The New Utopia: A Genderless Society?

The New Utopia: A Genderless Society? October 15, 2014

55552_photoThe Lincoln Public School system recently trained its teachers to create a gender-neutral, or gender-inclusive, environment in their classrooms (and don’t let the fact that FOX News broke the story take away from the fact that this is a real story—see this link from the JournalStar.)

The intent of the training, according to the higher ups, is to deal with bullying and to create a safe place for kids who don’t fall into the stereotypical male or female mold, i.e., transgendered children.

The teachers received a handout from Gender Spectrum offering practical suggestions on how to be gender inclusive in the classroom.

12 easy steps on the way to gender inclusiveness…

Avoid asking kids to line up as boys or girls or separating them by gender. Instead, use things like “odd and even birth date,” or “Which would you choose: skateboards or bikes/milk or juice/dogs or cats/summer or winter/talking or listening.”

Invite students to come up with choices themselves. Consider using tools like the “appointment schedule” to form pairs or groups. Always ask yourself, “Will this configuration create a gendered space?”

Don’t use phrases such as ”boys & girls,” ”you guys,” ”ladies and gentlemen, ” and similarly gendered expressions to get kids’ attention. Instead say things like ”calling all readers,” or ”hey campers” or “could all of the athletes come here.” Create classroom names and then ask all of the ”purple penguins” to meet at the rug.

Provide an opportunity for every student to identify a preferred name or pronoun. At the beginning of the year or at Back-to-School Night, invite students and parents to let you know if they have a preferred name and/or pronoun by which they wish to be referred.

Have visual images reinforcing gender inclusion: pictures of people who don’t fit gender norms, signs that ”strike out” sayings like “All Boys…” or ”All Girls…” or “All Genders Welcome” door hangers.

When you find it necessary to reference gender, say ”Boy, girl, both or neither.” When asked why, use this as a teachable moment. Emphasize to students that your classroom recognizes and celebrates the gender diversity of all students.

Point out and inquire when you hear others referencing gender in a binary manner. Ask things like, ”Hmmm. That is interesting. Can you say more about that?” or “What makes you say that? I think of it a little differently.” Provide counter-narratives that challenge students to think more expansively about their notions of gender.

Look for examples in the media that reinforce gender stereotypes or binary models of gender (it won’t be hard; they’re everywhere). When with others, call it out and interrogate it.

Be intolerant of openly hostile attitudes or references towards others EVERYTIME you hear or observe them, but also use these as teachable moments. Take the opportunity to push the individual on their statements about gender. Being punitive may stop the behavior, at least in your presence. Being instructive may stop it entirely.

Teach children specific language that empowers them to be proud of who they are, or to defend others who are being mistreated. “Please respect my privacy.” “You may think that, but I don’t.” ”You may not like it, but I do.” ”Hey, they’re called ’private parts’ for a reason.”

Help students recognize ”all or nothing” language by helping them understand the difference between patterns and rules. Teach them phrases like “That may be true for some people, but not all people,” or ‘frequently, but not always,” or “more common and less common.” Avoid using “normal” to define any behaviors.

Share personal anecdotes from your own life that reflect gender inclusiveness. Even better, share examples when you were not gender inclusive in your thinking, words or behaviors, what you learned as a result, and what you will do differently next time.

Do the work yourself. What are your own experiences with gender? What might be some of your own biases? What assumptions do you make about the gender of others? Share reflections about your own evolving understandings about gender.

We don’t live in Kansas anymore, do we?

We are far more aware than ever before of the challenges our kids experience when they don’t fit “conventional” gender norms. We see the hurt and devastation they go through (along with their families) when those who don’t understand them bully or exclude them.

But is this the answer? Read the 12 steps again. This isn’t about gender inclusivity…it’s about gender neutrality…where gender differences no longer exist.

But science isn’t on that side. Brain science researchers have discovered over 100 differences between the male brain and the female brain. Men and women are wired hormonally and chemically differently. These are not stereotypes. These are hard-wired differences that make males and females different (but equal). And those differences make for a far more creative world.

When we try to eliminate gender from the world, we not only confuse our boys and girls, we rob them of their uniquenesses as created in the Image of God Male and the Image of God female. We stifle the boy in our boys and the girl in our girls. Life moves from vibrant colors to grey.

Neutering gender only makes the problem worse.

Do we need to protect the 20% of the population who fall outside of the male/female spectrum? Absolutely! Do we need to find inclusive language for them? Sure. But not at the expense of robbing the world of the uniqueness of male/female. A genderless society is not the new utopia. It’s bland. It’s dull.  In trying to protect some, we hurt everyone. Imagine the confusion for example, from this one suggestion above: Avoid using “normal” to define any behaviors. That’s a set up for absolute chaos and confusion for everyone, no matter where they are on the spectrum.

I absolutely agree that it’s time to find language that protects all children. But that language has to be birthed in good science, good sociology, good theology, good reason, and common sense.

Because a gender-neutral society is no Utopia.

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  • Guthrum

    A new law was passed in California that outlaws the use of the terms “husband and wife”. I think it applies just to official state government publications and documents, but you can bet it wiil find its way into school cirricula and text books, even laws governing radio and tv broadcadting. Welcome to the Orwell world of “speech ” police. Of it is Cslifornia first with these types of laws. Weird, bizarre, perverted ! I have yet to meet a woman who was offended or insulted by being referred to or called a woman !! You could not make this stuff up!! Who is behind this ? Why ?
    People, wake up. You have only your rights and freedoms to lose. Christians, dpeak out. Remain silent no longer. Don’t lose control of your church and your freedom to worship as you wish. Pastors, wake up ! You will lose your freedom to preach as you wish. Speak out, speak up. A small, vocal group is trying to run the country and control others. Don’t sit back. Don’t wait until it is too late.
    See 2 Chronicles 7: 14 (a call to national repentance)

    • Sophia Sadek

      Good point. I think you are on to something here. It must be those 33rd degree Scottish Rite Freemasons.

  • donttouchme

    “These are hard-wired differences that make males and females different (but equal).”

    How could these hard-wired differences in any way make the sexes equal? What does that even mean?

    • RevTim

      Equal means that one is not better or more important than the other. We all have the same worth and value before God and in society. While we may be wired differently, we are still equals. Men are not better than women. Women are not better than men. We are equally the image of God, but different. Does that help?

  • ahermit

    Brain science researchers have discovered over 100 differences between the male brain and the female brain. Men and women are wired hormonally and chemically differently.

    That may be true, but there is nothing in any of that science that tells us how those differences might affect behaviour or ability in any individual person. Anatomical differences do not allow us to say things like “boys are better at math” or “girls are more empathetic.” Those kinds of generalizations are not based on science.

    • RevTim

      I refer you to a couple of books you may find interesting on this topic both by Louann Brizendine: The Male Brain and The Female Brain.

      • ahermit

        Perusing the reviews of those works I’m not sure I want to waste my time on them. What specifically do you think I would learn from them?

        This reviewer makes the same point I was making above:

        There certainly are psychological and neurological differences between men and women, sometimes big ones. But even when they aren’t promoting their ideas on the basis of “facts” that are apparently false, authors like Sax and Brizendine use a set of rhetorical tricks that tend to make sex differences seem bigger and more consequential than they really are. You can do it too, if you want — just choose phenomena that emphasize differences, leaving out the ones where the sexes are more similar; pick studies that find stereotypic differences, leaving out the ones whose results disagree; and in all cases, talk and write as if (even relatively small) differences in group averages were essential characteristics of every member of each group…

        The following example is given:

        …It’s been known for half a century that girls and women have more sensitive hearing, on average, than boys and men. But those two little words “on average” are crucial. If you pick a man and a women (or a boy and a girl) at random, the chances are about 6 in 10 that the girl’s hearing will be more sensitive — but about 4 in 10 that the boy’s hearing will be more sensitive. Not only that, but the expected value of the sensitivity difference is extremely small: at 1,000 Hz, our randomly-selected girl’s threshold will be about 1.1 DB lower than our randomly-selected boy’s threshold; at 1,500 Hz, the difference will be
        about 2 DB. By comparison the JND (“just noticeable difference”) for soft sounds is about 1 DB. So if boys are really less attentive to their mothers than girls are, the difference is not very likely to be due to differences in hearing sensitivity.

        edit to add

        Review of the book in “Nature” can be read here; it’s not very flattering…
        “despite the author’s extensive academic credentials,
        The Female Brain disappointingly fails to meet even the most basic standards of scientific accuracy and balance. The book is
        riddled with scientific errors and is misleading about the processes of brain development, the neuroendocrine system, and the nature of sex differences in general.”

        • Amaryllis

          Have you read Cordelia Fine’s Delusions of Gender? She does a very nice take-down of Brizendine and Gurian and their ilk, and a funny-but-scathing survey of previous-era “research.”

          From the NY TImes review:

          Experts used to attribute gender inequality to the“delicacy of the brain fibers” in women; then to the smaller dimensions of the female brain (the “missing five ounces,” the Victorians called it); then to the ratio of skull length to skull breadth. In 1915 the neurologist Dr.Charles L. Dana wrote in this newspaper that because a woman’s upper spinal cord is smaller than a man’s it affects women’s“efficiency” in the evaluation of “political initiative or of judicial authority in a community’s organization” — and thus compromises their ability to vote.

          These days gender inequality is commonly explained by neurological differences

          .. but plus ça change….

          “Nonexistent sex differences in language lateralization, mediated by nonexistent sex differences in corpus callosum structure, are widely believed to explain nonexistent sex differences in language skills.”

          I doubt that humans are going to stop identifying themselves as male or female any time soon, and certainly not because a few schoolchildren hear themselves referred to as “students” or “athletes” instead of “boys and girls.” But however we define gender, these popularized versions of dubious research aren’t shedding much light on the subject.

    • Bayne MacGregor

      First let’s remember that these differences are actually two average points in a bimodal distribution range with a lot of overlap between them.
      Like this So no sharp border between them but two averages, and of course not everyone is average!

      Let’s also recognise that several groups have averages that go very much against these averages.
      Transgender people do.

      Gay and Lesbian people also break the male/female brain divide in areas other than just who they love.

      And most importantly there are indeed people whose brains are in the middle!

      differentiation of the human brain in relation to gender identity and
      sexual orientation D.Swaab & A.Garcia-Fulgaras Functional Neurology,
      Jan-Mar 2009:

      One person we studied had untreated male gender dysphoria (S7), took
      no hormones and kept his transsexual feelings under wraps. He appeared
      to have a large INAH3 volume – in the male range – but a female INAH3
      number of neurons (68) and a female BSTc somatostatin neuron number
      (95). Hence, this individual’s hypothalamic characteristics were mid-way
      between male and female values”

      • d marino

        This is entirely Jew inspired Torah and ancient “prophetic” writings of the past. The written “There will be neither male nor female, and no man’s wife of a husband, etc. of the Jewish written New Ttestament isn’t “divine”, it is psychopathic jews forcibly fulfilling their man made agenda of androgynious beings strictly to serve them!

        • Bayne MacGregor

          Actually you have it opposite, as the Israelites were one of the few ancient civilisations that had mostly (but not entirely) removed the place for Transgender people from their culture.

          The Babylonians, Assyrians and their related cultures had Transgender religious practices. So too had the Scythians. The Greeks had legends that guive us the word Hermaphrodite. The Cybelline Gallae were found from one end of the Roman Empire to the other and one of their ritual-surgery tools was found in the river Thames in England! The whole ancient world around Israel had a place for Transgender people.

          From Pagan Europe where Thor and Loki both went through sex-changes in some epics to some of the Hindu Gods doing the same to the Two-Spirit traditions of the Native American peoples all through the pacific such as the Fa’Afa’Fine of Samoa to the traditions of the Aboriginal Australians nearly every people on Earth through history had a place for Transgender people.

          It IS in the Bible though, in Mathew 19:12. But despite that it has been the 3 Abrahamic Faiths which, despite parts of their scripture which said they shouldn’t, tried to stamp out and destroy Transgender practices. It’s they (usually specific branches of them at that) who outlawed it and made it illegal around much of the world.

          Seriously, just look up Two-Spirit on youtube and take the first of many steps into understanding.

  • Sophia Sadek

    This ad makes me want to avoid following the link.

  • hazemyth

    Gender differences exist and are observable but aren’t always (or even often) relevant. It seems like the examples discussed above involve situations that are by their nature gender-neutral but end up being gendered by cultural convention in unnecessary and exclusionary ways.

  • Unah

    I did not read it that way at all. It appeared to be allowing anyone to choose the gender they want to identify with instead of trying to eliminate gender. You should have went point by point and explained how each piece eliminates gender, because I don’t see it.

  • Bayne MacGregor

    By all means suggest better alternatives. Do it QUICK because kids are DYING. Lives are RUINED from bullying and discrimination.

    Australia has few murders of Transgender people compared to the USA and still look at these stats please.

    Almost all of the 189 young Australians surveyed had experienced
    abuse because of their gender diversity, ranging from verbal threats to
    physical violence. One fifth had experienced physical abuse, and 90 per
    cent had thought about suicide in response to that experience of
    physical abuse. The street (40 per cent) and school (38 per cent) were
    the most common places for threats and harm to occur.

    The report also found:

    66% of participants had seen a health professional for their mental health in the past year
    38% had suicidal thoughts and a quarter had spoken to a medical professional about it
    One in three did not feel supported by their family and suffered much higher rates of stress, suicide and depression
    45% were diagnosed with anxiety compared with an average 25% of the population
    66% had experienced verbal abuse due to their gender identity
    62% had participated in some form of activism (e.g. participating in a march) which was a protective factor


    Now these lives are a heavy price to pay for the status quo, so if you don’t like the suggested price to pay to save these lives you should make a better equally or more effective offer and FAST. Cause Kids are DYING.

    • RevTim

      Bayne, this is, of course, a much broader issue in our culture. Bullying always picks on those who seem different or even vulnerable. Boys and girls of all shapes and sizes experience bullying. My brother was a victim of bullying when he was a kid and he isn’t in the “gender diversity” group you cite. Teaching values of respect, acceptance, compassion, human decency, and so on are a good start, and many schools have implemented anti-bullying programs. I think we need to look to those schools for guidance as we teach our boys and girls to love their neighbors as themselves and to do to others as they would have others do to them. Our mutual goal is to stop the bullying of those who “seem different” no matter what that difference might be. That happens through appreciating and accepting differences, not through trying to neuter the differences.

      • Bayne MacGregor

        Yes i agree bullying in general needs to be stopped, i’m well aware of the general problem, but this is at unmitigated disaster levels, this is where triage is needed. The ones with the lowest risk and the least hurt you set aside while you save the lives of the most hurt that you can save first. Once no-ones about to die then you deal with the broken bones and the bruises and the sprained ankles.

        Let’s look at another studies findings:

        Key findings

        • Ninety-one young people (3%) described their gender identity as gender queer, transgender or other

        • While they were more likely to be out than other SSAY, they were less likely to get support. They were also at greater risk of homelessness, physical abuse, self harm and suicide.

        • GQ young people were more likely to have moved schools or dropped out of school as a result of homophobia, and to have had difficulties at school such as in concentrating , lower marks
        and hiding at recess and lunchtime.

        • Many of these young people aspired to make a difference in the world despite the extra difficulties they faced, and felt pride in their diversity. This group was twice as likely to get involved in activism in response to the discrimination they faced page 98-99 (112-113 of the pdf)

        Note this bit in particular “they were less likely to get support.” This is in a Country and a State with a general anti-bullying program, it’s so far not been remotely enough, and waiting the generations it may need to have full effect means intentionally sacrificing those most at risk to their fates.

        It’s easy to have BOTH a general program and to have one that focuses on the most at-risk. Let me try a simple analogy.

        If there are 8 kids who are hungry and one who is starving, and you split the food up enough to give everyone 1/9th, the same amount, knowing that it won’t be enough to save the kid starving from dying of starvation and that the other kids are not likely to die if they miss out then giving the same amount to everyone is not moral nor just, it’s murder by wilful negligence.

        It’s a simplified analogy, because bullying in general does kill, but it kills these specific kids a heck of a lot more. You only need to look at the attempted suicide rates side by side or the assault or murder rates side by side to see the cold truth of that.

        So we need something specific to these kids differences if we are to take remotely morally defensible action. Can you suggest something that will be targeted at saving these kids from bullying that is better than the program suggested?

        • Daniel

          I can. It’s easy, really, remove bullies from the schools. Right now, there are no consequences for bullying. If a student is expelled, the school loses the tax money that comes with that student. Hence the popularity of “anti-bullying programs” over treating bullies like what they are, criminals.

          In adult society, if there is verbal or physical harassment on the job, the victim has legal recourse. In school, however, the victim knows their harasser is going to be there the next day.

          Until bullies are expelled and even prosecuted, schools will be safe havens for that sort of behavior.

          • cajaquarius

            I agree, Daniel. School is supposed to teach kids to live in the real world. In that world, if I, a thirty yearold man, go and punch another guy just because he is wearing thigh high stockings or is Asian, I go to jail.

          • Daniel

            caja, you are going to wake up sober tomorrow and cringe at what you just wrote.

          • cajaquarius

            Poorly chosen words to be sure. I had been commenting after coming to Disqus from MSN which had been running a story with a picture of Kim Jong Un and another with pictures of crossdressers (some story about crossdressing performers being denied Facebook accounts and working on a petition to get that to stop, as I recall). The point is, using violence to solve problems in the land of adults gets you thrown in the clink.

          • Daniel

            Ha, happens to me also.

          • Bayne MacGregor

            Daniel, i wish you were right, i really do, but you are alas wrong.

            Does the entire world fund schools that way? No. Does the entire world let bullies have no consequences? No. Do countries that have tougher consequences for bullies still have these problems? Unfortunately yes, yes they do.

            Besides punishment on it’s own is a poor deterrent, plenty of adults still commit crimes even in countries with hugs imprisonment rates and harsh prison treatment or high rates of execution.

            It also helps to understand how bullying in general works. For example, the kid who regularly beat up kids at the bus stop and punched me 16 times in the left cheek (he was an amatuer boxer but i’d done enough martial arts to roll with the punches) while i refused to fight back (i did martial arts but remained a pacifist) but instead had him expelled, turned out to have come from a home where he and his mother were beaten by their father on a near daily basis (my neighbours son once tried to befriend him and witnessed this abuse).

            Someone taught that might-makes-right and that using force over others to feel better isn’t deterred by punishment, they are simply echoing the lesson taught to them and trying to take their place within it. Having him expelled didn’t stop him from ending up in prison as an adult, it may have temporarily stopped his bashings at the bus stop but it didn’t save the adult he attacked a couple years later to end up in prison. I moved the problem, i didn’t end it.

            I often saw bullied kids then bully other kids, a domino-effect of violence, often starting at home with abusive parents and then spreading through school like a contagion.

            We could perhaps automatically suspend custody off the parents of bullies while investigating the possibility of child abuse of varying sorts and get the bullies counselling. If eventually we stamp out such abusive treatment of kids we might break the cycle of violence.

            But in the time it took to work how many thousands of Gender-diverse kids would die from lack of immediate help?

            No we still would need targeted short-term emergency efforts to save these most-at-risk kids as well as long-term general ones to save everyone.

  • Hundreds of millions of corpses are the result of so many in the ‘Utopia’ business.

    • Like Christian Europe before the church was neutered by the Enlightenment?

  • Daniel

    So are bathrooms and locker rooms now “All Genders Welcome?” I have the feeling that the most strident social justice warrior is still going to use the restroom designated for their gender.

    • cajaquarius

      I would imagine they would seperate by equipment barring special circumstances with transgender students (eg penises in one and vaginas in the other).

      • Daniel

        I would hate to be the school janitor tasked with checking the students’ “equipment.”

        • cajaquarius

          I reckon you just take the kids word on it.