Advocating Choice in Sex, Gender & Body Identity

arvan's picture

I like choice.  I believe in choice.  I think about choice as the exercise of one's own mind and as fulfillment of any rights granted by a society. 

My personal experience of rights is that they do not exist outside of the agreements that combine to create and define a society.  I won't venture into the unprovable belief that rights are given by god.  For this conversation, I am talking about the rights granted by the social contract(s) we agree to follow as a group for the benefit if the group and by extension - ourselves.  In that context, rights are an agreement to what we can and cannot do, as individuals or groups within the society at-large. 

As individuals, we demonstrate the reasons for our rights.  In fact, so many conversations demand that we prove why we have rights.  The rights of the privileged exist and everyone else is seemingly forced to fight for theirs - one painful step at a time.

When it comes to choice, our human cultures and societies seem to be giving a lot of preference to reasons over choice.  Take for example, identifying ones self as gay or trans.  There are plenty of conversations about how we don't have a choice in being gay or trans.  Many good minds have found physical evidence that we were born that way.  Some people know at an early age that their gender, sex or body identity does not align with the hetero gender binary definition.  They are born thinking and feeling that way.  I absolutely believe that.  (I don't know the science in detail, but it seems pretty sound to me.  However, I am in NO WAY even beginning to question this information, which I happen to believe is true.)

So many anti-gay arguments claim that the "gay lifestyle" corrupts "normal" people.  The inference is that gay is a choice and a danger all together.   It's not just about being gay, either.  Trans folk, persons of color, persons living with different bodies and abilities, different gender definitions, different sexual expressions and identities all face demands for justification and acceptance.  A common statement is that people are born this way and that there is a) no choice and b) nothing wrong with it.  For some people, I am 100% positive that we are born with our sexual preference, gender identity and body definitions.  Absolutely positive.  But, what about someone that decides to make a choice without any of that going on?

I am asking why I have to prove that I was born this way, for people to accept me as I identify myself?  For the right to choose the terms of my own identity?

I have heard many derisive comments leveled at "pretend lesbians" or "fashionably gay" people as well as declarations of why someone is not really bisexual because...?

It seems to me that the idea of choosing for personal reasons that have meaning only to the individual - are challenged, ignored or devalued by well...just about every element of society.  The status quo, the smaller groups fighting for their group identity and a whole lot of the rest of us. 

I don't need a reason to be gay or straight or bi or trans or abled or equal.  If I choose to identify as gay or bi or trans, do I need to prove that I was born this way for me to have society's permission to be identified as I say I am?

So fucking what if I do decide on whim to suck cock or wear a dress?  What if I suspend from hooks in my skin?  What if I cover my body in tattoos?  What if I decide to be referred to as hir for no other reason than it suits me today?  When technology allows in the future, we may be able to change our gender back and forth as we see fit.  (We already do so in virtual spaces like Internet chat rooms and Second Life, etc.) Will we need a reason to do so?  Why? 

You can probably tell by now that I don't think we need a reason for our choice of identity.  Not one bit. 

I'll tell you what I do wonder.  Is this just a product of bully culture, gang fighting and a widespread belief that if we stand up and declare ourselves as individuals on our own terms and with no one else's permission - then we won't have a fucking chance of surviving?  How much of our daily language and concepts are built on the idea of group identity?  Do we, as human beings constantly, invisibly and unquestioningly assume that we can only survive under the protection of some group's agreement?  Is it the only way?

Let's look at it another way.  Let's suppose that there exists this strong current of belief inside the social contract of our societies that we have to belong to a group identity and that we all need to have the agreement of others for the group to survive.  Some individual comes up with its own identity definition.  Why worry?  If the group is looking out for itself, that individual will not be able to survive the elements of nature that are external to society.  If this group identity aspect is a means for survival of the group, then the individuals that move out of the group agreement are on their own.  Good luck to ya, etc. 

It's not really a threat.  No real reason to be upset.  But, people to get upset and they are threatened. 

What is so threatening about an identity chosen independent of the group and for reasons that have nothing to do with the group? 

What is so threatening about choice? 

Why are people so quick to argue that we were "born this way"?  Why are groups so quick to accuse others of "lifestyle choice" and to declare it a threat  or ill?

I have my suspicions of course.  I suspect that we don't examine our language and take these concepts of group identity for granted.  I suspect that people who profit from the patriarchal, militaristic and religious intolerence don't want to lose their gravy train (and by profit, I mean the hoarding of wealth combined with the harvest of human misery).

So, what do we do about it?  Why am I even bringing this up?  If any of this has merit at all, how can a change be instituted?  It seems that if I start a call to action, I'm still engaging in group identity, group action and group thinking.  So, here's my plan:

I personally; me; no on else; just me...I want every one of you to know that however you identify yourself, for whatever reason, for no reason...whatever - I accept you on your own terms, in your own words, as you see fit.  You don't owe me an explanation for anything.  You can come and go as you please, dressed as you ilke and addressed in whatever pronoun, adverb, punctuation or linguistic construct you choose.  Call yourself whatever you will and that is who you are to me.  

Please regard me in the same manner.


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What if what you are

kadair's picture

What if what you are describing is a fear of weakening the group?  If the societal rules exist to protect all the people within the society, they only protect the society if all members conform.  Not conforming, even to the point of being shunned, undermines the strength of the group.

I'm only saying this as an explanation for why non-conformity and individualism bothers so many people, not that I believe it.  I believe embracing the unique strengths of the individual can strengthen society by making it more diverse, and thus able to deal with various challenges.

I suspect the need to "prove" one was "born this way" is a part of a slow acceptance.  In general, people don't like "different", don't know how to cope with it.  If a ridiculous label (such as "born this way") can be attached to it, it can be easier to understand, easier to accept.  I also suspect that people who are "born this way" may be fiercely protective of their (limited) acceptance and thus don't want someone to horn in on their place, by "choosing" to be "this way".

Of course, I am speaking in generalities, and very early in the morning, but you got me thinking about things.  Thanks!

thanks for the reply

arvan's picture

I really believe that a lot of people are "born that way"...whatever "that way" is.  I am positive that their experience is exactly that. 

This post is not about them or their experience or any question for their reasons.  This post is about why on earth people go around demanding that we provide reasons for why we are different at all. 

I don't see why any of us actually need to produce any reasons at all.  Nobody owes me a reason for why they are a particular gender, sexual preference or body definition.  They don't owe me shit.  If people want to tell me, then go on ahead.  Rock on with your bad self.

We gather together into societies, allegedly for our mutual good.  Some sacrifices of individuality are made for the common good.  (i.e.  I am not allowed to drive my car on the sidewalk.)  The life and death of others hangs is at stake there.

Loving another person and being loved by them, calling myself a man or woman or whomever - those things have nothing to do with anybody else.  The only thing threatened there is the self-imposed autonomy and dictatorship enjoyed by groups and individuals that seek to gain power by controlling others.  Whether that is a religious institution raking in untold  fortunes by peddling the idea of being god's mouthpiece or the penny-ante tyranny of the neighborhood hate monger, it's all the same to me.  People getting off on fucking with other people. 

I would like to see people try to defend that way for a change.

- arvan

Great article - agree 100%!

Christina Engela's picture

Great article, Arvan - I like it a lot!


I agree with you completely. It seems to me that this nameless, faceless "society" we refer to sets the goals, determines as an absolute the measures to which everyone must match up to, who is in, out, ugly, beautiful, desirable, undesirable, and what is the norm and what isn't - and what should be accepted and what not.

It all comes down to the basic principles of society - which sad to say, are still based on the basic principles of organized religion - which is, was and always will be about CONTROL.


Thanks, Christina

arvan's picture

That means a lot, coming from you.  I know that you have thought about this in detail and I was very concerned about the tone of this piece sounding like a dismissal or invalidation of personal experience in identity.

Thanks for reading and commenting.


oh yeah...

arvan's picture

I forgot to thank you for reading the site and joining!  Welcome.  I hope that you will feel free to make your own contributions as a commenter or writer, on a regular basis.

- arvan

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