[an error occurred while processing this directive] How Dichotomies Can Be Misused: A Fun Story[an error occurred while processing this directive] [an error occurred while processing this directive]

The Adventures of Simon on "Planet Or"

In a parallel universe to our own is a planet called Or, where everyone wants to know what everyone else is. This is the story of Simon's (and others') adventures on the planet Or.

The story of William

In the beginning, on planet Or everyone lived in a country called BoyOrGirlland. In BoyOrGirlland, everyone would ask everyone else "Are you a boy, or are you a girl?".

William arrived at the gates of BoyOrGirlland and asked to be let in.

"Are you a boy, or are you a girl?" asked the Gatekeeper.

"I don't know" replied William. "What is the difference?"

"A boy is tough," replied the Gatekeeper "and hard. A boy fights. A boy wants to win. A boy is good at everything. A boy enjoys getting dirty by playing football and jumping out of trees. A boy wants to be respected for what he does."

"And what about a girl?" asked William.

"A girl is soft," replied the Gatekeeper "and emotional. A girl cries. A girl shows her feelings. A girl is friends with everybody and gets upset if they are not friends with them. A girl enjoys being liked by her friends because of who she is or how she looks."

"Oh, I'm a boy, then" replied William. "I like fights. I like getting dirty. I like trees. Can I come in?"

"Yes, you can, but only if you observe the Golden Hat Rule."

"The Golden Hat Rule? What is that?"

The gatekeeper reached behind him and pulled out a golden hat. In large letters, on the front, were the letters B, O and Y.

"You must wear this hat at all times" said the Gatekeeper. "You must wear it with pride, and you must behave in a way that is fitting for this hat. Don't let the Boys down, do you hear?"

"What happens if I take the hat off?" asked William.

The gatekeeper drew a sharp intake of breath, and shook his head slowly from side to side. "The consequences are too great to contemplate. People will only talk to you if you wear your hat, and if you behave in a way that is fitting with that hat. If you take your hat off, then no-one will talk to you. They will come and tell me, and I will have to throw you out of BoyOrGirlland, and you will not be let back in until you promise to wear your hat at all times. If you are let back in, and you take your hat off again, you will be thrown out for ever."

"If I keep my hat on," William asked, "what happens if I cry?"

The Gatekeeper scowled at William. "Then it would have been better if you'd never entered BoyOrGirlland. I told you before that boys don't cry, and that is a fact. You are either a boy, or you are a girl. And if you cry, then it shows that you are a girl."

"So what will happen?" asked William.

"Girls do not wear hats with the letters B, O and Y on them. People will bring you to me and there will be a trial. I will judge whether you are really a boy or a girl, and if you are found guilty of behaving like a girl with a boy's hat on, you will be tied to the outside of the gates of BoyOrGirlland for three days, and have to wear the black hat."

The Gatekeeper turned round, and pulled out a hat - exactly like the golden hat, except that this one was black and had the letters C, I, S, S and Y written on the front.

"This hat," said the Gatekeeper, "means that boys have to sneer at you, and girls have to laugh at you. No one is allowed to be your friend, or else they have to wear the same hat."

"And what happens after three days?" asked William.

"You will be thrown out of BoyOrGirlland, and you will never be let back in. Now, do you agree to wear this hat?" The gatekeeper thrust the golden hat into William's hands.

"Oh, yes" said William. "I think I'd better." And William entered BoyOrGirlland.

The story of John

A little while later, John approached the gates of BoyOrGirlland.

"Are you a boy, or are you a girl?" asked the Gatekeeper, whose job it was to challenge everyone in this way when they tried to enter BoyOrGirlland.

"I don't know" replied John. "What is the difference?"

The Gatekeeper explained the differences between boys and girls, and told John about the Golden Hat Rule.

"Oh, I'm definitely a girl" replied John. "I don't like dirt. I don't like football. I'm not tough."

"What is your name?" asked the Gatekeeper.


"Then you will have to change your name" said the Gatekeeper. "John is a name that we reserve for boys. You are a girl, so you will have to change it. From now on, you will be called Jane."

"OK" said Jane. And Jane took the golden hat with the letters G, I, R and L on the front, and entered BoyOrGirlland.

The story of Simon

When Simon approached the gates of BoyOrGirlland, the Gatekeeper asked "Are you a boy or are you a girl?".  Simon didn't know, and when the Gatekeeper explained the difference, Simon still didn't know.

"I like playing football and jumping out of trees" Simon said "but sometimes I cry, and I also want to be friends with everybody".

"There must be something wrong with you" said the Gatekeeper. "It is a fact that either you are a boy or you are a girl. You cannot be both."

"But I am what I am" said Simon. "I like football and I cry".

"That cannot be true" said the Gatekeeper. "You can be a boy or a girl, that is up to you. But you must decide."

"I cannot decide" said Simon. "I like football and I cry.  I cannot choose to do one and not the other".

"Then you cannot enter BoyOrGirlland" said the Gatekeeper.

Simon turned around and, with head hanging low, slowly trudged away from the gates of BoyOrGirlland. For several days, he wandered through the wilderness, wondering where to go, and what to do, and whether he would ever find any friends.

One day, when he was getting very tired, Simon stumbled upon an old disused gate, overgrown with ivy, that was attended by a slumbering, old Gatekeeper who had a long white beard.

"Excuse me" said Simon.

The Gatekeeper woke with a start, and though he was physically awake, for a few moments his deep-set, dark eyes seemed devoid of any life. Then his wizened face cracked into a smile.

"Well, my, my" said the Gatekeeper. "What have we here? Where are you going?"

"I don't know" said Simon. "What land is this?"

"Well, it's a long time since I've been asked that question. I'm not sure I can remember the answer, but I have all the instructions written down somewhere." The gatekeeper turned around, and rumaged through an old box full of yellow, dusty papers. "Ah, here we are" he said, as he pulled out an rustic leather-bound book. He turned around, sat down, and opened the book.

"Now, let me see" said the Gatekeeper, running his fingers down the first page, and muttering under his breath as he read the words. Then he looked up from the book, and in a clear voice he announced: "this is Typeland".

"Typeland?" said Simon. "Can I come in?"

"Well, it says something here about 'hats'."

Simon's face fell. "I know all about the hats. I can't decide whether I'm a boy or a girl, so I can't wear either of them."

"Oh, but I have more than two hats" said the Gatekeeper, and he turned around and again rumaged through his box. "Now, what have we here", and he pulled out four dusty golden hats. "Boy T, Boy F, Girl T, Girl F..."

"I don't know which of those hats to wear" said Simon. "Can you help me decide?"

"Why yes, I think so. This is the first time I've done it for a long time, so I may get it a little wrong. What is your name?"


The old Gatekeeper looked down into his book, read a few lines, and then turned the page. "Ah, yes. That means you are a boy. Now, what sorts of things do you do?"

"Well, sometimes I cry" replied Simon.

The gatekeeper looked at his book again. "Well, that settles it - you are a Boy F. It says here that Boy Fs cry, whilst Boy Ts play football."

"Oh but I like football!"  Then Simon's face fell again, and he looked very unhappy. "I can't wear a Boy F hat because I like football. I can't wear a Boy T hat because I cry. I can't wear any of those hats and I certainly can't live according to the Golden Hat Rule."

Simon turned around and, with his head hanging down, he walked slowly away from the gates. Once he was over the hill and out of sight of the gates to Typeland, he sat down and began to cry. "Is there no home for me? Is there no hat that I can wear?" And he cried and cried and cried.

As the sun began to set, Simon was still crying with his head in his hands. Suddenly, a shadow appeared on the ground before him, and a soft deep voice spoke to him.

"What is this 'Golden Hat Rule' that you speak of?" said the old Gatekeeper, who then sat down next to Simon on the ground.

"What?" said Simon. "Don't you know?"

"I've been through all my books and papers, and I can't find any mention of it anywhere. What is it?"

"I must choose a hat. I must wear that hat at all times. I must behave in a way that is fitting for that hat. Otherwise there will be penalities, and I will be thrown out of BoyOrGirlland forever."

"But this isn't BoyOrGirlland" said the Gatekeeper "We don't have the Golden Hat Rule here."

"Then why are you at the gate?  Why did you stop me from entering Typeland?  Why did you give me a hat to wear?"

"I cannot stop anyone entering Typeland," said the Gatekeeper "and I certainly cannot throw anyone out. I am at the gate to offer you guidance and help, that is all, and to help you find information from the book."

"So, I can enter Typeland - and you won't stop me?"

"That is correct. I won't stop you."

"But what hat shall I wear? And how will people treat me if I wear the wrong hat?"

"According to the book, you can wear any hat you want to, or no hat at all, or you can have many hats and change them whenever you like. In fact, I discovered that I have another box where there are lots and lots of hats, and you can use any of them whenever you want."

"So, if I want to play football, I put the Boy T hat on, and if I want to cry, I put the Boy F hat on?"

"Well, you can if you want to, but you don't need to. The book says that, no matter what hat you are wearing, you can do anything. If you are wearing the Boy F hat, you can play football, and if you are wearing the Boy T hat, you can cry. There are no restrictions in Typeland. There is no Golden Hat Rule."

"Well, thank you" said Simon. "That is such a relief. I can now come into Typeland, and I can be happy there."

Simon and the old Gatekeeper stood up, and began to walk towards the gates of Typeland. Suddenly, Simon stopped, turned to the Gatekeeper and said "There is still one thing that I don't understand. If you don't have a Golden Hat Rule, then why do you still have hats?"

"That is a good question" replied the Gatekeeper. "But no one comes to Typeland unless they have first been to BoyOrGirlland. Such people are used to hats. They need hats, in order to know what everyone else is, and in order to know what they themselves are."

"So, does everyone in Typeland wear a hat?" asked Simon.

"Most do, but not everyone.  Some people wear different hats at different times of the day, because they want people to treat them differently. Most people have at least two hats: one for work, and the other for home.  But some people wear the same hat all the time. They do different things at different times of the day, but they want everyone to know what they are like, deep down, in there". The old Gatekeeper pointed to Simon's heart.

"When you come into Typeland" said the old Gatekeeper "I will give you a box that contains lots and lots of hats with lots of different names that you may never have heard of before: T, F, N, I, hero, shadow, animus, warrior, persona, and lots, lots more. All these hats are yours.  What you do with them is up to you. You can wear them to change the way people treat you, or you can use them to find out what is in your heart"

"I don't want to know what is in my heart" said Simon. "I just want to play football one day, and cry the next. I don't need to wear a hat for that, do I?".

"No", said the gatekeeper.

[an error occurred while processing this directive]