“The dating app Tinder announced a new feature this week which gives users 37 different gender identity options,” co-host and cast member, Colin Jost said. “It’s called ‘Why Democrats lost the election’.”
After the election Saturday Night Live made a joke at the expense of nonbinary and gender variant people. I find myself returning to this joke not because it's *offensive,* but because it's just...bad. I'm all for political comedy and performance, but this is not it.
After the election there's been a re-submergence of conversation on the "failure of political correctness." Nonbinary and gender variant people are seen as emblematic of this: "Can you believe people are concerned with pronouns when there are so many OTHER issues in the world?" (as if nonbinary and gender variant people aren't leading multiple other struggles for social justice). We -- a group with literally no formal recognition and substantial political power -- are scapegoated as young idealistic "millennials," who are responsible for the failures of the progressive establishment (as if people living beyond and outside the western gender binary have not been around for hundreds of years).
There's been a lot of important conversation about how vile the rhetoric of the alt-right is. But what is often missing is the points of connection and solidarity between conservatives and liberals. Key to this allegiance is a shared conviction that "THERE ARE ONLY TWO GENDERS" (a mantra for the alt-right). Key to this allegiance is a dismissal of nonbinary and gender variant people as overwhelmed by feelings and lacking real and substantial politics.
The lines between 'feelings' and 'politics,' are almost always drawn by racism and misogyny.
The real project of identity politics at work here is a global project of reducing the complexity, social and cultural difference, and ancestral traditions of billions of people across the world into one of two genders: "male or female."
They tell us that nonbinary people are "obsessed" with gender but please tell me: Who required gender markers on identity documents? Who constructed their entire sexual identity and orientation on the basis of gender? Who divided basic and universal services and institutions into two lines? Who made something as simple as peeing have to do with gender? Who funded and fabricated hundreds of years of pseudo-science to perpetuate the myth that there are only two genders and sexes?
"Cisgender" and "Binary" were not terms that were created organically, they were terms that were created in response to an intense project of mobilizing (white, cis, gender binary) identity. Why are these entrenched political ideas not elevated to the status of "identity politics?" Why are they not dismissed as "feelings?"
It would be more useful -- and, indeed, more correct -- to understand this moment as the emotional assertion of cisgender and gender binary identity both among conservatives and progressives.
The real joke is that even though nonbinary and gender variant people are fighting -- in fact -- for everyone to be entitled to their self-identification, to be granted their complexity, to be the author of their own body and narrative -- we are seen as the problem and not the solution.