ast month, when Caitlyn Jenner introduced herself to the world – via a sneak peek of her July Vanity Fair cover – the issue of transgender identity was propelled into the global spotlight.
Most people find the rapid shift in social norms we are currently witnessing unnerving: from the growing global acceptance (except in Africa) of same-sex marriage to the legalisation of recreational weed. So for those who prefer an uninterrupted status quo, the very public transition from Bruce Jenner to Caitlyn Jenner is perhaps doubly disconcerting.
But the winds of change had been brewing for some time and Caitlyn’s introduction to the world was merely the tipping point and convergence of a movement that had been building momentum for years.
A month before Caitlyn’s Vanity Fair cover went viral, the Oxford English Dictionary announced it would be adding the gender-neutral honorific Mx (pronounced mix) – alongside Mr, Mrs, Ms or Miss – to represent transgender people and those who did not wish to identify their gender.
While this may seem serendipitous, Oxford English Dictionary assistant editor Jonathan Dent said in the announcement that the first recorded use of Mx appeared back in 1977 in an issue of Single Parent, a US magazine. Dent explained: “The early proponents of the term seem to have had gender politics as their central concern and saw the title as one which could sidestep the perceived sexism of the traditional Mr, Mrs and Miss.”
This addition to the Oxford English Dictionary might formalise the use of Mx, but in the UK, banks and some government agencies are already offering their customers the gender-neutral Mx option.
These include the Royal Bank of Scotland, the department for work and pensions, the Royal Mail Group, and the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency.
Transgender “personalities” have also steadily been seeping into popular culture in the past few years. Last year, Laverne Cox became the first transgender actor to be nominated for an Emmy Award for her role in the hit series Orange is the New Black.
In politics, transgender issues have been brought to the fore with Bradley Manning, the soldier convicted of leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks in 2013 and now serving a 35-year prison sentence. After being sentenced, Manning announced she was transgender and would prefer to be referred to as Chelsea Manning. In February this year, in a ground-breaking decision, the US army approved hormone therapy for Manning’s transition to a woman after Manning sued the federal government for access to the treatment.
The army’s doctors diagnosed Manning with gender dysphoria, the condition of feeling one’s emotional and psychological identity as male or female to be opposite to one’s biological sex.
In an internal memo at the Fort Leavenworth disciplinary barracks, a top official wrote: “After carefully considering the recommendation that [hormone treatment] is medically appropriate and necessary, and weighing all associated safety and security risks presented, I approve adding [hormone treatment] to inmate Manning’s treatment plan.”
This decision came after Manning’s lawyers pointed out that even the American Psychological Association had changed their definition of gender dysphoria and no longer considered it a “disorder”. The National Center for Transgender Equality added that Manning had, therefore, been diagnosed with a medical condition, reasoning that: “If she has a heart attack, they have to treat that too. This is no different.”
This radical shift in thinking will validate the existence of a unique summer camp in America that caters specifically for “gender-fluid” children. Camp You Are You was created to provide forward-thinking parents who don’t have gender-conforming children with a safe and free environment for their children to express themselves without social prejudice.
In Sweden, the concept of gender neutrality has been advocated for some time. The preschool Nicolaigården is run like the You Are You camp, except their genderneutral policy is core to the school’s ethos. They use genderless dolls to encourage and teach emotion and selfexpression, and their library stocks an equal balance of books with male and female protagonists.