Michael Gilbert is an older gentleman who has been studying philosophy since 1962 and is currently a professor at York University. Miqqi Alicia happens to look great in a dress, and she’s more than happy to talk about it. Miqqi and Michael are the same person, and that’s pretty cool. It was Michael that lead the lecture on October 5th titled Trans People in the 21st Century, a talk that lasted 2 hours in the First Peoples House of Learning in Gzowski College. Michael has released both fiction and nonfiction, including the critical thinking text Arguing With People.
Michael began the lecture by acknowledging an easily recognizable, if polarizing figure within the community: Caitlyn Jenner. Mr. Gilbert and sometimes Miqqi brought up the positive role that Jenner has played in the battle for trans rights, despite having distasteful political views and piles of money. Michael proceeded through a long list of those who preceded Ms. Jenner which included Christine Jorgensen, a G-I from WWII who transitioned into a beautiful woman after the war. Others included; Caroline Cosser, a Bond girl, and Dierdre McCloskey, a renowned economist.
Michael elaborated on Jenner’s positive role by highlighting how the desensitization of the greater public to trans people is always a positive thing, despite Caitlyn “becoming a star without putting in the time”. Michael used an example from his own life to display how this works. He recalled how once a semester he will deliver a lecture “en femme” as he likes to call it. Michael mimicked how some students would snicker and point at first, but as the lecture went on, but by the end they would taking notes and addressing him as “Miqqi”. This is the effect that Caitlyn has on the public when she accepts awards at the ESPY’s.
What followed this anecdote was an explaination of the difference between sex and gender, particularly how gender is an extension of cultural norms and values that are ascribed to people based on their sexual organs. Michael stressed that gender norms and values vary across many cultures and are not universal. Think of the difference between Italian families in which the mother is often a matriarch versus traditional Anglo-Saxon ones in which women are depicted as historically subservient.
Michael then enacted the fingernail test in which he asked the room to look at their fingernails. According to the test if one views their nails from the back of their hand while extending your fingers, this is the way a girl looks at their nails. Whereas the reverse is true if one looks at them while the fingers are balled up. Michael describes these as “gender rules”, that are enforced to ensure that people adhere to their gender based on their sex.
However, as people age, the enforcement of these gender rules can escalate from ridicule and social exclusion to violence. This assertion put forward by Michael is supported by the stats. Despite constituting just 2% of the total population of the LGBT community, trans people account for 50% of said community’s murder victims in America. This is objectively terrible, and according to Megan Sommerville in an article for Chicago Now, constitutes a genocide on transgendered people.
Michael states that this violence and enforcement of rules is arbitrary, and based on a social construction that is obsessed with genitals and not the people that they are attached to. Michael advocates for a world where people are allowed to be the gender that they identify with without facing backlash, identifying certain hypocrisies that women are allowed to get breast enlargements with ease while medicinal red tape is applied heavily to those who want breast reductions. The same can be said regarding men who want to take testosterone versus men who want to engage in hormone replacement therapy.
Michael emphatically outlined the amount of mental trauma associated with being told that everything a person knows themselves to be is not true. Unfortunately, this is the reality for many of those who are transgendered. He ended the lecture by stating how much stress would be relieved from the world and those living within it would be erased if we lived in a world where gender laws were not enforced.