ANALYSIS: Belief & Gender Theory

Everyone believes something. Belief is a fundamental human faculty. No other creatures do this.

Bulls and bulldogs do not believe, at least according to our current understanding of animal intelligence, though perhaps they intuit. 

Professional motivators and self-declared "life coaches" tell us that we are what we believe. Of course, they also tell us we are what we eat, what we read, what we do. 

But they have a point. Everything we do -- or almost everything -- can be traced back to a belief about that behavior or action. That is, we took an action because we believed in its efficacy somehow.

And we can become convinced of so many things -- like the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin. (Of course, the true number is seven. We only need to understand the how and why of it.) "Son, do you also believe the moon is made of cheese?" my dear mother used to chide me when she thought I was being naive. 

Some believe in God. Others believe no such being exists. Others believe in a pantheon of gods. Still others believe in Saint Death or in Gaia, mother earth. "Animalists" believe that bulls and bulldogs are in fact like people. 

And then there are those who believe in human gods, like Martin Malverde, the supposed protector of the narcos. Others put their faith in gods with pocket protectors and spreadsheets, our scientists. (These are sometimes the worst because they always present themselves as "progressives.")

Whether one believes in something or someone, or whether one believes one does NOT believe, everyone believes in some way. It is as essential for human life as is breathing, and we all need air. 

Beliefs mold our daily life, and in that way we are indeed what we believe. But don't overlook the fact that we are also what we do NOT believe. For instance: 

Nikki and Louise Draven, who live in Great Britain, believe that the genitalia they possess is not determinant of them as persons. That is, Nikki, whose genitalia is the characteristically male penis, believes he is a woman. He claims he is the mother of their child named Star Cloud, and that is how Star Cloud refers to Nikki: as "mom." Louise, the "husband," who possesses the characteristically female vagina, claims to be a man and as such is Star Cloud's father. Star Cloud does not yet know what his/her gender, though he/she possesses a penis. 

The issue is that both parents at any time may revert back to the gender that corresponds to their genitalia. For now, the mother is male, the father female, but only for as long as they feel like it. They can change their designation for whatever reason they wish: climate, the day, or any other trigger. For them, this system is not confusing. For the rest of us, I suspect it's perplexing. 

Nikki, Louise and Star Cloud Draven have been recognized legally as the first gender-fluid family in Great Britain. "Gender fluid" is a name given to people like this family whose gender changes like a liquid that conforms to its container. 

This understanding of gender is what motivated former U.S. president Barack Obama to legalize the use of public bathrooms by individuals whose genitalia does not correspond to their selected gender. Anatomically male persons may now use the women's bathroom.

Maybe this is getting more confusing now. It turns out there are now 31 new gender variations. Examples include "pangender," who are a little bit of everything. And there are the "a-gender," who say they have no gender at all. Tomorrow there might be more.

Gender Theory

This theory of sexuality aims to justify -- via studies that advocates of gender theory describe as "scientific" -- the notion that no one is born man or woman. By extension, each individual must decide what he/she will be, once they have a sense of who they are. That is, once they have settled on a belief about themselves. 

Those who have signed onto this approach to gender find reinforcement in pseudo-scientific research, what they are told in their classrooms, what they hear on television and in the movies, and what they feel within their own emotions. They are convinced that chromosomal XX or XY coding in their cells does not mean anything, much less their external genitalia. 

This points to how we build our beliefs. The most important factor in belief construction, I would argue, is authority. In particular, the authority we confer on a source is powerful. Of course, believing by virtue of authority means we merely rely on our trust in those who tell us these sources are authoritative. 

So much of what we believe is rooted in authority: writings, comment, people's statements, media and institutions upon which we confer authority and which we allow to dictate back to us on their preferred themes. So few people ever bother to investigate information from authoritative sources. That is why we have this epidemic of "fake news" and the patently false rumors that race through our social-media networks so easily. 

How then do we determine what is not true?  Only by knowing well what is true. 

How do we escape the grasp of those beliefs that shape our daily lives? I don't believe escape is possible, only that a measure of control is possible. In fact, we often take actions that violate our beliefs if the incentive is big enough: I might lose that job; my friends won't accept me; people will think I'm foolish. Adolescents make these calculations, but so do adults. 

But sometimes the calculation is moral: I don't steal because theft is sinful or destructive; I don't arrive late for an appointment because it is disrespectful to play with people's time. 

Regardless, it is a good moment to reflect on those core beliefs and the actions that stem from them. I believe in God; therefore, I should not behave as if God does not exist.

As for those folks who believe that they do not believe, that is a curious case that I will address in my next column. 

In a word, syncing our behavior with our beliefs is essential if our lives are to be coherent.  And that is the heart of the matter. 

Daniel Valles is a commentator, columnist, and anti-corruption activist based in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. His column "The Heart of the Matter" is published here at TMP monthly in English and in Spanish. Reach Daniel on Twitter: @elmeoyodlasunto; via email; or on the web:

"Belief" photo from Flickr user Scott Rhodes, used here under Creative Commons license. 

Religion, NewsDaniel E. Valles