Wednesday, December 4, 2013
I grew up socialized to be female. I was incredibly uncomfortable with this. Sure, I enjoyed playing dress up and wearing skirts and make up, but every once in a while I also wanted a nice suit, and I was never interested in playing with dolls or playing house. I'd rather be out in the mud playing with trucks. Let me tell you, there was hell to pay when I first shaved my head, as "Girls are supposed to have long hair." And then when my high school sweetheart dumped me, I got the "well, what do you expect? Boys want girls who act like girls." Fast forward a few years, when I've moved out and am going to college. Dating different girls, and one dumps me for not being "femme" enough. What the heck? Even in the lesbian community, there are rules and standards for how "girly" I'm supposed to be?
Why are there so many rules about what makes a "real" woman, or a "real" man?
And how do we establish these rules? WHY do we establish them?
Everyone likes to blame "society" and "culture" while thinking that this takes the blame off of them personally. Everyone is the victim, no one is the perpetrator. But then- who makes up society? Who determines culture? Doesn't everyone contribute, as well as suffer from it?
Quite recently, I've had two friends have children. These friends don't know each other, and their children were born within weeks of each other. One had a boy. One had a girl. It's AMAZING the differences I see in my Facebook news feed for how they describe their children. It starts right on the first day when they announced their "beautiful baby girl" or "strong baby boy." You can't even find baby socks that don't have SOME indication of gender inferred on them, such as princesses and butterflies, and dinosaurs and monster trucks. Really? Even our socks need to reinforce gender stereotypes.
A few years ago while taking a Gender Studies course, I watched the documentary Tough Guise. I have to say, for me at the time, it was extremely eye opening. Because of my socialization as a female, I knew all of the ways which femininity was crammed down my throat regardless of how well it fit. I had never considered it was just as bad for boys. I saw this before I even could even begin to formulate the possibility of being transgender. Once I realized that "the other side" (if you buy into the binary gender-system hooey) has just as many pressures to be who they aren't, I began to wish for a space outside. Where neither label exists. Where I don't need to live up to what it takes to be a "real man" or a "real woman."
Next time you greet a baby, consider how your words, and even your tone of voice, are reinforcing to this child what is and isn't acceptable. Consider the many ways you reinforce that girls are "beautiful" "soft" and "a princess" and that boys are "strong" "brave" and the "knight." You might be surprised at just how much you contribute to the many unrealistic expectations put on both men and women.
Sunday, November 10, 2013
There has been a lot of media attention paid to the fact that Germany has recently allowed for a third option on their birth certificates: Male, Female, and Indeterminate. One of the best articles I've read can be found here, as it offers a fairly balanced view of the changes.
Historically, babies born with atypical sex organs undergo "normalizing" surgery within the first few days after birth, so that the parents may check off either M or F on the birth registration. According to some stats I've found (which... I'll be honest... it's internet research, so take it with a grain of salt), approximately 1.5% of the population is born with "atypical" sex organs. Germany's move to creating a third option allows parents to take time and NOT force their baby to undergo normalizing surgery and potential hormone treatment in order to force their baby into one of the two recognized categories. By the way, if you're one of those parents who is morally outraged by the traditional practice of circumcision, you really ought to educate yourself on this one too... if a baby's penis is "too small" doctors will surgically remove it entirely, and construct a vagina instead. If a baby has both sex organs, often the penis and testicles will be surgically removed. Sometimes, parents aren't even aware of this until after the fact.
What I find incredible is that even with this seemingly progressive step of recognizing that not all babies are born with distinct male or female genitalia (or sometimes both), it is still creating life-altering repercussions based on genitalia. What's between your legs is trumpeted to the entire world as the defining characteristic of what makes you YOU. The intention for German babies is that now parents can wait until the child is old enough to make the selection for themselves and a new "X" category is planned for German passports to allow these people to decide to stay as "indeterminate."
One of the criticisms of this is that it doesn't go far enough to protect these individuals. It forces them to be "out" as "atypical" and yet there are no additional non-discrimination laws for intersex individuals. It also doesn't prevent the "normalizing" surgeries, which was the intent of the change in the first place. Imagine you have just had a baby. You've spent 9 months wondering the age old question: Boy or Girl? And the doctor announces "I don't know." How would you feel? While "normalizing" surgery isn't required in order to register within the allotted time as either M or F anymore, doctors may still be recommending it, and you may see it as the "safer" option to prevent your child from growing up with the stigma of being "other." We all want what's best for our children, and that includes knowing they are accepted and included by their peers. Will new parents be fully aware of their options?
But my biggest question is; why are we still selecting this at birth based on genitalia in the first place? If Germany is willing to let babies with atypical sex organs grow up as neutral, why not take it one step further and allow all babies the option? Extend the same courtesy to all people instead of allowing this "othering" to continue for intersex folks. If nobody was assigned a gender at birth, but instead was allowed to grow up and announce it for themselves, imagine what kind of society it would be. There would be no need for normalizing surgeries, or for additional legislation to protect children who have been declared as "indeterminate." Children could be raised without the socially constructed gender stereotypes thrust on them by a doctor's announcement after looking between their legs.
Now THAT'S the type of world I'd like to live in.
Sunday, October 20, 2013
|Full story HERE|
As you can see, this article has absolutely nothing to do with gender. It's focused on one aspect of our lives: our toy collection.
The reporter was very polite (although clearly out of his element when talking to giant toy nerds), and we spent a lovely hour or so chatting with him about our collections, and why we collect. He took a few photos, thanked us for our time, and left.
During it all, I wanted to politely ask him to write the article in such a way that used gender neutral language for me. Somehow, throughout the entire process of geeking out over toys, all I could think about was that this public snippet of my life was about to go out into the world, and I KNEW there would be female pronouns used. That knowledge actually caused me quite a bit of stress and internal turmoil.
I never did work up the courage to ask him. After all, that wasn't the can of worms he was here to talk to me about, was it? And did I really want to out myself to this complete stranger? How on earth would I explain it to him? And I live in one of the more progressive cities in the world. Our local university recently renovated to have gender neutral washrooms available for crying out loud, and weathered the controversy and conversations around it very well.
But you see, my gender isn't compartmentalized, that it only affects certain aspects of who I am. And I'm betting your gender isn't either. It's not a part of who I am, it is a foundational block for who I am.
My gender runs through my entire life, intersecting with every other aspect of it.
Saturday, September 21, 2013
|Pin available on Etsy|
I don't identify as trans*. I'm not transitioning any more or less than any other human in this world who grows, evolves, changes, and learns throughout their life. And yet, this has made me feel as though my voice is irrelevant when it comes to discussions on gender identity. After all, I'm biologically female, I still accept female pronouns because I'm not up for dealing with the hassle of convincing everyone to use gender neutral ones for me, and I'm not looking into hormone treatment or surgeries. They aren't the path for me. So I'm basically a girl, right? I mean, I can still access all of the privilege that comes with being perceived as the gender I was assigned at birth, and in trans* communities, I'm often regarded as not trans* enough.
Yet recently, as I've been browsing the blogosphere, I've noticed something missing. I follow a lot of blogs for transgender and gender variant individuals or their family. And yet out of all the ones I come across and read, every single one that deals with gender identity issues is the perspective of someone who is medically and/or socially transitioning in some way shape or form within the binary as a way to reach a more gender-neutral, or truly binary transgender life. There was a great post on Neutrois Nonsense recently which really hit home for me, and the comments made by readers really opened my eyes to something.
What about those of us who identify as genderqueer, and yet aren't taking any medical or social steps to change our gender? Where is our voice in this great big world? I commented on that blog post that there aren't many voices out there for those of us who don't identify within the binary, and yet are content living our life as is. I found it to be a big challenge to know that of all the many gender-variant blogs and websites I browse, I only rarely get a quick glimpse of others in the same boat as myself on Genderfork.
Ok, this blog has pretty much dropped off of my radar since I wrapped up my 365 project. I didn't know what else to say, and really, I'm not very good at updating regularly. I think that became pretty clear during the 365 itself. But I think I've found this blog's purpose. The reason there aren't that many blogs or narratives out there for the gender variant folks like me is because none of us have spoken up. It's just as much my fault as it is everyone else's. I can't lay the blame on everyone else's feet without getting mud on my own shoes.