Performing Christmas

Food for Thought

Gender is like religion; it constitutes a fundamental aspect of our identities. Many are willing to die for it. Not many would argue that one’s religion is biologically determined. It’s socially constructed and is a choice, yet, the sense of freedom we associate with the word “choice” is rendered irrelevant by our willingness to die for it.

I’m not Christian, but I perform some of their rituals like Christmas. I’ve celebrated Hanukkah and Passover Seder too. The conventional view is that we perform rituals after we establish a belief in a particular god, but the opposite is true in most cases. Children are not born with a belief in Jesus; they go through the rituals mandated by their parents first. Later, they either accept or reject him. It’s the performative aspect of religion that allows them to understand and choose it.

In other words, everything we do, become, or believe as a fundamental aspect of ourselves is a religion, whether it’s race, nationality, gender, marital status, professional title, institutional association, political orientation, morality, or philosophy. They were all socially constructed before we were born, and we’ve learned to perform them in our own ways.

The problem arises when we believe that some are superior to others because they have an objective basis, like biological or scientific proof. We cannot prove our gender by our body parts, any more than we can prove Christianity by scientific evidence. Those who are trying to invalidate religions scientifically are just as misguided as those who are trying to confirm it. Facts are irrelevant to our identities.

Our identity is a fundamentally religious experience where facts and logic were applied retroactively as if they came before it. Once we can accept this, we can respect anyone regardless of what they identify themselves as.

A new gender category could threaten your sense of self if you believed that gender is scientifically determined as there is only one right answer in science. The need to objectively validate your identity is what makes you intolerant and insecure. If performing it feels right to you, you’ve found your religion. No need to validate or invalidate it.