09 September 2016

Gender Bender

I have been thinking about gender a lot recently - in part because of this historic political moment in the United States, in part because of personal efforts to educate myself on transgender issues, in part because writing this blog has made me a more critical thinker on gender.

A few months ago, I saw this video about a woman being removed from a bathroom line by the police because she could not "prove" she was female.  

As someone who frequently likes to wear a ball cap and sometimes blurs gendered notions of clothing and hair, I felt so hurt, so vulnerable, by the actions of these officers.  They are sworn to protect the life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness of the civilians in their ward.  Instead, they mistakenly robbed the liberty of that young woman to deal with her elemental human needs.

Before you assume I'm "authority-baiting" - I always try to believe the best in people.  Those cops were probably honestly trying to protect the public from "creeps" in a societally private space.

But this has got to stop.

We cannot create new daily horrors to prevent other (incredibly unlikely) horrors.  

When our stereotypes create injustices in people's basic American freedoms, we need to reevaluate them.  "Girls are girls and boys are boys and they are different" seems relatively straight-forward until we start trying to define exactly what that means.  I, for one, feel that "female" is one of the most defining characteristics of my identity, even though so many of the most traditional traits associated with femininity do not strike a chord with me. "Female" is different for each of us. 

Why do we pigeonhole the realm of possibility?  I am tickled by the range of human experience on this planet - there are infinite ways to pass one's day-to-day existence.  It's mind-boggling!  And fascinating.  And lovely.

So, can we broaden our definition of the feminine?  "Feminine," by definition is a contrast to the masculine, and this is where it starts getting tricky - the lines are blurry.  If we must contrast them to one another, we limit ourselves to binary opposites - only one side gets to be tough or strong, which leaves meek or weak for the other side. Should we do away with gender descriptors all together?  Some people argue that we should.  But to be gender-blind is to also miss the fact that women have a different relationship to our world than men do.

Yes, it does mean something to be a woman and a man and any other gender-bending identity on this planet, but each person gets to decide for themselves how they want to inhabit that.  

No one should have the right to regulate gender, not by spoken or printed word, not subtly through social cues and teasing, not by legislating rigid, archaic, limited social structures.  You don't get to tell that woman that she's not woman enough to use the restroom.

Check out the follow-up post on the the conundrum of being "girly" and burly.
May, Teneille. "Lesbian Harassed and Forced to Leave a Public Restroom Because the Police Insist She's a Man." YouTube. YouTube, 21 Apr. 2016. Web. 30 Apr. 2016. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hVuHAS2CtUM>.

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