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The 21st century heralded in a fair number of novel events and issues that were previously not on everyone’s lips. Among them were climate change concerns, green or alternate energy to fossil fuels, the use of artificial intelligence in medicine and beyond, and some others as well. Most of these captured global attention by virtue of their effect and interest beyond national borders.

But there have been other 21st century issues that have arisen which are not global but are being so to many nations to make them an issue. I am talking about the new phenomenon of gender monikers as I call them. Nowhere it was more evident than at the recently concluded World Cup in Qatar when the host nation came under severe fire from British, German, and some other European media for disallowing rainbow colours or otherwise.

Qatar, like all countries in the GCC, has its own traditions and beliefs and is in no way accommodating those seeking to undermine them. As gracious hosts, Qatar did say that they do not stand in the way of anyone’s practices or beliefs and asked respectfully that others not force them to adopt theirs. This stance by Qatar won a lot of plaudits, not just in the region but also in Asian, African, and South American countries.

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In many countries in the west today, it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep identities separate from gender monikers.

“Gender moniker craze”

In the Middle East, gender roles and expectations are still largely traditional and have not been affected by the “gender moniker craze” that is rising in the western world. This can be seen in a variety of ways, from education to politics to business. There are signs that some countries in the region are slowly beginning to embrace change.

A new study claims that the gender moniker phenomenon of the west has affected the Middle East. The study was conducted by the University of Sussex and the London School of Economics and Political Science and was published in the journal ‘Progress in Human Geography’.

Findings suggest that gender labelling has led to a lack of understanding and communication between people of different genders. The study involved interviews with people in the Middle East who lived in different countries. They also found that people in the Middle East did not use gender labels to communicate with each other.

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Unintended consequences 

The study recommends that the way gender labelling is done in the west should be changed. The study showed that the western obsession with gender has had a negative impact on the way the Middle East sees gender.

The study also adds that the west’s propensity for labelling people as either male or female has led to ‘unintended consequences’ such as violence and discrimination against transgender people. It has led to ‘social isolation’ and ‘a lack of understanding of transgender people’.

Since the dawn of time, humans have been assigned a gender based on their external attributes. This system of assigning people genders through their external appearances has been prevalent in the west for centuries. Men were men and women were women as God had created.

Those with chromosomes diametrically opposed to their emotions should have a right to live their lives as they see it, No one should impose on their values or beliefs so long as they do the same.

To ask the rest of the world to adopt a culture or belief totally alien to the majority is not a measure of understanding. Rather it is more of a colonial way of doing things.

Instead, one should respect the individual right to one’s identity without trying to make it a global issue.

— Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi sociopolitical commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Twitter: @talmaeena