“Are you a transsexual?” someone asked me yesterday over the Internet. To be honest, they said “are u a transsexual” but it pains me to see such lazy writing–yes, even on the Internet and in a YouTube comment, I think the bare minimum should involve putting a question mark at the end of an inquiry. But I’m pretty out of touch with the way most people communicate, because I’ve never even texted someone anything like “im goin 2 the show wbu”.
I use on YouTube the same pic that I use for my Gravatar–this one. As you can see, there’s nothing in particular about that pic that says “transgender” one way or another. Facial features are among the most difficult ways to identify someone’s gender, because there aren’t any facial features that are predominantly male or predominantly female. While I’m not the hottest chick out there, nothing in that pic indicates I may be transgender.
I’ve tied my various online accounts together pretty well: Quora, Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Google+, WordPress… All in the name of making it easier for people to follow me if they’re interested in doing so. It’s not hard, for someone who cares to, to take the path that starts at Facebook and ends with my Google+/YouTube profile, and that’s by design.
Judging just off the comment, I’m guessing that this is one of the Rand Paul supporters who happened to stumble across me again, a month or so after their initial bout of stupidity and ignorance, and he couldn’t resist the urge to pose the question to me again, since I ignored it everywhere else. We were initially having a decent conversation–though I was the only person defending my position, and everyone else was assaulting it and not listening, because a few logical steps is just too much to ask the average person to take–and then the discussion suddenly and inexplicably turned to my gender–as though it was in any way relevant to the topic. Things soon spiraled downward, as they tend to do, and I was briefly followed to various other places, but not in a way that was overwhelming or particularly bothersome. It was just annoying.
Clearly, this person doesn’t have much exposure to liberal issues, because “transsexual” has fallen out of use, and has been out of use in the U.S. for the past decade–it has gone the way of “transvestite,” and only someone pretty out of touch would use it. It’s almost like the transgender equivalent of “queer,” in fact. Now, you know me. I call myself a shemale, so I’m not going to get worked up over someone being politically incorrect. That’s not my point. My point is that he simply used a word that indicates he comes from a conservative background. A liberal would have said “transgender,” in the same way that a liberal would say “little person” or “homosexual” instead of “midget” or “gay.”
I would actually make the case that I’m transgender and not transsexual, but I’m not sure I would really want to use that fine of a comb to untangle the issue. Since it doesn’t matter anyway, my point is simply that he used a version of the label that indicates a rightwing mentality. And that’s fine. Hey, I’m an anarchist. In many ways, I’m on the extreme Conservative side.
People have a hard time characterizing my political leanings. Despite extensive conversations with a colleague, he told me last week that he wouldn’t know how to answer if someone asked him what my political ideology was. I don’t know why–it’s really simple. I think people should be allowed to do anything they want to do, as long as they don’t do anything that forcefully prevents anyone else from doing what the other person wants to do. I think that the state (what you’d know as “the government”) should be abolished, because, by definition, all it does is forcefully inhibit people from doing what they want to do, and we have forms of government that do not require force (namely: economics). When it comes to social matters, I am extreme left: people can say whatever they want to say, marry whoever they want to marry, smoke all the pot they want, and whatever else. I don’t care, because it’s not my business. It doesn’t affect me, and I have no right to force other people to behave as I want them to. Because of this, I am extreme right when it comes to the state (again, what you’d know as “the government”), because the state is a tool that people use specifically to force other people to behave as they want. There are two aspects to this: social and governmental.
Generally speaking, conservatives want Big Government, and they want to use that Big Government to enforce their conservative social ideas. They want to use the state to force people to not have homosexual marriages and to not get abortions, for example. Generally speaking, liberals want Big Government, and they want to use that Big Government to enforce their liberal social ideas. They want to use the state to force people to serve homosexual weddings, to force religious institutions to provide birth control, for example.
Goddamn, I didn’t mean to get off onto all of that.
Homosexual. Christian. Atheist. Agnostic. Muslim. Jew. Mexican. Black. White. Man. Woman. Gay. Straight. Heterosexual. Anti-theist. Baptist. Methodist. Catholic. Republican. Democrat. Shiite. Conservative. Liberal. Libertarian. Anarchist. Statist. Corporatist.
Our society is obsessed with labels. It doesn’t matter who you are; there are a few dozen labels that can be applied to you right now based on your beliefs, ideas, and practices. Labels have several problems. Labels create stereotypes. After all, a label is really only a category, and members of a category, by definition, all share some traits. These shared traits become the stereotype. Even if the shared traits are predominantly positive, it’s still a stereotype and it’s still a negative thing. When we use a label on a person, we immediately create a mental image of what that person is like. Every word in the opening paragraph of annoyingly written one-word “sentences” will form an image in the reader’s head no matter how open-minded and tolerant the reader is. This is the purpose of labels and categories, after all. This is also the danger of labels and categories.
The use of labels prevents us from recognizing a very important fact: the person we’re affixing the label to is an Individual, not a group. We are all Individuals. We are not groups. Because of this fixation our society has with labels, categories, and groups, we long ago abandoned the idea of Individual Rights and stealthily swapped it out for Group Rights. There is no greater threat to Liberty than the use of labels and groups.
We talk about homosexual marriage and we debate whether or not it should be allowed. This overlooks the very important fact that what we’re really talking about is an Individual. We refer to people as adjectives, not as Individuals, and in this we err. The question is not whether gays should be allowed to marry; the question is: Should this Individual be allowed to marry? The answer to this question is an immediate and resounding, “Yes.” “Yes,” however, isn’t the right answer. The right answer is: “All Individuals should be allowed to do the same thing that all other Individuals do.”
There’s no such thing as a homosexual. There’s no such thing as an Atheist. There’s no such thing as a Christian. There’s no such thing as a Mexican. There’s no such thing as a Statist, Corporatist, Democrat, Conservative, or Libertarian. There are only Individuals. There may be an Individual who is a male and who is attracted to males, but this Individual is not a homosexual. “Homosexual” is simply a label we use to describe this Individual so that we can readily identify certain characteristics the Individual has. Labels should be used for nothing else. Labels should never be used to dictate one’s rights.
An Individual’s preferences in religion, politics, government, sexual orientation, or whatever should have no bearing on what an Individual is allowed to do. When we allow these preferences to dictate an Individual’s rights, then we immediately move from a system based on Individual Rights and to a system based on Group Rights. From there, it’s just a matter of time before the Majority is dictating its preferences onto the Minority.
Gay/Lesbian marriage is the finest example of this problem. As a society, we are arguing about whether the group we call “homosexuals” should be allowed to marry. We’ve missed the point entirely. The only reason that can be given as to why “homosexuals” should not be allowed to marry is that certain people believe it is a sin, it is wrong, it is an abomination, or it is “spitting in the face of ‘God!’” (Which of these reasons you get depends on how far into the South you are when you ask). There’s simply no other reason that can be given as to why homosexuals should not be allowed to marry.
Plato long ago recognized that Democracy has a severe flaw: it can devolve into a dictatorship over minorities by the majority. In the case of “homosexual marriage,” this is what is happening. A marriage between two men is only going to affect the two men who married; a marriage between two women is only going to affect the two women who married. It does not affect bystanders in the tiniest way.
Why should groups who are unaffected by the actions of another group be allowed to dictate whether those actions are allowed? There is a flip side to this argument that is largely unrecognized, though: If “heterosexuals” can marry but “homosexuals” cannot, then Individuals that belong to the Heterosexual Group have more rights than Individuals who belong to other groups. With this scenario, one Individual has more rights than another Individual.
With this set-up, the group with the most rights will be the majority. This is a clear problem in a nation built upon the idea that “all men are created equal.” Equal rights is one of the fundamental pillars of our nations; through our entire history as a nation, we have said that everyone should have equal rights. We have never, though, practiced what we preached by allowing everyone to have equal rights.
Rights have been divided among racial lines in the past. Black Americans had fewer rights than White Americans. Rights have been divided among gender lines in the past. Female Americans have had fewer rights than Male Americans. We did not “create equality” when we abolished these separations in regard to Rights; we simply went from very broad categories to smaller categories.
Now Rights are divided among sexual orientation, age, religious preferences, and all sorts of other asinine things. Sexual orientation is now the most dominant and most severe example in our culture. We went from a society in which “blacks” couldn’t marry “whites” to a society in which “homosexuals” couldn’t marry “homosexuals.” We still discriminate just as strongly and passionately as we did in the days of segregation. The only difference between discrimination today and discrimination then is that the groups to which we show discrimination are smaller and more narrowly-defined. We’re still discriminating.
And we always will be. The idea of groups will never go away, nor should it. The ability to classify and categorize is an evolutionary advantage that has helped us survive and thrive on a planet largely hostile to our existence in a universe largely hostile to our existence. We’ve categorized bears as dangerous, thus we avoid bears. We’ve categorized lightning as dangerous, thus we do not climb telephone poles during storms. The ability to classify and categorize is important to our survival, and we shouldn’t stop classifying ourselves. Categories and classifications make it easier for us to identify certain characteristics which make our lives easier. Classification is key to our lives.
The only way we should not use categorization is in regard to Rights. We can eliminate this problem quite easily by recognizing that humans are never adjectives. This isn’t “a homosexual” about whom we’re saying must be denied the right to marry. This is an Individual who happens to either have male characteristics while preferring relationships with other Individuals who have male characteristics or female characteristics while preferring relationships with other Individuals who have female characteristics. That’s what this is about: an Individual who has certain characteristics.
When we divide rights based upon groups, we end up with a culture full of groups who all claim, “The characteristics of our members are the only appropriate characteristics, and anyone who does not have these characteristics can be denied whatever rights we wish to deny them.” This is what is happening in the “homosexual marriage” debate. The group who numbers as the majority is claiming, “The heterosexuality of our members is the only appropriate option and anyone who is not a heterosexual can be denied their right to do what heterosexuals are allowed to do.”
Since we can divide Individuals into groups based on any arbitrary and irrelevant characteristic we want, our society can create a lot of problems by using Group Rights. Since 90% of Individuals are right-handed, why don’t we pass a law which says that “lefties” can’t attend public schools? Since Christianity is the dominant religion in the U.S., why don’t “Christians” pass a law which says that all “non-Christians” can’t vote? These issues are absurd, of course, and the latter is protected by the fact that, thankfully, most Individuals who are Christians still appreciate the right to religious freedom.
One day homosexuality could become the preference of the majority of Individuals. The percentage of Individuals who are homosexuals has been steadily climbing for decades now, after all, so it is quite possible that this percentage will climb so much that homosexuality is the majority. At that time, “homosexuals” could make it illegal for heterosexuals to marry. This scenario isn’t exactly implausible.
The “heterosexuals” want to deny rights based on sexual orientation right now because they are safely the majority. This is true of all groups who want to deny rights based on an Individual’s categorization into one group or another: they are all currently the majority. Majorities change. After all, once upon a time the majority believed that Zeus was real. Once upon a time, the majority believed that the Earth was the center of existence. Once upon a time, the majority believed that illnesses were sent directly from Yahweh and that the best cure was prayer, not medicine.
Simply because a group is a majority right now doesn’t mean they always will be, and when they are no longer a majority, their rights are likely to be restricted as strongly as they once restricted the rights of other groups. “Heterosexuals” may one day find that they are not allowed to marry. “Whites” may one day find that they are not allowed to vote and must use separate facilities. “Men” may one day find that they are not allowed to vote and only make about 50% of the money “women” make for doing the same job. Tables turn.
The best way to protect our rights is by making sure that everyone has the same rights. After all, if everyone has the same rights, then it doesn’t matter who is the majority, because the majority won’t have the power to dictate the rights allowed to the minority. Protecting ourselves (if we are the majority) in the future, in case we become a minority, is not the only reason we should make sure everyone has the same rights, though. It’s the right thing to do. Tolerance is the right thing to do, and it is nothing but intolerant to deny one group or another certain rights.
There will always be groups. There will always be adjectives which we use to strip away the personhood of someone. There will always be gays, straights, blacks, whites, Christians, Atheists, Republicans, Conservatives, Democrats, and Liberals. The concept of groups will never vanish from our society. The concept of Group Rights, however, must vanish from our society, because it is deeply flawed.
We are not gays. We are not straights. We are not blacks. We are not whites. We are not Christians. We are not Atheists. We are not Republicans. We are not Conservatives. We are not Democrats. We are not Liberals. We are not Statists. We are not Corporatists. We are not Libertarians. We are not Rationalists.
We are Individuals with characteristics that are most easily identified and explained by using one of the above labels. We have preferences, beliefs, ideas, philosophies, moralities, codes, and principles. But we, as Individuals, each define our own preferences, beliefs, ideas, philosophies, moralities, codes and principles—they do not define us.
I am an individual.
And so are you.