Gender flexibility

26 Jul

Gender flexibility
by Nick Clements

A transexual man, in the process of transitioning, recently attended a ‘men only’ workshop I was running. All the men welcomed him, and his input was very valuable. His fluidity when it came to gender challenged some of the men, but we all agreed that fundamentally we are all gender flexible.
To take that idea further is to acknowledge the breaking of the binary gender fixation which we have endured for the last few hundreds of years. Our ability to be flexible and accept LGBT moves all of us towards our authentic selves. The breaking of the traditional gender roles liberates us from the tyranny of a binary system which was never real, it was just a social construct.
Inflexible binary system
You reap what you sow. We have for many generations adhered to a binary gender system, which has persecuted those not fitting to the model. Inflexible and restrictive, this has damaged us individually and as a culture. I believe, the more gender flexible a culture is, the more value it can add to the future wellbeing of our species. Our world is presently dominated by the fundamentalist tribes of the United States who are facing-off with the fundamentalists of the Middle East and beyond. These two tribes are, by their nature, gender inflexible. Both believe men don’t cry, men are not gay, women are in the kitchen and afraid. These intransigent tribes bring nothing of value to our present world or our future longevity.

Within many indigenous people there has been a much more tolerant view of gender. Professor Barry Hewlett has spent decades studying the Aka tribes of Africa, and he claims their male and female roles are virtually interchangeable. ‘Aka fathers will slip into roles usually occupied by mothers without a second thought and without, more importantly, any loss of status – there’s no stigma involved in the various jobs.’
I’ve spent decades studying the tribes of the United Kingdom, and I can say they are in the process of becoming as gender flexible as the more advanced Aka peoples of Africa. We probably need another three or four generations, and then our men will slip into primary childcare roles without a second thought or loss of status, but many of our families already do this.
Having lived and worked in the South Wales valleys I have witnessed this occurring. The traditional gender roles have undergone a dramatic transformation as a result of the death of the coal industry. The limited jobs replacing coal are mainly piecemeal, part-time, poorly paid, and reliant on very different skills. In other words, ‘they’re women’s work’. As a consequence, large numbers of men are now in the role of primary child-carer, or, at least, as active in childcare as their partner. Reluctant converts to gender flexibility, these men are struggling to comprehend that such a change is actually of benefit and not damaging them.
I work with them to look at their personal inner masculinity and femininity, and to start a process of reconciliation between their own sexuality, gender and masculinity. ‘Your inner man and inner woman have been at war, they are both wounded, tired, and in need of care, it is time to put down the sword which divides them.’ Maureen Murdoch. The concept of an inner king and queen has been adopted by psychotherapy and clinical psychology. I prefer the North European Siberian tradition of four genders.
Four genders
The four-gender model introduces a much easier ability to be gender flexible for the individual. They have a ‘male’ and ‘female’ as with our system, but with two more, a ‘male/female’, and a ‘female/male’. Remarkably, they believe that all four genders reside within the individual, and you can make the journey from being a male through the clearing house of male/female or female/male, to your female, and vice versa.
The key to this new (very old) system is that you don’t lose your maleness by travelling to your inner feminine. In other words, a man can be the primary child-carer, without becoming a wimp (a deep-seated fear of some of the men in South Wales). Equally a woman can be a dynamic pioneer in business without losing her femininity.
The four genders allow us to fulfil our potential without having to lose our identity. Many women say they had to adopt masculine traits in order to become successful in business. They did this because we have a binary system which makes us feel uneasy when we change our gendered behaviour, and often we can be criticised by ourselves and others for it. In a four-gendered system women are successful in business without loosing contact with their essential feminine self. Men adopt their role as primary child carer in a masculine way, not having to lose status and self esteem.
The four genders also enable us to explore our gender identity throughout the passage of our life. We can spend many years being a pioneer (male), and then move into a period of being a nurturer (female), and eventually into a period of reflection (female/male). We all change our gendered behaviour very quickly, from hour to hour even, and it would be beneficial to do so without feeling wrong or being criticised by others.
We have the capacity to be gender benders.Men and women need to explore the wide diversity of gendered behaviour which allows us to truly be our authentic selves. We will always have macho men and nurturing women, but the four genders allow us so much more empathy, consideration and understanding for each other.

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