I remember a discussion around sex where I expressed my lack of inclination in one night stands, as the thought of any kind of intimacy with a woman I barely know is very scary and incomprehensible. Following this remark, I joked saying that I feel like a chick. I didn’t realise then, but perhaps my friend took offense to that joke considering she is a woman. In hindsight, I realise I have a very strong feminine side which I am rather proud of.To me, humouring that side of me is a way of expressing how secure I feel about this feminine side. But the joke appeared to convey the exact opposite meaning as I was asked if I felt insecure about my masculinity. While I apologise for the hurt caused, I still stand by the fact that I meant no disrespect in my humour.
This was not the first time I wondered how I felt about my masculinity, being a man and all. When I drive, I usually always give the right of way to both pedestrians (human and animal variety) as well as vehicles. If there is a vehicle coming from the opposite direction in my lane, I almost always compromise and go to the side to make way. A female acquaintance observed that I was among the few men she knew who conceded so easily. I guess to me, masculinity or femininity, or a combination thereof is not something you have, but who you are. You can neither be ashamed of it, nor be proud of it. All you can do is embrace it and use it to get ahead in life.
I realise now how significant and monumental, the contribution of the transgender community to society is. I always saw them as a third gender, but I realise now that all of human kind falls somewhere outside or in between conventionally understood gender identities like “man” and “woman”. Not only has this made gender insensitivity unacceptable, but it has rendered any kind of gender classification based on existing categories, absurd and logically flawed.
Every human being is a mixture of traits we conventionally understand, as masculine and feminine. It is the reason why we need to acknowledge, recognise and respect the third gender as they have made us conscious and aware of the stupidities inherent in the way we have classified and understood gender and sexual identity. Man and women are concepts invented by society and whether they are part of nature’s construct, is now rendered a question and as opposed to a foregone conclusion.
The need has come to steer the debate away from whether or not men are women are created equals, to whether human beings are created as men and women at all. The terms masculinity and femininity are on their way to becoming extinct, as any kind of classifications to describe gender and sexual identities will remain over simplistic, besides being unscientific.
I think in some ways, Indian culture found this wisdom many centuries ago. The concepts of ardanareshwara and the respect we held for the third gender, reflects our enlightened understanding of the absurdity in branding humans as men and women. The fact that Sakskrit language has pulinga, strilinga and napumsakalinga further fortifies my point. Victorian morals no doubt polluted our minds and reduced us to developing flawed understanding of gender identity. But we can find our way back again.
But it is confusing, how can we abandon “men” and “women” when we have used them for centuries? I don’t know the answer. But I do know that this is a welcome challenge to our mindset and vocabulary. We can now finally focus on realising the uniqueness in each of us. By telling people there is no gender identity to fit into, we are asking them to be secure in one’s skin and in one’s mind.
But so long as we stress on proving which gender is stronger, we will validate the conventional classifications (man and woman) that have been used to perpetrate cruel power politics among human beings. We cannot truly achieve gender equality unless we get rid of the foundations of this inequality, namely, the classifications of male and female. We must thank the transgender community, for helping us realise that in one sense, we are all truly transgender and any assault on men or women, is actually an assault against the self.