Wednesday, September 23, 2015

How do you think about your gender?

I am lucky enough to be a member of a lesbian/women's group; for over thirty years we've met every six weeks to talk, eat, occasionally cry, and laugh about the stuff of our lives. Everyone should be so lucky to have such friends.

Recently one of us, who is doing a volunteer job in retirement, posed a question:

"We [a worthy non=profit organization] had interns working with us this summer. When one of them arrived, this person announced they preferred the non-gendered pronoun "they" to either "she" or "he." So that was alright. Then, by the end of the summer, they decided had decided to adopt "he." "He" presented himself no differently visibly.

We didn't grow up with this kind of fluidity. If we were growing up now, would we have come out with the same gender identity we have now; would we have called ourselves "women" and "lesbians"?

For anyone who finds this an obscure question, I'm including this charming video which introduces the sort of young person my friend was thinking about.

Most of us were bemused by the question. After a lifetime, it is hard to imagine adopting another gender definition. I'm in that bag: I've spent a lifetime insisting that a person who presents to the world as I do can be a woman and I'm not letting go of that demand. Several others affirmed that they've never felt quite able to fully identify with binary (forced choice) gender options. We've all known each other forever, so these were comfortable discussions.

How about you? Do you ever question the options for describing your gender? Have you ever wondered whether gender could mean something different than one or the other?


Rain Trueax said...

My grandkids are like this with the fluidity and it's no big deal with the ones in their classes. For me, I see boxes as a problem whether they are racial or gender. Look at our President who is equally two races but has to be one for identification. The book I just brought out had that issue as the hero's half brother was equally two races. Back then they'd use the word mulatto which is a bad word to today's world. Humans want a word and a box.

So how I feel about racial is how I feel about gender. It's who they want to be. If a woman wants to appear masculine in her demeanor but prefers to be called a woman. I am cool with it. If she wants to be called a man, I am cool with that because it's her or his choice. I was always female and always liked being female but not the frilly sort- so no pink ruffles for me but still very much female. I think everyone should have the freedom to call themselves what they want and change if that changes for them. Humans seem to have a need to box people including ourselves instead of just connect with each other on a soul level-- which to me goes beyond gender or race.

Beth said...

I think of my gender as Cubist -- female, as seen from the perspective of a butch, equals femme. But gender fluidity right now reminds me of lesbianism when I was in college. For some younger people, it is a space of experimentation, and they may settle into a "firm" gender later on. For others, it's a space of coming out of the deep closet of the earlier years. I'm not sure it matters. As my kid says, "You should call people what they want to be called. It's just respectful."

Susan Leone Starr said...

Funny you should ask...I've decided that being a Gemini means not only am I of two minds most of the time, not to mention two hearts, but two genders, as well. While there don't seem to be very many human beings with both a vagina and a penis, I think transgendered, bigendered, and nongendered are all valid psychic descriptions. The pronoun thing's a problem, granted, but I'm still fighting the god as He (or She or It, for that matter) battle, so it'll have to wait in my life. (But doncha love it that the instruction under the "leave your comment" field says "Choose an identity"? hahahahahahahahahaha

janinsanfran said...

My friend Mark added this on Facebook:
"I see two streams here: greater acceptance of queer orientations, and a widespread, unquestioned (by Millennials) expectation that everyone should instantly accept whatever Millennials say about themselves. I wish young people like that intern would say, 'My sense of my gender is fluid right now. I accept that but understand that it's a work in progress.'"

Rain Trueax said...

If we didn't have this need for boxes, this would be less of an issue. I guess boxes make it seem easier to relate to people. It takes less work maybe. I wonder if there is any culture that doesn't have the boxes.

I divide people too though and started doing it a long time ago-- caretakers and destroyers. To me, that designation helps me know who I want near my life and who to avoid. Maybe we all need boxes-- one way or another.

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