and teachers to refuse to serve someone on the basis of their being gay. Idaho may be going even further (update: the bill was withdrawn).

Indeed, for religious conservatives this is a fight we have to have. Erick Erickson writing for Red State says: "This is What Happens When You Make Us Care"
The state of Kansas is passing legislation to stop that. The legislation protects religious individuals and their businesses from having to provide goods and services for gay marriages. The press is greatly exaggerating the legislation, trying to undermine it. The intimidation, harassment, and screaming has begun.
But we need more like Kansas. More states should follow Kansas’s lead. Faithful adherents of a religion should not be compelled to provide goods and services in the service of sin. If gay rights advocates wish to force the issue, Christians across the country should push back.
A majority of Americans may have decided they’re fine with gay marriage, but a majority also believe those who oppose gay marriage should not be forced into losing their business or providing goods and services to gay marriage.
Gay rights advocates may view their fight as one of equality. But Christians should fight on the grounds of religious liberty. More like Kansas, please.
While the (relatively muted) response to Facebook's gender list is just a drop in the bucket, I think the GOP's plays around gay marriage on the whole are going to reflect back on them like Romney's statements about immigration. They're going to be hard to back out of and they're going to alienate people who are essentially on the side-lines from what Republicans are talking about.

In warfare that's called 'collateral damage.'


  1. Oi there Omni,

    When you say, "Indeed, for religious conservatives this is a fight we have to have", are you self-identifying with that group? Or did you perhaps intend to say "...they have to have" (emphasis mine). Pronoun trouble?

    1. It's the wrong pronoun. The mistake was 'speaking in the voice of religious conservatives' who, for online values of 'we' (that is people speaking for "we conservatives") it's a fight that's pretty much gotta go down.

      But yes, The Omnivore doesn't count himself as a religious conservative--at least the way it means today.

      -The Omnivore

    2. Glad to hear that Omni, 'cos the (far too large) subset of RCs who also fall into the category of young-Earth Creationists, xenophobes, and climate-change deniers make that group - as commonly defined - hard to endure.

      -- Ω