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Is being able to check ‘agender’ when it is not a descriptor with equal permissions, just one more othering?

Soleil Nathwani Jun 13, 2018

LGBT rights have grown to include LGBTQ, then LGBTQIA and in the hope of leaving no one behind LGBTTQQIAAP: lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, ally, pansexual. Photo: Pixabay/Creative Commons

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A generation ago, when we were far less woke to sex and gender, they were used interchangeably. Our chromosomes determine whether we are assigned male, female or intersex at birth but societal mores define what makes a woman or a man, throwing human beings into the pink or blue box, the trousers or skirt, the boardroom or bedroom. The determinants are as capricious as those who make the rules—look back to the 16th century and men wore heels, wigs and make-up. Today, social structures have allowed us to find acceptance in boxes beyond Adam and Eve. In Los Angeles you can be a trans woman on a female sports team and in Mumbai, while you’d be shunned from the rental market as a polyamorous lesbian, there is finally room to be a female CEO who wears pants to work. Moving like molasses, this is progress.

The very recent past has seen an embrace of shifts in the way we look at gender and sexuality. Children’s books envisioning ‘alternative’ familial structures such as same sex parents are a sure sign that governments of countries opposing same sex unions simply have not caught up to a future that no longer hides. For newer battles there is the optimism that if they are not won today, they will be tomorrow. Support for transgender military service in the U.S. has flown in the face of the Trump administration,the mayor of Bhubaneswar in eastern India opened the country’s first public gender-neutral bathroom this year and couples are beginning to raise their kids as ‘theybies’ ignoring the concept of he or she until the child exhibits a preference. Seem challenging? Visit www.raisingzoomer.com.

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In the most telltale sign that a post-gender world is in the collective consciousness, millennial celebrities are refuting gender constructs en masse. So much so that last year, then ‘It’ couple Zayn Malik and Gigi Hadid described themselves, in a glossy cover story, as beyond gender. In spite of warranted mockery for what felt more like a clothes swapping magazine shoot than a deep dive into identity. this was a sign that gender fluidity was jumping the hoops from taboo to trendy to mainstream fueled by the activists on the ground and heralded by the celebrities on the front page. In tandem norms for sexual preferences have expanded. LGBT rights have grown to include LGBTQ, then LGBTQIA and in the hope of leaving no one behind LGBTTQQIAAP: lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, ally, pansexual.

Does this mean progress looks like an acronym longer than the alphabet? To fight for inclusion, boxes have to keep multiplying, gaining ground brick by brick. Is being able to check ‘agender’ when it is not a descriptor with equal permissions, just one more othering? Perhaps, but it’s a necessary step forward. The goal though is for people not to have to explain themselves, the finest expression of ‘Take Me As I Am.’ The beacons: David Bowie who nonchalantly claimed his bisexuality, Grace Jones who embodies masculine femininity, Prince exuding male virility in frills, quietly resisted categorization. And today, artists like Tilda Swinton who says that she is ‘probably a woman’ and Janelle Monae who espouses that ‘love has no sexual orientation’ challenge convention by fighting classification, not electing one. Ultimate progress will mean expanding boxes for gender and sexual orientation is moot. The hope is that we’ll be ‘Post-Labels.’

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The author is a film producer and journalist, and a former hedge fund COO. Twitter: @soleilnathwani

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