Gender =/= Genitalia

Image by Restroom Genderator.

As was reported in The New York Times (as well as other media outlets) and decried on Twitter:

“North Carolina legislators, in a whirlwind special session on Wednesday, passed a wide-ranging bill barring transgender people from bathrooms and locker rooms that do not match the gender on their birth certificates. […] The bill also prohibits local governments from raising minimum wage levels above the state level — something a number of cities in other states have done.”

Perhaps you’ll be unsurprised to hear that this was a Republican initiative. It’s telling that the bill reinforces poverty in the same breath as criminalizing free gender expression. If you want an overview of why this law is not only bigoted but impracticable, I recommend Andi McClure’s tweets on the topics.

So how does transphobic legislation tie into cyberpunk? The genre is about straining against a technologically mediated dystopia. You can’t necessarily jam every type of oppression into that framework. But gender typifies how the analogue world has been bounded in a way that the digital world can’t be.

Our binary gender system is nominally based on reproductive phenotypes. It’s full of contradictions. If genitalia is what defines womanhood, then how does a cliterodectomy affect things? Or a hysterectomy? Is a post-op trans woman okay, even if her birth certificate lists her as male? What about intersex people, or those with three sex chromosomes? Why are we so beholden to this outdated set of assumptions? Why does it matter?

Mainstream opinion often conflates gender with reproductive capabilities, boiling identity down to our basic animal urges. I’m not anti-sex, but I do believe that we’re capable of acting on more than our primal mating impulse. The future is beyond bodies. A few decades from now — and during some parts of the present — we will not be confined to flesh, nor even to brains. It’s that old New Yorker joke: “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.” On the Internet, speech is an act, and you can create yourself anew with words and pixels.

I wish meatspace operated by the same principles. If you find the situation in North Carolina as appalling as I do, please join me in donating to Lambda Legal.

Exolymph is a cyberpunk newsletter — sign up now!

Show your support

Clapping shows how much you appreciated Exolymph’s story.