Via Wikimedia Commons

In last week’s “Embracing gender-deviant people’s societal roles,” Dunkerely assumes the language proposed by those who themselves identify as ‘non-conforming’ in his defense of a healthy discourse on the inclusion of gender-deviants. That language is best symbolized by the genderbread person, a tool that divides the person into four separate spectra of gender identity, gender expression, biological sex, and attraction.
But how can you force someone who does not use this terminology to participate in this discussion? Perhaps it would be better to not assume the genderbread person in such a discussion because it presupposes a division between gender and sexuality that does not fundamentally appear. The ‘non-conformist’ language has become a question of defining oneself as ‘masculine,’ ‘feminine,’ or something else altogether, but, primarily, participating in this language carries with it certain philosophical assumptions. It solidifies an aspect of our identity that is not be concrete.
In short, the ‘non-conformity’ is actually a further development of conformity.  
Beneath the assumptions of my fellow student, however, lies an latent power structure that benefits no one. This power structure reveals itself in the deployment of gender through pink and blue consumer goods and divisions between types of interest, for example. Given that they know the ‘gender’ of their child, parents ascribe certain traits to their child even before they are born. Although these power structures are not as important during the earliest stages of development, they come into play in early childhood during their sexual development.
As we surrounded our children with gendered-objects, we began to see gender in a new way. Eventually, we pushed this understanding to radical ends. Rather than questioning the manner in which these objects are actually ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine,’ we created more categories under the auspices of inclusion. This, of course, led to political and moral backlash, sparking debate about gender that is as insubstantial as name-calling.
Dunkerley’s inclusion of historical examples speaks more closely to the manner in which gender is tied to physiology, which, in turn, is decided upon by the society in which one lives. To this point, I agree. ‘Masculine’ and ‘feminine’ have not always been some immutable set of characteristics. They have developed based on this very complex and contingent set of circumstances; moreover, they have recently developed into a method by which people willingly define themselves. The norm has cut deeper than before and has marked the child’s body from birth. It is what the child must become.
The nonconformist language, defined in terms of the norm, has also developed into a set vocabulary; further, these too fail to describe the essence of the sexual life of a human being. The language has developed a set of boxes to check on, say, Facebook. These boxes, like the norms of ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ in contemporary America, demarcate a set of characteristics one must encompass. It is not processual. It is set.
That’s not to say there is nothing essential about these characteristics in general. You can always find instances in which people perfectly fit a norm or fall outside of it, yet it is beneath this curve that a true discussion of gender must begin. Just as the norm has cut at the body, we must focus on the body before the cuts in order to understand the manner in which gender develops in a human being. (Perhaps it is best to make a much larger ‘deal’ about the sexual life of a human being first insofar as this always already implies an understanding of gender.)
A healthy discourse about gender avoids the very power matrices that have come to define what we think gender is even though gender is not primarily thought. It is something that we primarily experience. It proceeds forth from the body, coloring our interactions with others in unique ways.