Evoluntionary Explosio Of Non-Gender ie Non-Binary People

Lucky are those who have never questioned their birth sex. This year 2017 has seen a public explosion on the uncertainty of gender identity ie people who don’t know if they are male or female. They are known as non-binary people or genderqueer (they prefer to be called non-binary), who have now come out in the open with their own ‘Pride flag’ created in 2014, with horizontal stripes (from top to bottom) – yellow, white, purple, and black. The ‘gender community’ LGBT (Lesbian, gay, bisexual, & transgender) has various flags to represent various identities. Pride flags are symbols used at their Pride parades for self-identification.

The term non-binary is new and applies to a person who neither identifies as a man nor a woman. Sometimes he/she feels more masculine while on other days more feminine, and at times genderless. The existence of non-binary people is worldwide, including Manipur. When I was a boy, there were two NUPIMANBI in my neighbourhood at Uripok. Another NUPAMANBI girl came from a village and studies at Tamphasana Girls’ School, wearing trousers and a shirt. Non-binary people came out of the closet when Asia’s first genderqueer Pride Parade took out a street parade in Madurai on July 29 2012, led by Anjali Gopalan, a lesbian, human rights and animal rights activist.

Anjali was educated in India and America. She was born of a Tamil father (IAF officer) and a Punjabi mother, educated at La Martinier School, the best school In Lucknow (from its boys’ school the British launched the attack to relieve the ‘Siege of Residency’ in the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857); and at the best girls’ Shri Ram College, New Delhi, and later at JN University. She has been awarded many honours for her work in helping HIV/AIDS sufferers in India.

These unfortunate nature-freak, genderless people need to be helped and integrated into the mainstream. It’s not their fault. Those who are pious should be singing bhajans and hymns in chorus to propitiate God that his/her white dream vision has faded to dim grey and new horizons of Homo sapiens are falling beneath his feet each day. Howsoever mind-bending such “anomalies” might seem, they are now categorised in ways that may be legibly understood. Ancient Greeks championed a “one sex” theory based on bodily similarities between man and woman that saw female genitalia as mirroring male genitalia, only inside out.

The nub of my scientific argument concerns the absence of genetic basis for non-gender, in the way it’s lacking for racial differences between say, various tribal communities in Manipur. They are ‘self-fashioned’ by a process of identity formation in childhood and how a community perceives itself in relation to an array of competing cultural discourses in which they come into contact. Genetic ancestry testing, which tests autosomal DNA (inherited from both parents) can reveal biogeographical lineage for ‘self-fashioning’.

In the concept of ‘gender-fluidity’, which simply means that your gender identity varies over time, there is no genetic basis for homosexuality and the like. No “gay gene” has ever discovered. There is no “death gene” but people die. There must be environmental and cultural factors, having ‘self-fashioned’ in childhood, and having a culturally specific gender identity that exist within their or their ancestor’s culture.  A nature and nurture’ effect.

The remarkable power of evolutionary process points to environmental factors that caused humans to evolve as a freak by mutation of an egg of a female ape in Africa, producing a more ape-like human (Hominid). Further chance accidents, by altering the genome (about 23,000 regular normal genes) helped human brain to grow (now stopped) to develop speech and better memories for vocalisation and grammar. Ultimately, modern humans, Homo sapiens, through evolution of 6 million years, became cleverer than their ancestors.  

Mutation or alteration in genes are good in evolutionary language. They are for survival, being most fitted in the new environment. Without mutation, an offspring would not have advantage over their parents. There would be no computers with artificial intelligence. Without mutation of digestive genes, such as AMY1 gene that increases the production of the salivary enzyme, amylase, which help digest starch, we would still be eating only fruits and green leaves, rather than the starchy grains we eat now. It must have been because of the invention of agriculture by Homo sapiens sapiens.  

Lucky accidents are lucky incidents. Reproduction is a living machine and like any man-made machine it has its share of mistakes of DNA copying errors during egg and sperm productions. It causes foetus malformations, spontaneous abortions, and multiple pregnancies. And they cause confusion of gender identity.

The world is familiar with gays and lesbians. They are simply the tip of the iceberg. Navigating the fog of gender crisis, we now have non-binary gender or genderqueer. That is any gender identity which does not fit the male or female binary. This group may feel intergender, transgender and/or transsexual ie an identity crisis between man and female. They may also be neutral (neither male or female) gender identity, such as agender, neutrois or xenogender. They may have multiple gender identities, such as bigender or pangender. Those whohave a weak or slight connection to a gender identity is known as demigender. An intersex identity (born with a sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male) is amalgagender.  

Some of the non-binary people would like to behave as androgynous ie having both masculine and feminine gender identity, adopting unisex names (Charlie), gender-neutral titles such as, Mx, and use gender-neutral pronouns (them, theirs, those). There are some others who prefer a masculine or feminine identity or a mix of the two. They can have any sexual orientation, using gender-terminology, such as androsexual or gynosexual. They seem to be having the best parts of the binary gender.

Non-binary is not as rare as we thought. More and more high-profile people are coming out in the open with their gender identity. Jack Monroe, a very good-looking woman, who was a poster girl and a famous food writer, is now among them. Monroe suffered a breakdown, saying she wanted to be treated as a person, not as a woman or a man. She didn’t want her boobs anymore.

To help gender-fluid/gender-creative/gender-nonconforming kids to feel appreciated and less harassed in school and even expelled, a campaign film was launched in Canada in 2015 with an 11 year old actor Ameko Carroll, who made international headlines after being deemed eligible for an award in the male and female categories at the Leo Awards. She starred in this short film Limina about a non-binary child.

Diane Ehrensaft, Clinical Psychologist/parenting expert in Oakland, California, writes in her book, ‘Gender born, Gender Made’, that a child’s gender identity is developed by age of two or three and for most, birth sex and gender identity match (cisgender). But in some cases, children’s general identity ie how they feel about themselves, differs from their biology. Some know their gender identities and birth sexes don’t match, almost as soon as they begin to talk. For others, their sense of gender exists between male and female, at various points as they grow along what’s known as the ‘gender spectrum’.

The gender-neutral title Mx (pronounced MIKS) has now been added to the Oxford English Dictionary. Facebook has a ‘custom’ option in its gender settings, letting you to choose one among 70 suggested gender choices. Some universities in the UK such as, Manchester and Glasgow, provide gender-neutral toilets, and some schools, such as Brighton College, no longer impose male/female uniforms on pupils. It’s up to the children to choose which they would prefer to wear. Selfridges shop on Oxford Street, London where you can have world’s best brands, pioneered a gender-neutral clothing. Gender neutral public spaces are also becoming common. The Open Barbers Salons at Shoreditch, London, offer non-gender-specific haircuts, and asks for your favoured pronoun when booking an appointment.

The language of genderfluidity is very important in that it shows society’s acceptance of who they are. Genderfluidity is a new concept. Official figures of people who identify as gender-fluid aren’t available. Recent research by YouGov showed 41% of people in the UK view gender as a social construct (environmental).  It has been well-known in India as Hijra since Mahabharata, as transgender Shikhandra. A new film Harikatha Prasanga (2016) shows India’s awareness of genderfluidity.

Frank Browning, an American reporter writes in his book, The Fate of Gender: Nature, Nurture, and the Human Future: one in every 1500 children born in the US and Australia is intersex ie they possess genitalia and a chromosome mutant that admit of ambiguity. One elite college in America, recently cancelled a production of The Vagina Monologues after some students protested that “not all women have vaginas”. The shows are still very popular in Mumbai, both in English and Hindi.

 It’s amazing where the evolution is taking us. Evolutionary explanation for binary sexual reproduction is the creation of variations among siblings as natural selection favours parents which can produce a variety of offspring, unlike non-binary reproduction like that of earthworms, producing the same replica, causing inbreeding depression. According to Darwin, the effect of hybrid vigour with increased stature and fertility in the progeny lies in crossing between the genes of two sexes.

Dr IM Singh

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