Life Outside the Box: #DeOccupyBinaryThinking

by Adam

Mickey Z.


“Think outside the box, collapse the box, and take a fucking sharp knife to it.”



As we bear witness to the current version of America’s presidential election charade, I’ll remind you of something I wrote earlier this year: The most consistent and primary difference between Republicans and Democrats is that they tell different lies to get elected.

To which I added:

Let’s recognize that choosing to #Occupy is more powerful than choosing to vote. Let’s Mic Check the bogus debates. Let’s expose and reject the Lesser Evil ploy. Let’s make it clear that we’re on to their bullshit and we’re ready to protect the future we share with all life on the planet.

We live in a Coke/Pepsi, McDonalds/Burger King, Mastercard/Visa culture and even open-minded activists can find themselves tricked into binary thinking, e.g. the aforementioned two-party farce or the oft-discussed violence/non-violence “debate.”

These are common examples of thinking inside the proverbial box but there’s another issue that provokes dangerous stereotypes and unfortunately, it’s rarely discussed in mainstream—or even radical—circles.

I’m talking about gender identity.


“Changing how we see images is clearly one way to change the world.”

bell hooks


Thanks to the recent story of a five-year-old in England named Sasha Lexton being raised gender-neutral, however, this topic is finally garnering some media attention.

“Stereotypes seem fundamentally stupid,” explains Sasha’s mother Beck Laxton. “Why would you want to slot people into boxes? Gender affects what children wear and what they can play with and that shapes the kind of person they become.”

I suggest you re-occupy this concept: Gender shapes the kind of person we become.

I did just that when I asked my friend Pam for her thoughts on Sasha Lexton. Not surprisingly, she told me she loved the story, adding: “There is a whole spectrum of gender. In between male/female, you’ll find, for example: genderqueer, genderfluid, two-spirit, gender neutral/androgynous, and transgender. And it’s certainly not just about appearances.”

In other words, someone may present as male or female but internally experience something entirely different.

“That’s where gender goes beyond performativity,” Pam said, before commenting on my recent use of the term “non-straight males,” which, she said, “confuses sexuality with gender. I think probably a better term is ‘cis-males,’ i.e. men who present as men and experience their gender as male as well.”

If you still don’t think “taking a sharp knife to the box” is highly necessary, dig this bit of not-so-common sense from a group called tranarchists: “We believe that the patriarchal heteronormative cisgendered state-capitalist establishment is directly responsible for the oppression of transgender individuals and therefore must be destroyed.”



“Just think of the tragedy of teaching children not to doubt.”

Clarence Darrow

For one example of “teaching children not to doubt,” please allow me to paraphrase a poem by Ani DiFranco, in which she talks of a test we all face in kindergarten or the first grade. You know the deal. They show us two squares and a circle and the inevitable question is: Which one doesn’t belong?

Thus, at the tender age of five or six, we’re being taught that different doesn’t belong. Different is wrong. We’re being taught to exercise our freedom of choice—within the narrow parameters proscribed by the dominant culture.

Well, I truly hope it’s truly obvious that we must appreciate and accept that not all humans identify within a narrow spectrum but must be equally respected for whatever self-identification they choose. This alone is a worthy goal for any justice-minded soul.

However…what has all that got to do with the fate of our species, all species, and the eco-system itself?

Almost everyone is heavily conditioned to recognize the male/female binary—and to a lesser degree, the gay/straight binary. If more and more of us could de-occupy these narrow concepts, well…imagine how much easier it would become to question other repressive constructs.

Imagine how much easier it would be question all forms of modern mythology. Wait…did I just say “mythology”?

In today’s world, mythology evokes images of Jupiter, Hercules, and Thor; it’s something the primitive ancients engaged in before modernity reared its enlightened head. Yet, for example, the US is a nation very much built upon a foundation of fables and there are many forms of modern mythology that have taken hold: free markets, Western supremacy, the cult of science and technology, fundamentalist demagoguery (from religions to corporations)—to name but a few.

Such deeply held tenets could only exist in a society consciously and purposefully conditioned to worship wealth, consumerism, and the unquestioned preservation of power at any cost.

However, through independent thought and serious activism, the myriad cracks in this rickety façade are duly exposed. From there, well…another world is possible.

Assignment for 2012: #Occupy the subversive pleasure of thinking for yourself.

We are the 99%. Expect us. Join us…

#OccupyTheSpectrum. #OccupyOutsideTheBox.

(Thanks to Pam and Calla for the input and to Jen for the inspiration)


Mickey Z. is the author of 11 books, most recently the novel Darker Shade of Green. Until the laws are changed or the power runs out, he can be found on an obscure website called Facebook.