Celebrating difference

Different is bad. Difference means not belonging, otherness, threat. The different are seen as less, as lacking our qualities, unable to fit in. Difference means hard work, labouring to understand- far simpler to reject it out of hand.

Twenty years ago, Andrew Wakefield started a lie that vaccines cause autism, and as well as the damage to herd immunity that has done and the consequent deaths and maiming from measles and other diseases, it is a vicious caricature of autism, unmoored from reality. It portrays autism as damage or lack, where it is difference. My friend can quote great screeds of Paradise Lost, and that is a gift. Not all the responses of a neuro-diverse person will be the same as neuro-typicals, and we NTs have valuable gifts, but so do they.

I was stuck in the radical feminist idea that there is no gift, quality or characteristic in one sex which is not in the other, and of equal value in both, as a way of not denying women’s characteristics; but there is a great variety of gendered behaviour in both sexes. An equally valid feminist response is seeing and valuing the differences between the sexes, not in terms of women being less or lacking but as women being more likely to have particular valuable gifts. These differences may come from culture or evolution, but more likely a mixture of both. The radical feminist refuses to be seen as Lacking by others, and the other feminists see things to celebrate. Femininity is beautiful and valuable.

It feels like my feminine self is so different from the masculine ideal inculcated into me that it is nature v torture rather than nature v nurture. That inclines me to the radical view: I am far from Masculinity, yet still observe I have a Y chromosome and had a working male reproductive system. Yet for some straight people it was nurture, leading out their natural gifts.

I watched the ITV popular current affairs programme Tonight on trans kids, and it seemed the adult trans-feminine people were obviously men, though with long hair. I feel that is the way forward: we should not have to have hormones and surgery, be poisoned and mutilated, in order to transition. We should just wear what we like, which is a signal of the sort of person we are, and be that person. That would mean using men’s loos rather than women’s. I feel we go through medical transition as a way of seeking legitimacy, out of social pressure, because that is the understanding of what gender dysphoria is and gender dysphoria is how we differentiate ourselves from cross-dressers. Most people would disagree, though, especially at the time they seek out medical treatment. They want it because they have gender dysphoria, not because that is what society expects.

Trans women have had a history of trying to make men of themselves, in dangerous, manly jobs like police firearms officer, fireman, or in the armed forces. Therefore, our attempts to realise our true selves will be painful, difficult and distorted, rather than flowing naturally. How might we be supported, if the descriptor “woman” was taken away? It is our way of saying, “No, honest, I’m not a weirdo”- but does anyone actually believe that, even us? Weirdo is good, of course, ideally society should celebrate difference, or at least rub along with it, but is still frightening.

5 thoughts on “Celebrating difference

  1. It took me 60 years to discover that my differences were not weaknesses or character flaws but simply differences. Now I’m learning to celebrate those differences.

    Like many on the spectrum, I don’t feel particularly male or female. Social pressure, perhaps better described as bullying, has seen me adapt to wearing masculine attire and act in a manner that at least superficially masculine.

    As a society we’ve become much more accepting of differences that we were even 30 years ago and I think for a large minority of the population, if not a small majority, now celebrate not only differences in gender identity and sexual orientation, but also differences in neurodiversity, ethnicity and culture, and even religion and politics. I think the days of believing different is bad is behind us, at least for the younger generation here in Aotearoa New Zealand.

    My problem is that the memory of how I was treated in the past, especially in the first three decades of my life, still holds me back from being my true self to anyone other than close family.

    Perhaps I’m being overly optimistic in hoping that ours is the last generation where people need to suppress or hide aspects of themselves in order to be accepted in the community. But i hope I’m not.


    • It is a fight. That word you use, “neurodiversity” is a valuable tool in the struggle. A friend yesterday says forms often ask if she has a “disability” and she resents this- she has a difference, a different way of seeing which is a gift in some ways but for so long couched as a disability because it makes some things normal people do slightly more difficult if she is not taught to do them in a way fitting her. If we value people and value difference, everyone benefits.

      Liked by 1 person

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