[Note: I’m using the word “normal” in this post. Those who are not normal—myself included—should not take offense; I am using this term in the mathematical sense of “near the mean of a normal distribution,” as in within one standard deviation of the mean; in the context of cognition another word is “neurotypical,” but this is less common and less general, and many people are unfamiliar with its meaning. In the vast majority of possible systems, most will be normal and some will not. It’s nearly inevitable. See also Stupid Rule 4, for our fear of being “abnormal” is very much a Stupid Rule.]
A major part of what makes life difficult for those who are rational, especially those on the autism spectrum, (in the interests of full disclosure: I’m on the near end, just shy of Asperger’s Syndrome) is the fact that normal people follow certain rules on most occasions, rules that don’t really make sense—but that we all are expected to follow, because otherwise it forces us to confront issues that we feel more comfortable avoiding. They are all stupid rules, rules that are rationally difficult or impossible to justify; but they are universally present and strongly enforced, and we ignore them only at our own peril. Perhaps we ought to challenge them, find the places to attack them that will most weaken their grip upon humanity—but we cannot be sure to win such a fight, and we certainly cannot simply pretend it is already won.
Stupid Rule 3: People are supposed to fit neatly into boxes of gender and race.
Apparently, this is so that it is never difficult to make these sorts of assessments. We should always be able to distinguish Black women from White women, and White men from White women, in all cases, with no overlap, no intermediates, and no ambiguity. The standards for what counts as a “race” change over time and place; currently in the US there are White, Black, Asian, Hispanic, Arab, and Other. Previously in the US, “Arab” and “Hispanic” were considered “White,” and “Irish” and “Italian” were separate races; in Japan “Korean” and “Okinawan” are races; in China “Taiwanese” and “Tibetan” are races. By the way, “Other” is the worst possible category; it makes you inferior to even the races otherwise deemed inferior (imagine the “Redskins” baseball team being called the “Blackies” or “Yellowfaces”; but Native American, unlike Black and Asian, is not an official “race” category in most American minds, so it’s all right). Most people have no idea what to do with people who are clearly intermediate between these categories, so they simply deny the intermediacy, usually adopting a metric of hypodescent. (Obama is considered our first “African-American President,” when clearly he is not at all African and in fact about as “biracial” as one could ever be.)
“Gender” is more fixed, with “man” and “woman” being universally understood in all places and times; still, in recent years in the West the categories “gay man” and “lesbian” have taken on gender-like status. “Shemale” is also approaching this status thanks to fetish porn, much to the chagrin of the truly quite diverse transgender community. It’s also been a mixed blessing for gays and lesbians, since in reality the common conception of “gay man” is more like “femme flamboyant sub bottom gay man,” and the common conception of “lesbian” is more like “butch ambitious dom top lesbian”; this leads to bizarre statements like, “Yeah, I have sex with men, but I’m not gay“—which translates to “Yeah, I have sex with men, but I’m not femme, flamboyant, submissive and a bottom” (A lot of us aren’t, actually. And some of us are really bi, which throws the whole thing out of whack.) Another example is “Well, she’s a total lesbian, except she has sex with men”—which translates to “Well, she is butch and ambitious, maybe even dominant, but she is heterosexual.” (There are a lot of those too, you know.) For this reason, any male who acts in any way “feminine”—this includes wearing pink, playing with dolls, avoiding team sports, and many other activities with no apparent connection to actual physiology, as well as generally being kind and empathetic, which you’d think would always be good—is automatically perceived as “gay,” regardless of his actual sexual orientation. It is universally considered “deviant” to transgress these arbitrary boundaries, since apparently you’re making it difficult for everyone else to maintain the illusion that the categories are real. Since so many worldviews involve beliefs about race and gender, there is clearly a connection here with Stupid Rule 2.
Do you believe this rule to be true?