Jeremiah was mortified to learn that Facebook offers more than 58 choices of gender identity. Many of them are duplicates! Worse, Facebook has added a freeform text field. This is a missed opportunity for Facebook and for social scientists, because we will not have clear categories to use for marketing and research.
Inventing your own freeform gender identity is part of the fun, but you cannot run, e.g., a dating site this way. Public institutions that need to collect gender information will probably follow Facebook’s lead – and give up. We wondered if it would be possible to categorize modern American gender identities and, if so, how many categories there are.
- Biological gender – male or female. This may be of decreasing relevance to society, but it is still important for medical research.
- Sexual preference – gay, straight, or bi. This one is tricky because it relies on the gender identification of your partner. Caitlyn and Candis are both trans female, so they’re lesbians.
- Elective gender – male, female, or cis. When people say that being trans is different from being gay, what this means is – a different check box.
- Gender role – masculine, feminine, or non-conforming. Many gay couples adhere to “traditional” gender roles, which is really odd because this is the most obsolescent aspect of gender identity.
Now that our lesbian pals can get hitched, Sue will be the “husband.” Why does a gay couple in the twenty-first century adopt roles from monochrome television? Who knows? Who is John Galt?
That works out to 54 choices, so maybe Facebook had it right after all. As enthusiastic as we are about the proliferation of gender choices, we can’t help but think this is an epic distraction from the ongoing curtailment of civil rights in America.
Everyone is so busy with this narcissistic sense of who they are in terms of sexual orientation or gender, and this intense gender consciousness, woman consciousness at the same time, and meanwhile…
Camille Paglia, herself a lesbian and a feminist, says that preoccupation with gender is a symptom of decadence. It is too easy to focus on things of immediate personal importance, and not notice what’s really going on the country. Chelsea Manning is trans, and she’s in prison.