Spectrums, Part Two: Gender
Updated: Sep 8, 2018
Anyone who defies gender expectations is braver and stronger than me. And you.
Hello, dear reader. In case you missed last week’s post, we’re all in the middle of a three-part mini-series on spectrums here on this good old blog of mine. Last week I talked about the spectrum of sexuality (click here!), but this week we are going to focus on the spectrum of gender. Remember - drop your preconceived notions and open your mind.
Let’s hop to it, rainbow bunnies (what?).
Gender is one of the hottest topics in society today. Sexism is running rampant while feminists fight the good fight, and transgender rights seem to be at the forefront of many conversations. We are living in a society that is pushing back heavily against the concept of transgender individuals, and I think that comes mostly from a place of fear and lack of understanding - which really boils down to ignorance. Most hatred stems from ignorance, mixed with a lack of a desire to empathize.
It all becomes really simple when you view gender on a spectrum, just as we view color and sexuality. It’s not male or female. It’s male, female, and everything in between. Some people don’t identify with any gender. Some people identify with a gender that’s different from the one they were given at birth. Some people identify with different genders depending on the day. Some people identify with genders that you personally probably haven’t heard of. And that should all be okay with you.
Let’s take a step back for a moment and zoom waaaaaaay out to look at this in an abstract sense. Think about gender and everything you know about it. Think about how gender works in our society and how we tend to define it. Then consider this: gender is a social construct. Boom. I said it. Those of you who roam in liberal spaces have almost certainly heard that one before, but some of you may be like excuse me?
Here’s what I mean. In some ways, gender doesn’t even exist. It isn’t a physical attribute that can be traced to something concrete. Sex is the body parts you are born with. Gender is the way you choose to express yourself in the society we live in. In some cases, those two things can be totally unrelated.
When you separate gender from sex, it becomes completely unmoored. It’s totally based on cultural norms. Men are supposed to act a certain way, while women are supposed to act a different way. All gender really does, as most cultural norms do, is provide us all with a loose roadmap on which to guide the journey of our lives. It doesn’t actually hold any power in terms of who we are and how we choose to express ourselves.
Now that we understand that gender isn’t real, we should also be able to understand that people identify with all kinds of genders, whether they match the gender they were assigned at birth or not. Gender is all about you – how you feel, how you think, how you act. It has nothing to do with anyone else or what their expectations are of you. That’s why the transgender community exists – it’s a group of people who had the bravery to realize that, hey – the gender I was assigned at birth isn’t the gender I feel on the inside.
And they are some of the bravest people alive today.
Think about the amount of courage it takes to buck centuries of cultural norms - cultural norms that are so deeply ingrained in our society that most people don’t even view them as cultural norms, but rather as truth – and then think about how difficult it would be to stand up and go against all that, simply because you want to express the way you feel on the inside. That is the very definition of brave.
Think about that the next time you see a story about someone attempting to restrict the rights of transgender individuals, or someone fighting to keep gender-neutral bathrooms from becoming acceptable, or see a story about transgender people being murdered for their identities, or meet a transgender person and feel uncomfortable about it – whenever you see or feel any of that, remember how much braver these people are than you.
They don’t do this because it’s trendy. It isn’t trendy to put your life at risk just for being who you are. They do this because they want to be themselves, and they want to make the world just a little bit safer for the people like them.
I truly believe that if we were somehow able to magically pull back the centuries of cultural training that have conditioned us to think in terms of male vs. female, we would all be free to discover that we don’t fit as rigidly within the confines of our assigned gender as we thought we did. The people who are pushing back against those constraints and finding the courage to live the way they feel inside are some of the bravest people in the world. These people are standing up against systems that have never been challenged before, and they’re facing tons of dangerous backlash for doing so.
All they ask for is a little bit of love and support in return - that can go a long way.
Stay tuned next week for the third and final post in my spectrum series, which will be focused on relationships and how complex they can be. It’s going to get interesting.
This week’s post was brought to you by Hillside Boys by Kim Petras, because she’s a transgender pop star who puts out bop after bop after bop. I dare you to try and listen to this song without dancing a little bit - you can’t.
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