It seems so very simple. If you have a penis, you're male. If you have a vagina, you're female. Yes, there are people who are born with/without sexual organs that challenge this two-party system, but it's a rare event and shouldn't change established conventions, right?
Unless you happen to be one of those precious few people who aren't born 100% male or 100% female, in which case being forced to check a box on a form that doesn't address your sexual identity seems unfair. Society treats your existence like some kind of a mistake, when you're just living your life the way God or biology made you. And that IS unfair.
But it's just the tip of the iceberg.
Because a person's sex... even if defined 100%... doesn't necessarily match your intrinsic sexual being. Which is where gender enters the picture.
I was once working with a team on a massive project that consumed our lives. As the days flew by, all our waking moments were spent in each other's company and we became quite close. As we were eating dinner one evening, one of the guys was lamenting how tough the gay dating scene had become. He thought that "Straight World" had more opportunities for finding someone than "Planet Gay," and he had resigned himself to dying alone. I didn't know if it's true that straights have more opportunities, but I assured him that it was no easier for dorky straight guys like myself to find somebody. One of the ladies chimed in with horror stories of being a woman in dating hell, and the competition for who had it worse was on. Until...
"You all have it easy. Try being trans and finding somebody to date!"
Turns out Margot had started out in life as Mark.
This was a bit confusing to me. Trans? Meaning transexual? What does that even mean? The extent of my knowledge on the subject was hearing a crude joke about "chicks with dicks," which meant I knew absolutely nothing. And since I hate wallowing around in ignorance... especially when it comes to somebody as great as Margot... I did the only thing I knew how.
I asked her.
A part of me worried that asking about something so personal would be offensive, but Margot wasn't offended at all. I guess she would rather somebody care enough to ask than to speculate, which is true for all of us, I suppose. And so I found out how being born with a penis is not necessarily the defining attribute of a person's sexuality. Yes, young Mark liked boys, but his feelings went beyond identifying as "gay." He was never comfortable as a boy, never felt like a boy, didn't fit in as a boy, and felt trapped pretending to be a boy. It's not that he didn't want to BE a boy... penis notwithstanding, he simply WASN'T a boy. Not on the inside. So when it came time for the boy to become a man, Mark decided his sanity and survival depended on giving up on pretending and finally embracing who he was always meant to be... which turned out to be a woman.
Which is why I just don't get the continuing drama over Facebook adding a bunch of gender identity options for people's profile page. Apparently it makes some people "uncomfortable" to be exposed to the idea that humans exist who are not decisively male or female. And because they are "uncomfortable," these humans should be forced to conform to somebody else's personal standards as to what constitutes "gender."
And how fucked up is that?
Somebody telling you how to define who you are?
I mean, seriously, how does somebody wanting to identify as "trans" affect you? It makes you "uncomfortable?" Welcome to LIFE. If it makes them happy, makes their life bearable, makes them feel true to themselves, why would you give a fuck? It's their life. They are the one who has to live with it. Just be happy they're happy and live your own life for a change.
I don't understand how anybody thinks this world would be better off if everybody conformed to the exact specifications they have in their head as "normal." I have even a harder time understanding why people who feel this way decide to force their "normal" on others. Because, hey, everybody is abnormal to somebody.
Margot went through a fucking gauntlet to get to where she needed to be. Her entire childhood was a battle that most people wouldn't survive. She faces challenges in day-to-day life that would humble most people. And yet she made it through. She's figured out what makes her happy, and is content being who she is.
I think she's fucking earned the right to define her gender however the heck she wants to.
Anybody who disagrees doesn't have the strength to put themselves in her shoes for even ten minutes.
Which is a shame, because she always wears such nice ones.
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I love you for this post. Well, among other things. I was really happy to see that Two Spirit is an option, though, oddly, I’ve seen many Natives be upset when it’s used by non Natives because they feel it is cultural appropriation.
I have been around the LGBT for 26 years now and I try my hardest to understand and accept (I currently live with 2 pre-op Trans folks) but I gotta be honest the whole gendered pronoun thing has thrown me for a loop. I want to be able to call people whatever they feel comfortable being called but it’s a bit overwhelming. It seems like there are multiple pronouns describing every gender and everyone has a different one they prefer. I’m hoping with the gender discussion being brought to the forefront with things like the Facebook choices we can, as a society, finally settle on gender neutral pronouns so I don’t accidentally offend anyone anymore.
Make no mistake… you will fuck up. It’s a complex area and there’s huge room for error. But our desire to be inclusive and not offend goes a long way, and I think the vast majority of people outside the male/female spectrum will be happy to help out when we get it wrong. I try to be fearless and embrace my mistakes as learning experiences. Nobody can know everything… but we can know more, if people are willing to teach us.
I hope this will be a lot like gays coming out. As more and more people are willing to talk about it, more and more of us will know someone who is trans. Just yesterday, I was in a group where the talk went to transgender, and I could tell the tone was more scornful than accepting (in CA, a new law says insurance companies have to pay for gender reassignment surgery in certain cases).
I was able to turn the conversation by very politely talking about my friend’s experience. By saying “One of my dearest friends is trans and…” I then told a bit of her life story. That was enough to change the conversation. I consider that a tiny step of progress.
If there’s enough Facebook people that are offended by the multiple person classifications they have added, then I admonish them to delete their Facebook account and leave. Not only will they validate their mindset, but it will be much less toxic for the rest of us that care about all of humanity and don’t have an issue with multiple identifiers.
Well said….this is why I read your blog…..for the serious and silly.
I don’t get the uproar myself, but thankfully most of my Facebook “friends” aren’t the type to get too worked up over this. Playing Devil’s Advocate here, if I was offended by one of “one of those people” posting on my wall, couldn’t I just remain fat, dumb, and happy by de-friending them?
Hell for that matter, don’t I need to not only click on their name to see their home page, but then click on “about” to get this information? If you are going to possibly be offended by what you might find when doing this, then don’t look.
But then you might have to judge people on their merits, so I can see why for so many this is right out…..
i can’t imagine what this would be like, but this post helps.