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Vol. 16, No. 3, 2017
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Robert J. Lewis
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Nick Catalano
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Nick Catalano is a TV writer/producer and Professor of Literature and Music at Pace University. He reviews books and music for several journals and is the author of Clifford Brown: The Life and Art of the Legendary Jazz Trumpeter, New York Nights: Performing, Producing and Writing in Gotham and A New Yorker at Sea. His latest book, Tales of a Hamptons Sailor, is now available. For Nick's reviews, visit his website:


Darwin's evolution, Freud's psychology, and Einstein's relativity have all become fundamental concepts in modern science, but if you ask the person on the street to explain any of them (especially the latter) you will most often get blank stares. Throughout human history, when unimaginable scientific revolution occurs, most people firmly resist the change. Even though Copernicus put the final nail in the coffin of Ptolemy's heliocentric theory in the 1543, John Milton, writing Paradise Lost a century later, could not quite accept Copernicus and reverted to Ptolemy in his construction of eternity. We know that presently there are hundreds of societies and organizations dedicated to abolishing Darwin's discoveries even though no aspect of biology makes any sense without them. And as for Einstein's relativity, outside of physics circles this astounding revolution is incomprehensible to most, much less accepted as verifiable space physics.

All of this laggard acceptance of scientific truth has caused many problems in recent human history but we are now faced with a new development which may overshadow all of the aforementioned ones in societal acceptance - gender revolution.

As far back as ancient Sparta we can observe erotic bonds among soldiers who also practiced heterosexual family life when peace arrived. From childhood Alexander's greatest love was Hephaestion even though he married Roxanne and became a father. This common bisexuality continued without any societal rejection in the classical world to the end of the Roman Empire. But with the advent of the Dark Ages this socially accepted phenomenon went underground, was condemned and buried in the religious laws of both Christianity and Islam.

The rise of gender questioning has developed slowly through intervening centuries but, perhaps because of the arrival of Internet social media, issues, discussions and proclamations have come forth which would have been unimaginable only a couple of decades ago. Facebook, with its more than one billion users, has recorded some 50 gender classifications (agender, cisgender, transgender, genderfluid, LGBTQ, non-binary, transsexual, androgynous, are just a few). One recent survey found that nearly a third of young Americans identified themselves somewhere between 100% heterosexual and 100% homosexual.

Historically, science has determined that gender is an amalgamation of several factors: chromosomes, anatomy, hormones, psychology and culture. In recent years, people with the chromosomes and genital anatomy of one sex sometimes claim a transgender identity because they have a psycho-cultural identification with the opposite sex, occasionally with neither sex, or maybe with no sex.

In the past decade there has been a plethora of studies, surveys and conferences on gender identity. Much of the discussion has evolved around young people. Many are laying claim to a wide variety of sexual identities and the big question is do these gender varieties reflect accurate phenomena which have always existed in human nature or do many of these claims reflect teenage sexual experimentation? The answer, based on the amalgamation of causes noted above, may be that both factors are involved.

The concept of gender fluidity is alien and even abhorrent to most societies. In some countries (Argentina, Norway, Denmark and 10 others) gender change is legal with no restrictions and simply based on the request of the individual. In 41 others (Brazil, China, and most of Europe, USA, Canada, Australia) gender change is legal but subject to medical requirements. In 27 countries (Russia, South Africa, Chile) gender change is possible but inconsistently allowed. And in 67 countries (Islam, Southeast Asia) change is not legally possible. In some of these countries wearing clothing not sexually assigned at birth is a criminal offense. And in many Central African countries even discussion of gender change is taboo. The thought of just how long it will take for acceptance of gender relativity in these areas is sobering.

In some of the latter countries, assigned birth gender (only boys and girls) is underscored by rituals traceable to Neolithic times. The rigidity of young male rearing and behaviour noted above in ancient Sparta is ever present in contemporary Africa. The Bukusu tribe in Kenya binds young boys for life beginning with circumcision songs and marches in puberty. The participants will remain intimate throughout their lives and will one day bear each other's coffins and dig each other's graves. After the early rituals young Bukusu boys are commandeered by their fathers and removed from mothers and grandmothers. A young tribesman will be exempt from household chores, live in his own hut, and be reared according to his father's values and behaviour. Circumcision rituals everywhere replicate this overwhelming emphasis on male sexuality and subsequent lifelong male family dominance.

The fate of women in the worlds of male exclusivity continues to be grim and often hopeless. Suicide is the leading cause of death in girls 10 to 19 globally. One hundred and twenty million girls around the globe have experienced sexual violence and some 200 million girls and women have endured genital mutilation. Sierra Leone is one of the worst places in the world to be a girl. Bondo is a ritual which traditionally includes the cutting or removal of external genitalia tying the girls to the male dominated tribes and readying them for marriage. This female genital mutilation (FGM) means that simply being born a girl results in a lifetime of deprivation and insurmountable barriers. The FGM is also practiced widely in Indonesia is culturally, socially and religiously very different from African tribes. But there half of the girls under 12 have undergone the procedure.

So many societies are organized around the principle that biology is destiny. But the development of gender fluidity is being accepted in advanced nations around the world. When societies accept that gender identity exists along a spectrum and is not relegated to rigid male/ female categorization bluer skies appear on the horizon. The trapped and oppressed fate of women can be altered and the culturally defined roles which also oppress men can be changed. Heady ideals can be imagined for a world in which gender does not define a person any more than race or ethnicity does. Without the weight of gendered expectations humans may achieve greater goals and realize richer existences.

These last thoughts represent an ideality which will not be realized soon. If the discoveries of Darwin, Freud and Einstein continue to meet resistance in the minds of skeptics the world over, the general acceptance of multiple gender identities has a bleak future.

I have some personal thoughts here. I have fathered three daughters dutifully raised with the firm notion that gender must not hinder goals and dreams. They have grown to be extremely successful and independent women. But when there are family gatherings I find that often I am frustrated by their perspectives on a variety of subjects from personal habits to social practices. I sometimes retreat into a male cocoon molded from a Latin heritage with unquestioned masculine dominance. Often, I feel that the ladies simply do not understand my notions and wonder if my very individuality and personality will evaporate. However reluctantly, when the emotional resentment has subsided, I remain steadfast in the convictions I have articulated in this essay. Still, I wonder how long it will take for an age old male anthropology to accept the enormous consequences of the gender revolution.



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We all got here the same way. Once born, we try to figure out what to do with this thing called "a lifetime."
Brilliant, as always. An amazing roving mind and a superior musician. Fine actor, too. It was my good luck he's never attempted fiction. Renaissance man -- hardly surprising in some ways -- the Renaissance did get off the ground in Italy. James McCourt "Lasting City."
Cheers! Very intetesting and brilliantly written. But was this essay really necessary? You have neglected the important aspect of. morality and .religious ethics both vital to civilization at its highest level. Falling deeper into moral vagrancy is the worst problem of our time. Female. Genital. Mutilation is our greatest contemporary horror. Only with moral discipline can we overcome and educate. Luv, diana.
Interesting, insightful and mind provoking!

By Nick Catalano:
Inquiry into Constitutional Originalism
Aristotle: Film Critic
The Maw of Deregulated Capitalism
Demagogues: The Rhetoric of Barbarism
The Guns of August
Miles Ahead and Born to Be Blue
Manon Lescaut @The Met
An American in Paris
What We Don't Know about Eastern Culture
Black Earth (book review)
Cuban Jazz
HD Opera - Game Changer
Film Treatment of Stolen Art
Stains and Blemishes in Democracy
Intersteller (film review)
Shakespeare, Shelley & Woody Allen
Mystery and Human Sacrifice at the Parthenon
Carol Fredette (Jazz)
Amsterdam (book review)
Vermeer Nation
The Case for Da Vinci's Demons


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