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.
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.