Wednesday, February 12, 2014

gender issues: identity

i was trying to think about how i would feel if i suddenly woke up male one morning.

i think i would be really interested to know what it feels like to have male genitalia and i have long regarded the point-and-shoot urinary capability of men with some jealousy, especially when it's ten below zero and i have to drop flaps to pee.

other than that, though, i mostly just wouldn't care.

...which leads me to realizing that there are kind of two parts to gender identity: how much you FEEL like one sex or the other, and how much you CARE.

if being a woman was terribly important to me, suddenly waking up male one day would be horrific.

this not caring very much, i think, helped me to regard people who want gender reassignment surgeries as sad sick people who can't cope with who they are and resort to tragic self-mutilation.

but i have talked with and listened to a lot of people and i've realized that some people care very much what sex they feel like, and there are people who feel very strongly their gender identity.

other people, not so much. some people feel gender ambiguous and care about that, and others feel gender ambiguous and don't give a wet slap about it.

it isn't hard for me to imagine the "wrong" feeling of not being properly matched to the body you happen to live in. i know a thing or two about being improperly matched. this is maybe more information than you want about me, but in terms of gender preference (not this chapter, i know) i am likely to be sexually attracted to men but form emotional attachments to women.

that is an inconvenient mismatch.

i've been marginalized and ostracized by straight people for being too gay and by gay people for being too straight.

and i was thinking about writing this piece and this morning i suddenly recalled that time i was hauled in for a psych evaluation when i was in fourth grade and i suddenly understand all those questions they were asking about whether i liked being a girl or wished i was a boy.

it made me so angry today to finally understand what they were getting at: my failure to subscribe to gender rules must necessarily have signaled disorder. and my failure to care must have seemed wrong to them. i remember shrugging at the time and wondering why they had such stupid questions.

if you feel very strongly that you are a man but you were born into a female body, that is a kind of hell. you wake up every day in a body that feels wrong, you don't understand, and probably you feel ashamed of it for reasons that get drilled into you in a bazillion ways. doctors don't take you seriously.

i do not want to think about how craptacular that is.

now add to that pile the idea of people whose sex is indeterminate at birth and their parents guess which gender to assign them to in surgery.

guess wrong? whoops.

but there's this thing called gender identity disorder. here's an important thing: it's only a disorder if YOU care. it's not up to me or anyone else to call you disordered unless it helps you somehow. if you are fundamentally uncomfortable in your own skin, that's a disorder. i believe the best way for me to help you feel more comfortable is to take you however you are. if you need a reassignment surgery to feel normal, that's a thing only you know. if you would prefer to go genderless, that's up to you.

i am going to encourage other persons of privilege, persons who feel ok in their gender, people who match their bodies, people who are happily within the norms- i am going to encourage all of you to think less about putting people into small slots and when you're tempted to make gender based assumptions, ask yourself why.

ask yourself if you want to contribute to the discomfort and marginalization of a largely invisible yet decidedly present group of people.

but it isn't just about being nice to the "less fortunate". it's about creating an equality of gender, of gender identity, and about creating freedom for all people, including you.


Margaret (Peggy or Peg too) said...


Zhoen said...

It's a murky world inside our snake brains, sexual bodies and urging libidos, ain't it?

Still, we do what we can. Other people project their demons onto us. And we cope with what is left.


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