Tag Archives: identity

The Gender Map: How well do we really understand gender? (not very)

Here’s a video from on YouTube. It’s pretty simple but touches on some important information, which is why I’m sharing it.

And since it’s a shorter video, I wrote up a transcript since I’d rather you get the information than not, and you may be more inclined to read it than watch/listen (but you should, because visuals!)

You may remember studying Columbus, Vasco de Gama and Magellan in middle school, they’re on the books for their pioneering explorations, their navigations of the ocean, and their rudimentary thinking.

Magellan is known for being the captain of the first voyage to circumnavigate the globe. Except that wasn’t circumnavigation. We called this circumnavigation because no one at the time realized that planes and rockets and satellites and who knows what else could actually circumnavigate more efficiently.

This is where we are with gender. Magellans.

We’re curious, and we’re navigating, but we’re limited by our abilities and our language to truly and completely navigate gender. Sometimes we have the words but not a complete sense of the concept. Like gender performance, roles, script. Other times we have the concepts, but lack the words to realize them.

Historically, navigation of gender has looked like this. We started with no gender. These (penis and testes) were merely the inversion of these (ovaries and uterus). The thinking was that this body (male) had more “vital heat” and thus forced the genitals to descent in order to “cool off”. Then there was a belief that gender was strictly grammatical. Any use beyond that was considered a joke, or an error.

It wasn’t until 1955 that gender took on the meaning it has today.

The Reimer family consulted Dr. John Money about their two boys. One’s penis had been damaged during surgery and Dr. John Money recommended that (1) the penile tissue and testicles be removed and (2) that the child be raised as a girl. Similarly to Magellan’s 炒外汇入门 European sailors bringing disease and death to the natives, Money’s pioneering thoughts on gender were also traumatic. Baby Bruce, who was raised baby Brenda, reportedly never felt, acted or identified as female and eventually committed suicide. Nurture over nature? Uh, no.

Gender is a complex sense of how an individual relates to, identifies with one, multiple, or no gender categorizations that our culture constructs. Some describe it as a “sense of identity”. In my culture this may include bi gender, man, gender fluid, gender queer, woman, cis, transgender, agender, pangender, two-spirit, neutrois, questioning, M to F, F to M, M to M, F to F.

In comparison, gender roles are the stereotypes that our culture has for these genders. Primary assessment of one’s adherence to these roles was designed in the 1970s by Dr. Sandra Lipsitz Bem. This is an online version of the . 60 items, 20 feminine, 20 masculine, 20 neutral. It was designed in the 1970s, of course I’m going to splatter the gender roles.

Gender isn’t the parts of your body, it’s how you express your body in the context of culture. Innately or otherwise. In the words of gender navigator Judith Butler, “We act as if that being of a man or that being of a woman is actually an internal reality or something that is simply true about us, a fact about us, but actually it’s a phenomenon that is being produced all the time and reproduced all the time”

Perhaps we are each a unique gender, perhaps no gender at all. Until then, we draw squiggles, it’s our best effort to understand gender as we develop the language that allows us to circumnavigate it.

Stay curious.

Listen to a Conservative Republican mother tell the story of her transgender daughter

You know, often the most compelling and convincing stories are ones that are truly personal and genuine perspective changes. I’ve been fortunate enough to have several in my life, and when I come across them, I try to share for the benefit of others.

Here’s a really beautiful story from a mother defending critics of her Transgender daughter. Politics be damned, the phrase “unconditional love” comes to mind.

For your convenience, I’ve typed out the transcript as well:

I’m the mom of a little girl called AJ, who was recently profiled in the Kansas City Star. As surprised as I was to find my family in the paper, I’m also incredibly proud.

My daughter is six years old. She transitioned, which means she changed her outward appearance from male to female, and started living full time as her true gender, when she was four.

Until that point, she was quite a rough and tumble little boy with a buzz cut and a shark tooth necklace. But when she was three, she asked her dad and I if we could buy her a princess dress.

We didn’t buy the dress.

We thought she might be going through a stage of liking bright or sparkly things, and didn’t want to waste money on something she would grow bored of in a week. But she kept asking, and I found out that she had a favourite princess dress she wore at daycare.

What the heck we thought, and we took her to the store to pick one up. Things didn’t stop there. Over the next few months she started to wear that dress every single minute that she was at home. And then she asked for more. Dresses, nightgowns, headbands, sparkly pink shoes. And eventually, even girl’s underwear.

We allowed some of those things, but we drew the line at the undies. There were just some things we weren’t comfortable with during this phase.

But then I noticed her pushing down on her genitals a lot, and I asked her what was wrong. Not having those parts, I assumed she might have a rash and was itchy, but her answer shocked me.

She said that they bothered her, and were in the way. She wanted them gone.

Thank god for google, because I immediately jumped on the computer and typed in a search “four year old boy says genitals should be gone”. What came back was a very short list of results, but they all pointed to one thing. My child might be transgender.

I had never even heard the word transgender before and really didn’t know what to think. We made an appointment with our pediatrician. She recommended a child psychologist. But before we could even get an appointment, my daughter, then my four year old son, said these words to me: “Mom, you know I’m really a girl right? I’m a girl on the inside”

That moment changed my life.

In the following months she became more insistent. We saw the psychologist and an endocrinologist just to make sure there wasn’t a hidden medical issue. She became more determined to express herself by wearing those pink sparkly shoes to daycare. She wanted to go out for ice cream in a fairy dress and wings.

Eventually we couldn’t hold her back. She was showing signs of depression and refused to leave the house dressed as a boy. The day I let her go to school in girl clothes she was happier than I had seen in a very long time. The kids were great, and the teachers were awesome.

But then the kids went home and told their parents, and they weren’t so great after that. Adult bigotry had influenced them.

We lost most of our friends and some of our family. We basically went into hiding for about a year while my daughter grew out her hair to look like the girl she is. When we emerged again, it was with a very happy and confident daughter.

When I share our daughter’s story, I hear the same uninformed comments over and over again, so I’d like to address a few of those now.

One. We are liberals pushing a gay agenda.

Nope, sorry, I’m a conservative southern baptist republican from Alabama.

Two. We, or at least I, because they always blame the mom, wanted a girl, she we turned our child into one.

Again no, I desperately wanted boys. The idea of raising a girl in today’s world scares me to death. I’d *much* rather be responsible for raising a good boy who knows how to treat girls well, then to be responsible for raising a girl who might only be interested in dating bad boys.

Three. Kids have no idea what they want or who they are. My kid wants to be a dog, should I let him?

Well, that’s up to you but I wouldn’t. There’s a profound difference between wanting to be something in imaginary play and declaring who you are insistently, consistently and persistently. Those are the three markers that set transgender children apart, and my daughter displayed all of them.

Four. Kids shouldn’t have to learn about sex at such a young age!

Well, I agree, so it’s a good thing that being transgender has nothing to do with sex. Gender identity is strictly how a person views themself on the inside and is completely separate from who we are attracted to.

Five. Transgender people are perverts and shouldn’t be in the bathroom with “normal people”.

I don’t know what you go into the bathroom to do, but I know what my daughter goes in there for and it isn’t to look around. It’s to go into a stall, lock the door, and pee where no one else can see her.

Six. God hates transgender people. They are sinners and going to hell.

My God taught us to love one another. Jesus sought out those who others rejected. Some people choose to embrace biblical verses that appear to say transgender people are being wrong. I choose to focus on verses like verse Samuel 16:7 which 嘉盛集团 says “what the lord said to Samuel, do not consider his appearance or his height for I have rejected him. The lord does not look at the things that people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the lord looks at the heart.

My daughter is a girl in her heart. She knows it. God knows it. And that’s good enough for me.

Pink and Blue and Others Colours Too

I have written on this blog in the past about various issues pertaining to raising children in the best way possible, and I’ve written about gender issues. Today I get to write about both!

We set examples for children in many ways, including ways that we aren’t even aware of.  Children can only know what we teach them, and there is an overwhelming amount of environmental reinforcement in our society that teaches kids that boys are tough and smart, and that girls are frail and pretty. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

There are some very simple ways to counter-act this messaging, and one of those ways is by not dressing all boys in blue and “masculine” colours, and not dressing all girls in pink and “feminine” colours. We also shouldn’t have kids wearing clothes that say “smart like daddy” and “pretty like mommy”.

Last year, expecting mother Jenn Neilson walked into a store to buy clothes for her unborn child, and was stunned that her options were literally just blue, or pink. But there are plenty more colours than that, and babies like all colours. Jenn is among the growing movement of people who feel this needs to change, and she decided to do something about it (the most important step!).

She put her money where he mouth was, and she started a company – Jill and Jack Kids which has a KickStarter that you should check out. Jill and Jack Kids is an environmentally friendly baby clothing company that doesn’t just feature two colours, but 4 to start. And the designs themselves promote gender-neutrality and gender-equality, which is great. One of the shirts is captioned “half of all T-Rexs are girls”, and hey – that’s a fact!

Not only are the clothes environmentally friendly, but since they are gender-neutral, they also work as great hand-me-downs, meaning you buy a lot less clothes in the end! And they’re built to last, so you can stretch your clothing bucks to the maximum and save some money for college funds.

If you are thinking to yourself “so what, how does the colour of kids clothes matter? they don’t even know what colours are yet!”, well, that’s the thing. As I said, kids only know what we teach them, so if as long as they can remember, they’ve worn certain colours, and the kids with different parts than them wear different colours and are treated differently, they notice, and they respond. As a friend of mine has said, “we raise boys and girls instead of raising people“.

I just did a very quick internet search for “how does clothing colour affect kids gender?” and here is a good, short explanation from Yahoo answers, that explains gender conditioning and the social pressures that follow:

If a girl wears a skirt, it’s fine. If a girl wears pants, it’s fine. When I guy wears pants, it’s fine. When a guy wears a skirt, there is something wrong with him! Wearing clothing, listening to certain kinds of music and even television shows fall under this ‘gender bias’. Having a certain ‘norm’ forced on you can be rather troublesome. Like a girl who wants to ‘code and hax’ rather than ‘curl her hair’ may be frowned upon by her more ‘girly’ peers, where as she may appeal more to ‘the guys’ now.

That’s a very simple explanation, but you get the idea.

On a more complex scale, this comes from a WikiPedia article title “Social Construction of Gender Differences”:

Gender identity is not a stable, fixed trait – rather, it is socially constructed and may vary over time for an individual. Simone de Beauvoir’s quote, “one is not born a woman, but becomes one” is applicable here. The notion of womanhood or femininity is accomplished through an active process of creating gender through interacting with others in a particular social context.Society typically only recognizes two genders. Therefore, when transsexuals want to have a sex change operation, they must prove that they can “pass” as a man or woman – so even the choice of changing one’s gender is socially constructed. The fact that these individuals want to be one sex or the other speaks to the “’essentialness'” of our sexual natures as woman or as men”

Diamond and Butterworthshow how gender identity and sexual identity are fluid and do not always fall into two essentialist categories (man or woman and gay or straight) through their interviews with sexual minority women over the course of ten years. One woman had a relatively normal early childhood but around adolescence questioned her sexuality and remained stable in her gender and sexual identity until she started working with men and assumed a masculine “stance” and started to question her gender identity. When ‘she’ became a ‘he’ he began to find men attractive and gradually identified as homosexual as a man.

The perception of sexuality by others is an extension of others’ perceptions of one’s gender. Heterosexuality is assumed for those individuals who appear to act appropriately masculine or appropriately feminine. If one wants to be perceived as a lesbian, one must first be perceived as a woman; if one wants to be seen as a gay man, one has to [first] be seen as a man.

So, that, I would argue, is why this is important and why it matters. Kids don’t know any better so we should try to be careful about what we teach them as facts of reality.

EXTRA: May 23, 2014 – I recently interviewed a Queer Adult Entertainment Performer named Mara Dyne for my podcast, and we spent a good chunk of the interview talking about what gender is and means, and highlighting some of the problems related to it. The interview is clean (no swearing), but obviously the subject matter is a bit heavier. If you might be interested, here are the promos to give you an idea:

You can find show notes and subscribe here.

Courage in front of the Camera

Here is an article I find very inspiring. I love to see other people choose to be vulnerable, because doing so helps lower the stakes for others to follow suit, and that makes everyone better off. This is part of why I decided to do a regular feature called “Face a Fear Friday” on this site, because I want to lead by example as much as possible, so when others do it, I will absolutely give credit where it is due!

Over on www.beautyexists.net, they have a post called “Courageous People Expose Their Insecurities For the Camera”. There are some powerful confessions (and images) here, and I think this serves as a great reminder that appearances are only skin deep and that if we regularly make the effort to get to know other people and not just stop at our initial pre-conceptions, we can all be a little happier and get along better. And of course, kudos to these people for stepping forward and putting themselves out in the open and saying “this doesn’t define me, I define myself”. If they don’t feel like powerless victims, we shouldn’t treat them as such.

Genderbread People (are all equal)

Genderbread-2.1From time to time on this website I will be discussing topics of self identity, this is not limited to just whether you consider yourself an introvert or extravert, creative or analytical, people are very complex. To pretend otherwise is not wise.

I’m also big on the idea of busting myths and stigmas, and helping educate people to the lesser known or more poorly understood concepts of life and humanity (which includes self-identity).

I have several queer and even some transgender friends. They are all awesome people. I learn a lot from them. Recently, one of them posted a buzzfeed article which happened to contain a graphic which I later found out was called “The Genderbread Person“. It visually clarifies how gender perception relates to the self, in a very simple and easy way for the uninitiated. There are a lot of misconceptions and confusions around this that lead to problems. I found out after discovering this graphic that it had been revised and updated, to “Genderbread Person Version 2.0” (pictured above), and this had been done to correct a minor “flaw” in the original.

The author pointed out that the original presented as essentially a “zero sum” spectrum, meaning for example to be more “feminine” meant being less “masculine”, whereas the revised version reflects that this is not the case – that you can be say, 50% masculine and 75% feminine, at the same time. Kind of like you can be (for example) 90% happy on a given day, but also 30% frustrated, maybe 5% sad. It doesn’t have to add up to 100%. You are more than one thing at any given time. Continue reading