David Mixner | Gender Identity | News | Op-Ed

Will Our Young Lead Us To A Gender Free Future?


541618_374978435950280_1527175703_nOne of my favorites quotes is from Nobel Prize winner Bertrand Russell who wrote in the first lines of his three volume autobiography:

"Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind"

The quote has been on my desk ever since it first appeared. Russell continues:

"I have sought knowledge. I have wished to understand the hearts of men. I have wished to know why the stars shine. And I have tried to apprehend the Pythagorean power by which number holds sway above the flux. A little of this, but not much, I have achieved."

Even now, being officially a 'senior citizen,' one the great joys of my life is seeking new knowledge. Taking great pride in living my life on the edge, I seek not only wisdom from those who have come before me but also I discover joy in listening to where our young want to lead us.

Recently over dinner with a new young friend he wonderfully shared his vision of a 'gender-free' world. While having some knowledge of the concept, the reality of how important this is to young people was an eye opener. Clearly this could be a real possibility for future generations and it was exciting to learn from him what it meant. The endless potential for healing between people simply by erasing the concept of gender is breathtaking.

This former college football player who gives off a strikingly handsome, self confident and masculine aura, was fearless in his convictions. With great animation he shared with me the dialogue taking place among his friends who were attempting to abolish gender.


At one point he turned to me and said,

"Really David if we all are truly equal why do we have to make distinctions on gender? Doesn't that concept literally become irrelevant? Just think everyone will be liberated from the current gender requirements and totally free to explore every aspect of themselves. Now, David, that is freedom."

With that stimulating and challenging conversation, I began to seek other young people to see if this remarkable young man was a brave lone soul in his vision or if indeed this was a concept that has some base of support among other young people. Much to my amazement, this is being examined and debated by a significant number of our young.

Quite simply the vision is of a world without gender or labeled sexuality.

People can be exactly who they want to be at any particular moment. They are just people. They can dress how they want, explore every aspect of their personalities and have intimacy with whom they want at any time in their lives. No one is labeled, stereotypes are thrown out the window, judgement of others quickly disappears, the roles that are currently demanded by gender identity are ended and shame of such exploration is non-existent.

If I have been listening carefully enough (and I have much to still learn), wearing a skirt to a meeting would not be because I want to dress as a particular gender. It is simply because I feel comfortable in it or even feel sexy. Parents would be parents and not mother and father. Tasks at home would not be based on gender stereotypes but on what logically makes sense between the couples. Sexuality could be fluid and filled with exploration.

Honestly, my examination of this concept still feels imperfect. What I do understand is that I am loving receiving this new knowledge from the young and maybe hanging around long enough to see this become a reality.

The world is never boring as long as you open yourself to it.

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  1. Our notions of gender will become more flexible but we will always need some sort of visible marker of gender, e,g., hair, clothes, etc, to indicate sex.

    Posted by: QJ201 | Jan 15, 2014 10:53:31 AM

  2. This article is based on the assumption that gender and gender roles are somehow a bad thing and need to be overcome.

    That is not always true.

    There is nothing intrinsically wrong with binary gender roles.

    Posted by: MaryM | Jan 15, 2014 10:55:45 AM

  3. No is the simple answer. I loved this comment I read the other day:

    "For a generation that doesn't like labels, these people [he meant college aged kids] sure have a lot more of them than we did".

    Exactly. LGBTQIA anyone?

    Posted by: Henry Holland | Jan 15, 2014 10:59:52 AM

  4. Although as cis oppressors and trans-misogynists we have no right to defend gender roles.

    Posted by: MaryM | Jan 15, 2014 11:00:53 AM

  5. If other people want to hold fluid ideas on gender identity, that's fine with me, but I like the fact that men are men.

    Posted by: Jack M | Jan 15, 2014 11:05:34 AM

  6. You are not allowed to have an opinion on gender because you are Cis, and therefore you are a transmisogynist of privilege exploiting your position on the exclusionary gender binary.


    Posted by: MaryM | Jan 15, 2014 11:12:45 AM

  7. Old news. I live in Alafrickinbama and have been hearing these conversations among the twenty-something's for at least a decade.

    Posted by: Raybob | Jan 15, 2014 11:34:03 AM

  8. thank you for the video, David. when i listen to him speak it comes across as poetry.

    'gender free' may prove to be as elusive as 100% equality for all with no restrictions or bias, but is it as important as the struggle to get to it?

    the 'learning' aspect would be most important to me. when i was still teaching, i always told my kids that 'you stop learning when you're dead.' even 9-year olds understood it!

    Posted by: mike/ | Jan 15, 2014 11:37:11 AM

  9. Naw. God created humans male and female. Even most transgender people, who are tiny minority, definitely identity as male or female. Sex and gender differences are a great thing and enhance life. The created order is not going anywhere.

    Posted by: Javier | Jan 15, 2014 11:38:22 AM

  10. Rather than this being some sort of profound conversation, it comes across as something more appropriate for a mental-masturbation liberal arts undergrad class.

    Posted by: jeo | Jan 15, 2014 11:38:49 AM

  11. Some gay men are among those most beholden to gender roles. I bought a couple sarongs in Thailand and Cambodia a few years ago, and everyone in my group (about 10 gay guys I'd never met) kept asking who I was going to give them to. When I said I'd probably just wear them myself, they were shocked. (Though to be honest, I don't even know where they are at the moment.) Part of the reason it's hard to imagine living outside a major city.

    Posted by: Paul R | Jan 15, 2014 11:39:58 AM

  12. I'll just continue fighting for gender equality, thankyouverymuch.

    Posted by: crispy | Jan 15, 2014 11:48:55 AM

  13. Javier, "God" didn't... oh, nevermind.

    Posted by: D.R.H. | Jan 15, 2014 12:03:08 PM

  14. i loved the post, but disagree with the premise of a genderless society. the realization gender shouldn't be used as a weapon of bigotry (ever) is enlightened, and everyone should feel free to express themselves across traditional gender roles without repercussion.

    let's face it, though - there are differences across gender, there always will be, and that's great! it would be boring if everyone were exactly alike.

    Posted by: northalabama | Jan 15, 2014 12:03:47 PM

  15. No thank you.

    Posted by: Knock | Jan 15, 2014 12:12:49 PM

  16. @Northalabama: Go down to Olde Towne Coffee Shoppe and you'll hear conversations to the contrary. You hear them all over the place at the FlyingMonkey Arts Center ...

    Posted by: Raybob | Jan 15, 2014 12:14:29 PM

  17. Henry, while true, the point is that pewople still use labels so we're adding more to reflect the diversity of people out there. People of the past used fewer labels, trying to forcefully fit people into boxes they could not fit in.

    Posted by: Will | Jan 15, 2014 12:15:31 PM

  18. Mr. Mixner:

    As a 22 year old, allow me to answer your question:



    Gay men are men. Lesbians are women. We all have genders. Please examine whatever internalized homophobia is driving you to think otherwise.

    Posted by: Tom K. | Jan 15, 2014 12:19:23 PM

  19. It is kind of scary that there are people that don't think there are gender differences and are trying to erase it.

    Posted by: Perry | Jan 15, 2014 12:36:14 PM

  20. We don't need a gender free society. We just need a society that recognizes the diversity of gender identity.

    Posted by: andrew | Jan 15, 2014 12:52:02 PM

  21. I don't want to live in a gender-free world. I like being a gay MAN. I don't wish to be a gay androgyne.

    Posted by: will | Jan 15, 2014 12:52:24 PM

  22. Of course they are free to subvert gender, and I would applaud that, but gender is not so easily escaped, as any astute reader of Butler should know.

    And no, it's not new: those of us who teach mental-masturbation liberal arts classes have seen it for at least 15 years. Genderqueer or genderf**k....

    Attention to the issue does, however, make space for people who feel oppressed by the gender system. For a few years now, our student group has begun meetings with people introducing themselves and stating their preferred pronouns. Assumptions about gender can be as or more damaging than assumptions about sexual orientation.

    Posted by: KevinVT | Jan 15, 2014 1:04:13 PM

  23. Will, I get that, but it's gotten to the point that as a man who loves men both sexually and romantically and have zero interest in women in either area, I am being boxed in by certain people with groups which have nothing to do with sexuality, but gender.

    Hell, every day I show up to work I'm transgressing a gender stereotype because I've been a secretary or administrative assistant or whatever the hell it's called now for 29 years. I know for a fact I've been fired from jobs because a new boss wants some pretty 21-year old blonde woman as his secretary, I know for a fact that my resume gets tossed without a look simply because I'm a man.

    Oh well. For every time I've been fired, some woman who isn't even remotely as good as I am gets the job simply because she has a vagina. It cuts both ways.

    Then there's this from Mixner's piece:

    "Sexuality could be fluid and filled with exploration"

    It's called being bisexual.

    And I'd rather have my eyes gouged out with a spork than be labelled "cis". In fact, I loathe the term "gay" but my preferred "queer" is never going to fly either.

    Posted by: Henry Holland | Jan 15, 2014 1:06:15 PM

  24. Well, I've been very encouraged by the way many of today's youth are throwing away the preconceived notions of gender that has limited greater culture's understandings for far too long. We're seeing more and more people come out at a younger age, and we're seeing their non-gay friends *embracing* their peers for who they are, not "in spite of what they are." I'm meeting more and more young folks who are freely and proudly exploring what gender means, to them, and it's utterly heartening. Understanding the difference between Sex and Gender, and best of all - not putting a premium one a baseless societal concept surrounding *either*.

    Posted by: Little Kiwi | Jan 15, 2014 1:18:51 PM

  25. Are male and female body parts different? Sure (in most cases). The point is we have a long way to go to free up the choices people are able to make in society: men wanting to wear a dress? women wanting to be an astronaut first and a woman second? men wanting to stay home and raise the kids w/o flack? a woman wanting to be president? boys who want their toenails painted w/o their dad going ballistic? I have faith in the youngest generations to get us out of our anal puritan ways of life. :)

    Posted by: Jude | Jan 15, 2014 1:32:58 PM

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