In the tail end of National Geographic’s “Gender Revolution” documentary, Katie Couric interviews Hari Nef, a trans model. Hari Nef is a beautiful trans woman, who has debuted at New York Fashion Week and acted in the TV show “Transparent.”
“So what are you hoping the future will bring,” Couric asks Hari.
Hari says,“I want a gender chill future. I want a community, a society, a world, that just chills out. About the freaking gender thing!”
Hari Nef couldn’t be further from the truth.
The more we expect young people to conform to a male or female, the worse their mental health will be.
Society’s obsession with gender reinforces the notion that gender is some intrusive, ubiquitous, significant force in children’s lives that should dictate their every move and influence their world views. The more we impress gender as an outsized influence in children’s lives, the more harmful it becomes in their brains.
In reality, gender actually shouldn’t matter that much—if at all. The notion that there is “feminine” clothing and “masculine” clothing is slowly becoming outdated, as more women wear suits to party functions, as more men wear earrings and get manicures, and as more people come out as nonbinary.
There’s nothing inherent about being transgender that makes trans folk suicidal. What instead makes trans folk suicidal is society’s weird fetish with gender and the massive influence it has on our lives, starting when we’re just kids. Society has taught many people that being transgender is some strange anomaly and fluke of nature, when in reality having feelings of gender nonconformity is actually quite normal and abundant among the population, and has existed since the beginning of time.
Trans people have existed since inception. In the 4th century AD, a Roman priestess was found in North Yorkshire. She was born male but took on a female role as a priestess to the goddess Cybele. Buried artifacts revealed she was trans.
In the 18th century, Chevalierr d’Eon was a transwoman who was a French spy and diplomat, having fought in the Seven Years War. Chevalier d’Eon lived a decorated life and snooped on Russian forces.
During the Civil War, a Union soldier named Albert Cashier was originally born a woman. Albert lived as a man until his death and was buried with military honors.
In current society, the Fa’afafine are a third gender in Samoa. Born as men, they traditionally veer toward effeminate appearance and style. The Fa’afaine community, deemed a third category of sex, allow individuals to explore their femininity without being persecuted by Samoan law.
Unfortunately, some Americans tend to forget that being trans is a natural thing. It’s going to take a lot more activism to arrive in a post-gender world. While the Republican Party tramples on trans kids and prevents trans people from participating in sports, LGBT folk are forced to fight back and speak about their gender, almost nonstop—just in an effort to exist.
Separating the world into two gender binaries—male and female—is extremely harmful for the human brain to handle.
Living in a post-gender society means that one’s gender identity will be a casual topic of conversation with a friend—and not something that tears one apart from their family. Living in a post-gender society means we’ll do away with toxic gender reveal parties. Living in a post-gender society means all employees will use pronouns in their email signatures without second thought.
In the 1950s, policemen across America punished men for dressing like women and even sent them to jail for this reason. Now American society is slightly decent enough not to do this (although police still victimize trans women).
In the 1950s, the U.S. government outed and fired people for being gay, let alone trans. Now American society is decent enough not to do this.
In the 2020s, the GOP is harassing poor trans youth who want nothing more than to not be bullied at school.
Fifty years from now, in what ways will we be more decent as a society? What issues will we look back on in 2020 with disdain?
The entire notion of male and female might be a good starting point.
Isaac Amend (he/him/his) is a transgender man and young professional in the D.C. area. He was featured on National Geographic’s ‘Gender Revolution’ in 2017 as a student at Yale University. Isaac is also on the board of the LGBT Democrats of Virginia. Find him on Instagram @isaacamend.