On gender

After ETCC I was thinking about the way we split the field into male and female competitors. This in turn got me thinking about gender.

From a very early age on we take it for granted that which gender you belong to determines any number of things: acceptable behavior, activities, tastes, career choices to name but a few. Boys toys are blue, girls toys are pink – so far the stereotype.

But one has to ask oneself whether that one chromosome difference is the be all and end all. It is not as though we were two completely different species attempting to communicate across an abyss!

But gender-based differentiation is ubiquitous.

Open up a catalogue selling you clothing and it will be divided up into male and female ranges, rather than according to size, types of clothing, seasons you use it in, colour or something else. Again… what is it with this rigid divide? Why should the jumped-up apes with the Y chromosome have power over the other bunch of the same ape, albeit with a double X chromosome configuration? In which way does this – let’s face it – not massive difference justify suttee, genital mutilation, gender-based discrimination, eating and psychological disorders due to frantic attempts to conform to a distorted ideal of beauty, young women getting boob jobs to correspond to some pneumatic, bikini-ad ideal, hatched out of male teenage fantasies?

Sometimes I wonder whether the truth is that differentiation based on gender is not simply totally random, whether in another society the divide might be conceivably be between people with freckles, curly hair or some other distinction?

Differentiation based on sexual orientation? Don’t get me going.

Interestingly last month the Academy of Science in South Africa published a study on human sexual diversity that came to the conclusion that human sexuality is naturally varied and discrimination therefore unjustified. This is a strong signal in a time when other countries in Africa, such as Uganda, Burundi, Cameroon or Nigeria are passing draconic laws targeting the LGBT community, where same sex relationships can be punished with a life sentence. Also, of course, last month a US supreme court verdict legalized same-sex marriage in the whole of the US.

Pffff. What a big to-do based solely upon a couple of dangly bits and swellings that you have on your body – or not.

Let’s take a deep breath and take a look to trees. They seem to get less tripped up over this whole gender business (ok, I am anthropomorphizing here, I realize): Some are male, some are female, some are both… whatever. Some can switch. I recall a story I heard from when they planted up Munich airport, I think it was, with an alley of Ginkgos. These came from the nursery certified as male, to avoid the hassle with the fruit that the female would shed onto the pavement. After a number of years, pretty much 50% of the trees were producing fruit, which implies that they switched gender.

Either way… this whole gender barrier thing is not an unsurmountable hurdle – rather it is a gentle incline that is easy to step over. Let’s stay calm, get over it and sort out some of the more pressing issues of our times – plenty of those around!

Let’s learn a lesson from the trees and embrace diversity.