Conceiving of gender or embodied identity as multifarious and variable presents an emphatic opposition to any understanding of sex and gender as an anticipatory causality. As Susan David Bernstein addresses, parents who encourage gender transgression, or queer gender expression, are often met with fear from norm-conforming parents who perceive of anatomy as an end-all-be-all, inherent signification of gender identity - which only really makes sense if one's gender is inherently connected to one's genitals, making such anxieties altogether inconsistent.
Ironically, it is precisely the anxiety over these purportedly "immature" gender expressions threatening the "natural order" (itself a man-made fabrication) that negate all convictions of there being a natural order -- an issue that Bernstein attempts to take up in "Transparent," making a case study of her daughter, Nora's, gender transgression. What is made readily apparent in Bernstein's illustration is that Nora's understanding of gender is far more sophisticated and nuanced than that of any of the adults she comes into contact with. For instance, when Bernstein relates the reactions Nora was repeatedly confronted with by strangers, Bernstein herself interprets her daughter's gender identity as meeting the conditions of a developing trans(sexual) identity - a transition, or in Nora's case "experimentation," from ♀ to ♂. However, Nora seemingly understands her own gender identity as existing in an unknown elsewhere, a nonspace that, rather than presenting a hindrance or demarcating the possibilities for her gender expression, provides her to create her own possibilities for a gender beyond binary understandings of boy or girl:
Nora reported that she liked fooling people about her gender, and that's why she didn't correct them. But she didn't always appreciate the crooked stares that were pitched her way in public restrooms [...] Once Nora came home from school absolutely delighted with herself. An unfamiliar woman had encountered Nora in the girls' room and said, with a smile, 'I think this is the girls' room!' and Nora, echoing the woman's intonation, quipped, 'I think I'm a girl!'
The joy that Nora experiences in queering gendered spaces, and peoples' perceptions of gender, stems from understanding what the adults surrounding her do not - that what purportedly defines a "boy" or a "girl" is arbitrary, without sensible foundation, and therefore simply nonessential. Bernstein provides little evidence that Nora simply wanted to be a boy, or become a man, as Nora consistently exhibits, in Bernstein's account, that she has little to no understanding of what a boy is, what a man is, or what being either or neither could possibly entail. Nora's expression and articulations of her own gender identity depict a decidedly queer sensibility - one that she makes no attempt to define, apart from the rigid definitions already provided for and ascribed to her by adults. She may not know what binary genders are, but her joy in observing what queering binary gender performances does allows her to see beyond those binaries - and even beyond androgyny. Does this mean that Nora's gender theory is post-gender?:
I think it's more complicated than that. But, Nora does have an undisciplined relationship to gender which threatens binary gender constructs. Perhaps I'm stepping in a slightly different direction all of a sudden, but what about the surprisingly blunt and mature conversation that Nora has with her father, Daniel, who encourages undisciplined gender expressions, presents a threat to the innocence of children?:
Bernstein's approach to (trans)parenting presents a pretty radical queering of gender-discipline, despite what I've read as a reinforcement of gender binaries, in that Bernstein's account of Nora's gender performance does not really present an anarchic (postgender) configuration of gender, but rather very simple facts about a false dichotomy: ♂ | ♀ , which is determined (arbitrarily?) by genitals: