The past decade has seen a rapid rise in people “coming out” as transgender. The Gender Affirmation Plan is now a stock-standard form of any school, alongside the Asthma Management Plan, Diabetes Management Plan and Anaphylaxis Management Plan. The provision of space for gender diversity is to be applauded: this is one contemporary issue that society is increasingly ready to embrace, just as it did with homosexuality in previous decades (with most notable measures of acceptance seen in the mass movement of people voting YES in civic votes about marriage equality, in a sweep across western nations across the last 5-10 years: this has caused governments to change laws and their definitions of “marriage”, which is truly a sign of power to the people).
Sometimes, though, I feel bereft that this advancement – the welcome creation of space for the non-binary and gender-fluid – seems to equal the destruction of spaces specific to those who identify as single-gender: when I observe fewer places dedicated solely to men and women I wonder, am I just looking in the wrong places, and missing seeing something which is in fact there? Or have they indeed by eradicated?
Full disclosure: I am cisgender female. I value my time with my female friends, such as the biennial Women’s Retreat I attend. I value saying things that I know don’t need to be explained, as I know they will be innately understood by my female listeners who have shared experience of what it means to be a woman. The volumes of chick lit and chick flicks are testament to women’s needs to find themselves reflected in popular culture.
I have also observed the men in my life bonding together in a way that I can’t access, because their male-bonding has its own unique set of “rules” and “modus operandi”. A male friend of mine introduced me to the concept of – and need for – “men’s music”, which up until then I hadn’t known mirrored my own enjoyment of “women’s music”, and the way I can find myself in it.
Sometimes, the contemporary juggernaut of insisting on gender-neutrality seems to reduce the ability to hold such single-gender spaces … especially when the call for acceptance of gender-diversity is so loud it seems to actively squash, even erode, previous ways of doing things. Whether by design or not, reduction of single-gender space is sometimes the effect.
I feel sad about that, because I see valuable spaces lost … my sincere hope is that soon, when gender fluidity is normalised and does not need to fight for space, there will be non-combative room for everyone … so that individuals all along the gender spectrum – however they identify – have place and space in our shared world, and see themselves reflected in popular culture.