Why does there have to be a check box for everything?
Gender is a fluid thing. Very, very few people fit entirely into the culturally prescribed actions or personality traits of a particular gender. Do they need to? There is nothing 100% green (except perhaps the unhampered actions of the planet itself,) there is more and less, why can’t those words be the descriptors they are meant to be and not the definition of a person?
One of my transgendered friends (FTM) who never wanted to have surgery and just simply wants to live as he feels fits who he is on the inside recently told me that he feels that he needs to have surgery. Not wants, needs. This frustrates me that in order to feel comfortable enough in society doing something as simple as getting carded (which includes having to hand over your driver’s license which perhaps does not indicate the sex that your outward appearance and preference does) that someone would feel external pressure to go through a non-reversible surgery. Because the surgery would make it ‘ok’ to employers, and the government. To me that’s an extreme measure to feel like you can be yourself.
This is the same society where women pump silicone into their breasts. The same one where kids are bullied without repercussion. It just doesn’t feel right to me and it makes me frustrated and sad.
Can gender become something that we stop specifically ascribing to? Like white for instance. I would rather acknowledge that I’ve been an American for my whole life as have many generations of my family. If you really want to know my ethnic background, it is mixed. Mostly English and Scottish and then a little Italian and German followed by Dutch and French. White does not describe me any better than this. In fact, white feels like a gross generalization as if I’m saying I like to eat bread. Sure, so do a lot of people. But some don’t…
But if we are setting up a situation where people feel the need for surgery in order to avoid ‘knowing looks’ at the DMV or bank, then I think we really have a problem which needs to be addressed.
What does it mean to be woman? What does it mean to be man? Why do those things matter to you? The answer should and will be different depending on who you ask and if you ask them before society has given its imprint. I think it is ok to have a personal connection with your self and since feminine and woman are not the same thing. We are all in some way feminine. We are all in some way masculine.
While I’m specifically talking about gender in this post, this relates to many things. The need to be able to tick off a box to describe something that is ever changing is… well I won’t give it a word, but I will say it makes me uneasy. I, personally, have always preferred to just call myself Kirsten when asked for descriptors.
Update: Check out the 8/8/2012 New York Times Magazine article on this topic.