It was in 1981 that the space shuttle Columbia was first launched and Ronald Reagan became president. This was also the year Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper, was caught and imprisoned and Lady Diana wore a pretty dress to a fancy, but ill-fated, do at St Pauls. I saw Raiders of the Lost Ark for the first time this year and it was in or around this time that I learned and understood the duality of purpose for the little things dangling between my legs.
It came to me, if you forgive the pun, from multiple angles. Aside from my own investigations, the facts of life were whispered and giggled around the playground, random magazines were discovered in the woods and the Scottish education system at the time deemed 11 years old to be the appropriate age to start teaching such things.
So yes 1981 was very much a landmark year all round. It was a complex and changing world, we were on the cusp of a greed is good economic boom, socialism and trade unions were enjoying what would be their respective swansongs. The first cracks in the iron curtain were starting to appear out of the shipyards of Gdansk. Personal computers were cropping up, fashion and design was waking up from a lost decade and decent music was becoming mainstream again.
But even with all that social, political, technological and artistic turmoil one thing remained constant; gender.
I knew about gender long before 1981.
I probably didn’t know the real purpose behind there being an opposite sex but I knew they existed. I do have a sister, I have a mother and I went to a school with girls.
The things I knew about girls was limited. I did know girls couldn’t make proper snowballs, the sort packed hard with ice that really hurt. They could only make the ones which would disintegrate before they reached the target or just hang limply, sticking to the wool on their gloves. They were also rubbish at football or performing any sort of trick on their bikes. They had no interest in fishing, climbing trees or sneaking into the garden of the old mental alcoholic guy down the street, just for the dare.
Dogs & wasps were more interesting than girls.
But even with their seeming absence of utility, I knew the universal biological binary rule on gender; there were two types, and only two types; girls and boys.
And now we have a third.
According to Wikipedia third gender, or third sex is a ‘concept in which individuals are categorised, either by themselves or society, as neither man nor woman’.
As Darwin pointed out some time ago, things evolve. Darwin would speak in terms of millions of years and over those timescales science has proved things definitely change. Pointless parts and bad design is constantly evolving and improving. Eventually evolution will decide for example, after a couple of million years of men being kicked in the genitals, to correct this and once and for all move them safely inside, well away from those fast-moving feet, or footballs.
I’m not sure how third gender fits with Darwin’s theories if at all but regardless of their nature and how they got here they exist now, and they didn’t before.
But third sex isn’t really another singular sex at all. The term third sex is a catch all classification. Third in this context means ‘other’ and within ‘other’ there could be lots and lots more but definitely more than one.
The question really is, who cares? Or does it really matter?
For me no it doesn’t. I am a man and I like women so I fit well within the accepted societal norm. I have never been confused or felt myself constrained by the designs of my body.
I would think for people who consider themselves as neither sex having an agreed label would come as a some relief although I’m not sure how much comfort could be taken from being described as ‘other’.
No, it doesn’t really matter at all, well up to a point it doesn’t.
Throughout my life I have found the general principle of live and let live to serve me well. If you are a nice person and nice to me I don’t really care what you call yourself or how you genetically feel. If you want to dress up as a woman and grow a beard at the same time, go right ahead. I might laugh a bit but don’t worry, it would never be to your face.
The problems only start to surface when you start trying to accommodate every variation on what was once a simple either/or issue.
The entire world is designed around men and women so if you simply drop a bunch of new genders into the mix and try to meet everyone’s needs equally you are going to fail, unless you blow it all up and start again. Everything from toilets through to language.
It’s a no-win situation, if you try to accommodate everyone you are guaranteed to fail and face the wrath of people like me. If you don’t you will have a lot of non-men/non-women/others seriously upset and this group might be small, but they can be quite loud and get offended very easily.
Things have changed a lot since the last century. Most of the monsters we perceive today are just made up for political expediency, it certainly does no harm as you work your way up the political ladder if you can rally everyone around a common foe. It’s a fact though that nothing today presents the real and present danger which palpably existed over the course of the last century
With these threats gone you would hope that the world could move to higher plain and become the utopia mankind has been trying to achieve ever since Eve got a little hungry and noticed an apple.
But instead we seem to be moving in an ugly, complicated and self-indulgent direction. Third sex didn’t ‘exist’ 36 years ago not because they didn’t ‘exist’ but because there were other things to think about. Today we still have other things to think about but none are truly world ending so our priorities seem to have become a little skewed. Its just one of those inconvenient truths that there just isn’t always going to be a perfectly formed hole to fit every peg into.
And if we continue trying to find them we will slowly, and quite deliberately end up sticking ourselves up our own all-accepting and grammatically non-offensive arses.
My daughter asked me the other day if fat people are lazy. This is the same wee girl who asked for a pet dwarf for Christmas to play with. She is too young to understand nuanced political correctness and in time will learn but I do hope as she grows up and sensitises her language she doesn’t find herself hamstrung in an unnecessary minefield of our own making.
I want her to have opinions. I want her to listen to other people’s opinions, good and bad. I want her to make her own mind up and express herself, loudly and perhaps offend some people in the process. I want her to make mistakes.
Way back in 1981, I could do this without fear of serious reprisal. That world was very far away from perfect back then but it certainly was a lot less complicated.
As Salman Rushdie once said, “Nobody has the right to not be offended”.
If you are looking for some common sense to cut through the thick fog of today you probably don’t need to look much further than that.