Monitoring Norms – Part 2 of a Series

This is part 2 of my series about Gender Conformity.

Somewhere along the way, a lot of people – many of whom are conservative Christians – decided that it was their job to both define what constitutes appropriate behavior and enforce those definitions through harassment and violence. It began as a so-called culture war, the idea that Christians need to ensure that good, Christian behavior – and only Christian behavior – was displayed throughout society. Of course, there are several problems with this idea, not the least of which is that such definitions involve quite a bit of subjective and selective enforcement. For example, none of these morality police advocate keeping concubines despite the overwhelming biblical evidence that supports a man having as many wives and concubines as he could afford. Instead, the morality police have defined biblical marriage as involving one man and one woman – a practice hardly consistent with the biblical record.

The New Testament in particular is full of teachings from Jesus that we should clean up our own act and leave our brother and sister to clean up theirs. Jesus instructed followers to remove the plank from their own eye before looking to remove the speck from their brother or sister’s eye – an instruction lost on the cultural warriors of today. Jesus repeatedly counseled concern for the poor and the oppressed, another instruction that seems to escape contemporary morality police. The only conclusion one can reasonably arrive at given the biblical ignorance of these self-appointed monitors of society is that they are not motivated by anything remotely resembling religion, spirituality, or faith. What they are motivated by is insecurity, impotence, and fear.

If I am not happy with myself, if I can’t face the reality of my situation, one very unhealthy but effective way for me to distract myself while gaining the approval of my equally small-minded friends is to find others to criticize so I can feel better about myself. If I see someone walking down the street who does not meet my definition of gender conforming I feel free to harass them. The question we need to ask is, what exactly about non-gender conforming issues really impacts you? I suppose if you were married to someone who discovered their gender identity was not what they believed it was when you met you could make a reasonable case that you are impacted by that. Even in that case, there is nothing about becoming abusive that will change anything.

The truth is that most of the stuff we get upset about in others has absolutely no impact on our lives at all. Our belief that it does impact us won’t hold up to examination. The State of Montana is full of farmers who are dating their livestock, but it doesn’t really impact the rest of us unless we eat lamb chops. The world is full of unattractive people, people with horrible fashion sense, people with poor hygiene, and scores of other habits or qualities that we don’t necessarily agree with. There are also people with varying levels of gender conformity. The fact that we are oblivious to any of these people until we come across them is proof positive they aren’t impacting our lives one bit either before or after finding them.

Many people in our society seek to place responsibility for their feelings, thoughts, and behavior on others – but the truth is that the only person responsible for our feelings, thoughts and behavior is us! If you see someone whose appearance doesn’t meet your expectations, the problem is yours not theirs. If you want to solve your problem, then you need to choose to not be bothered by gender norms. You might consider examining whether the real issue isn’t your own conformity to your own gender norms.

One maxim shared by every religious tradition in one form or another is the Golden Rule: Do onto others as you would have them do onto you. We would all do well to take that up as our marching orders. Unfortunately, many of the self-righteous have actually convinced themselves that they would want to be persecuted if they didn’t measure up to the standards of God. That alone is justification for most progressive people to throw stones at most conservative morality police officers. Perhaps the reason they don’t is that, all public proclamations notwithstanding, they understand that true  morality is much more concerned what happens above the waist than below.

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