Nowadays it seems that we’re constantly being exposed to all sorts of ideas and philosophies that only decades earlier would’ve seemed strange and inconceivable. New views shake up old prejudices as we reexamine all the ideas we previously had just accepted as fact. Within recent years, gender has moved to the forefront of the conversation. “Gender is a social construct” has become a popular slogan of feminists and queer advocates, especially as we’re seeing more and more people begin to question the seemingly arbitrary roles surrounding gender and sex. What happens when that attitude is taken one step farther?
I became a gender abolitionist about a year ago. Since then, I’ve been struck by the lack of knowledge and understanding of the philosophy which seems like the obvious next step in our society’s relationship with gender. When I bring up the term ‘gender abolitionism’, I’m often met with confusion, curiosity, or hesitation, all from people who frequently declare their hatred for gender and gender roles. When I take the time to explain, however, that doubt seems to melt away. Almost always, the person I’m talking to reaches a realization–they’ve been a gender abolitionist all along.
Here’s a simple beginner’s guide to the philosophy that represents the next stage of the gender conversation.
What Is Gender Abolitionism?
Gender abolitionism is the social movement centered on creating a postgender society. The movement is based on the belief that gender is a harmful social construct that limits individuals and society as a whole.
Who Are Gender Abolitionists?
Gender abolitionists can come from any background, but a vast majority are feminist and/or queer folx. Gender abolitionism isn’t a gender identity in itself. Some gender abolitionists keep their identity completely separate from their philosophy. Others take the label a little more personally and choose to reject gender even within their own identity. This may mean choosing to be pronoun neutral, with no set pronoun preference, or trying to clash gendered expectations as much as possible in their clothing. “Genderf*ck”, an identity focused on subverting the definitions of “male” and “female” in presentation and behavior, is extremely popular in the movement.
What Do Gender Abolitionists Want?
Gender abolitionists want to create a world where gender is practically nonexistent in the everyday lives of people. This doesn’t always mean erasing terms such as “feminine” or “masculine”–just that there will be no societal obligation for any person to act within these roles.
Choice is also added into the equation. If you want to identify in a specific way, you can! Gender abolitionism eliminates the default of being gendered from birth, leaving people free to identify, or not identify, however they want.
Is A Genderless Society Even Possible?
Short answer-Yes and no. Most gender abolitionists see this ideal world as something that would only exist far in the future, generations down the line. Destroying the entire concept of gender doesn’t happen overnight, after all.
It’s also important to understand that gender and sex are entirely different concepts. Gender abolitionism does not mean “doctors are not allowed to ask their patients what parts they have”, as many opponents of the philosophy would like you to believe. Sex–the categories that we group people into based on biological characteristics–could still be alive and well in a genderless society. Doctors (and anyone else who needs to know that information) would, of course, be able to ask. There’s no reason, however, that your sexual characteristics need to have any effect on your public life and how the world perceives you.
The fact that you have a penis shouldn’t mean anything about your personality, dress, or attitude to the person across from you on the bus. Neither should a beard, breasts, wide hips, or high voice, or an Adam’s apple. These things, to the gender abolitionist, are as relevant as hair color or whether or not you have freckles.
I’ve Seen Some Suspicious People Calling Themselves “Gender Abolitionists”–Should I Be Concerned?
Recently, different groups have co-opted the term with less-than-benevolent intentions. It’s become a favorite for TERFs (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists), who claim that their transphobia is justified by a hatred of gender itself. This justification is unfounded, considering that gender abolitionism advocates for the breaking down of the traditional concept of gender, and denying trans people recognition or acceptance only reinforces the strict boundaries surrounding gender. In short, accepting trans and nonbinary people is the first step towards destroying gender altogether. Anyone who disagrees is likely misusing the term.
If you’re anything like me, there’s a good chance you’ve read this article and now find yourself buzzing with excitement over this newfound ideology. I’d highly recommend checking out Postgenderism: Beyond The Gender Binary, and keep an eye out for future articles from me on various topics in gender theory.