Friday, May 27, 2011

Gender Isn't Simple

I hadn't planned on blogging about this, but when people uneducated on the subject post vocal opinions in your twitter feed, you realize you have to speak up.

And I want to be real clear and upfront that I don't believe anyone whose opinion I'm citing here is stupid or ignorant or intentionally dismissive. I understand that, by virtue of the circles I travel in, I have spent a lot more time in consideration of gender than the average gender normative straight person. This post is meant to educate and enlighten, and not to call out.

An article was recently published about a Canadian couple who have refused to identify the gender of their four month old baby, named Storm.

The first that I heard about this was from facebook postings by some of my transgendered friends and while I was intrigued, I didn't feel the need to comment until this showed up in my twitter feed. And all I could see when I read this post is someone who doesn't get it.

And that's fine. Like I said, when you live in a gender normative, heterosexual world, you may not ever get exposed to the myriad and complex issues that gender presents.

You really don't even need to dive into the world of transgenders and genderqueer to find out how much is affected by gender.

As a feminist*, I can tell you that being born with a vulva automatically changes how you're treated, what's expected of you, how much you'll earn. Being born female means you're less likely to be taken seriously by the medical profession, law enforcement, educators. It means you'll pay more and get less for a wide variety of services, including health care, personal care and products marketed gender-specifically.

Being female means that your health insurance can deny coverage for your birth control and your infertility treatments while covering treatments for erectile dysfunction.

Sometimes, babies don't even get the chance to be born with a vulva.

In the world of babies and children, boys and girls are treated differently, dressed differently, bought for differently. No matter how much you try to be gender-neutral, our society has ingrained in us an understanding of what boys are and what girls are. Deviations from this standard are taunted, mocked, ridiculed, punished.

Even "minor" deviations, such as my son's long hair or my daughter's shaved head are considered open invitations for ridicule (and who the fuck decides this kind of thing is ok, anyway? It's 2011, people. Get the fuck over yourselves.).

Departing the world of gender normative heterosexuals, that is individuals whose gender identity matches their genitalia who are sexually aroused by individuals of opposite gender identity, which matches their genitalia.

For those of you who are not transgendered or genderqueer, I'd like to ask you to perform a little exercise.

Close your eyes and picture yourself as your own gender, which is, I'm assuming, how you identify and what you feel comfortable and "normal" with. This is your identity. This is who you are. This is what's right for you.

Now imagine opening your eyes and finding that your genitalia does not match what's in your head.

If you are a woman, imagine that you have a penis instead of breasts and a vulva.

If you are a man, imagine that, when you turned 12, your breasts enlarged and you got your period.

Just imagine.

If you can visualize this, you have but a taste of what it must be like to live as someone who is transgendered. Whose brain, heart, soul tells them one thing and whose body tells them the exact opposite.

Because it can take decades for someone who is transgendered to finally receive treatment, they often spend much of this time in self loathing. Not only does their body not reflect who they are, society expects them to act in a manner that is unnatural, foreign, wrong to them.

Because of their perceived gender.

Gender is simple.

Until it isn't.

My final point, the question I have for those of you who still don't get it, who don't see what the big deal is, who maybe don't see that there's that big of a disparity between the treatment of boys and girls, is this:

Why does it matter what gender Storm is?

What changes then?

*That's right. I know at least one of you (and you know who you are) will be glad to hear I'm finally claiming it. I'm a feminist. A makeup wearing, pushup bra loving, misogyny hating feminist.


CJ said...

Bravo! Brilliantly written!

Danni said...

Now this, is awesome and well written.

And seriously? Who the fuck cares what gender Storm is? The only people who need to know are the parents, the child and their doctor. Because aside from medically and cleanliness wise? Why does it matter.

P.S. I think your daughter is brave as hell. I think I've told you this before, but in case I didn't; she is. You've got some awesome monkey children.

Anonymous said...

I'm paraphrasing, but I once read that a "feminist" is someone who claims the radical concept that women should be treated as human beings. Imagine that.

I read that article you mention and I agree. Who cares? Why does it make everyone so uncomfortable? Can't we just let people be who they are regardless of the "built-ins"??

Great post!

G said...

Interesting, you looked at it from an entirely different angle than I did! The various perspectives are fascinating to me.

Well done with this. I think most of the time people tend to "get" gender or they don't, and this does a good job of addressing that.

Syrlinus said...

I'm constantly amazed at the things that people worry about when it comes to what parents do. This they worry about; they don't, however, worry about the ones raised in households where they are fed a single-point of view on life, bad history lessons and the like.

It's almost as bad as those who thought that same-sex parents are bad.


Anyways, well said. You certainly said things far better than I would have.

Shybiker said...

Nice job. Lucid and sound. Discussion of this issue needs more clarity like your post.

Kyle said...

Well said, my friend. Yeah, this world isn't kind to any of us who don't follow all the gender based rules. Some will grow thicker skins because of it, some will fold into themselves and some will call it quits. The more people who can see gender the way you do, and educate others, the better for all of us.

Gender is a hot button issue, even for people who are liberal in other ways, even among queers. Interesting, huh? Even among the people who make a point of crossing lines and rejecting society's limits, some limits are apparently sacred.

Right now, gender seems like the frontier, which makes me wonder what the next one will be.

Deanna @ The Unnatural Mother said...

This is a great post! Waiting all day to comment! I never thought of it like you did, and glad you shared your beautifully written words. I do have to say that I believe that your concerns, issues, ideas are very different from what Storm's parents are trying to accomplish. In my feeble mind it seems that the babies parents are contradicting everything they say they want to achieve - giving power to their children to make their own decisions. But they made the decision, not their children to raise them genderless?

Anonymous said...

gender??...what's that?...