On Trans, Gender, and Body

I tweeted out a post on Mashable this morning and then, after it went out, I wanted to elaborate on why it’s important. This is the tweet:

Gender is not a binary thing

It would be easy to look at that headline and switch off. I don’t care about trans-anything. Those people aren’t like me. There’s nothing for me here. That’s the nice version. The not-so-nice version might get into the mental states of transpeople or the “right-” or “wrongness” of a 14-year-old taking estrogen for hormone replacement treatment. Having met a trans kid who was living as one gender in kindergarten and first grade and then publicly coming out as the opposite gender the next year, I’ve had to take some time to evaluate my own feelings on whether it’s a nature or nurture thing, of whether we are pushing things, and our own agendas onto kids and that this is a decision rather than a part of who they are.

Despite what you may have been told, gender is not a toggle switch. It’s not Green for male and Red for female (see what I did there?). The reason why there has been a marked increase in articles about transgender individuals and issues and more transgender people in the media is because this is a human thing. This is a thing that exists in the grand scope of human existence and it is normal.

It’s a thing that we just accept as a given that people are different. No two people are alike. “Everyone is a unique snowflake” and all that. So why do we assume that the same does not apply to things like gender, like mental health, like sexuality, like autism? There’s more to it than just XX or XY chromosomes, but even within those, there are more variations than just those two. None of these things are on/off, you-have-it-or-you-don’t things. Like everything else that it means to be a living creature on this planet, it’s a spectrum. And it’s that spectrum, that variety, that makes things interesting.

Speaking from a place of extreme privilege

Look, I’m well aware of how easy things are for me just to exist in our society. I will never know how hard it is to be a woman walking down the street, let alone what it means to be a trans woman walking down the street. I’m white, male, cisgendered and (more or less) heterosexual. I have it easier than most, so it’s important to me to take advantage of that privilege and add my voice to these types of issues.

…and so…why that post is important

I have never experienced the feeling of not knowing/understanding/trusting/feeling comfortable in my own skin. I have maybe experienced mild gender dysphoria but it had nothing to do with my identity and everything to do with the expectations and cultural values assigned to men. Men are supposed to be muscular, drink beer, watch football and shoot guns. They harass women, rape, and are physically and emotionally aggressive. They are villains but they are also heroes. They are the center of the story. They are the ones who rescue the princess. They make the rules and run the show. They are presidents, CEOs, prime ministers. I am not, nor will I ever be, any of those things, or those things I might be because of my gender, I do not accept. Ergo, I must not be a “real man.” It was later, after doing an intense study on gender and transgender issues, that I realized that none of that mattered, really, because society’s expectations are stupid and don’t define any of us. But I digress.

The point is, I don’t know what it’s like to be a teenager who feels like she is trapped in the body of a boy and I never will because that’s not me. I only know what it feels like to be a teenager and young adult who has a lot of self-hate having to do with what it means to be the gender that I was born as. But I don’t have to have that common ground to watch that video and realize what just happened. And what’s happening every. single. day. that posts like this and others are published and more awareness is spread around the existence and acceptance of women and transpeople as human beings deserving of equal rights, respect and privilege.

I am well aware of the demographics of my followers on social media and the sorts of folks who will stumble across my blog. Very few of them are around because I talk about gender equality or gender issues. Mostly it’s nerds like me, or people who follow me because I write about soccer or WordPress. And that’s part of what makes it so important that I also talk about stuff like this. Because maybe someone who would never have looked at that video of a transgirl getting her first hormone treatment from her mom and breaking down in tears of gratitude will be able to see it for what it is — a real, human experience, real joy and acceptance. And the more stories like this there are, the more real, human experiences from transfolk and women and people of color we see, the closer we get to a world that I want to live in. One that accepts you for the person you are. Not for what you look like, not for what society expects you to be, not for the things you like or the way you style your hair or your tattoos or piercings or clothing or money or where you live or where you were born or what god you put your faith into or what the motherfucking scale says. Just you. That’s where I want to live.

Jenny and Jai

Last weekend, we found out that two friends of ours — mothers of our kids’ classmates — were involved in a domestic dispute that left the two of them in the hospital in critical condition from multiple gunshot wounds. Full news reports here and here.

What happened was horrid and devastating and both women not only had families but were teachers and educators; Jai was the librarian at the Open Classroom school and I worked closely with her to develop the Book Review Library plugin for the Open Classroom library. I can’t begin to imagine the repercussions of this experience, physical, emotional and financial. There are a pair of YouCaring pages up for both of them and it would be amazing if you were able to find it in your heart to help these fantastic women and their families out as they work on healing.

Keep your damn guns. Just stop using them to shoot people.

I’ll make a confession. I’m pretty anti-gun. I watched G.I. Joe and other violent TV shows as a kid and I’ve spent hours playing violent first person shooters, but I’ve never been in the military and guns in real life terrify me. I can honestly say that I have never touched a gun, never wanted to, and will hopefully never have to be within 50 feet of one. And it shocks and appalls me how resistant we are as a country to controlling the ownership of weapons. We only have to look across the ocean to see other countries that don’t allow the possession of firearms and see the decrease in violent crimes.

My personal opinion of guns aligns with the Eddie Izzard bit on “the gun thing” — “‘Guns don’t kill people, people kill people’…But I think the gun helps…”

I also know that because guns are part of the foundation upon which this country was built, we will never, ever be a country that does not allow the possession of firearms. Ever. And I accept that.

None of that matters, though. Because I’m through fighting the gun thing.

You can have your fucking guns. Just stop killing people.

The right to own and carry firearms does not give you the right to walk into a fucking place of worship and start executing people. There’s no justification that can be made for something like that. And this problem isn’t going away. If the NRA thinks the solution to this is more people carrying firearms, fine. Have your damn guns. Just. Stop. Killing. People. I don’t care what it takes.

There is a culture of violence and hatred in this country, and it’s not against people who are foreign — although we sure as hell have that, too — it’s against ourselves. It’s the exclusivist culture that allows some idiots in Utah County to think that having a Caucasian Heritage Night for a minor league baseball team is a pretty freaking swell idea.

So fine, NRA and gun toting assholes. I give up. You win. Take your guns. Wear them to church. Walk through the malls and down streets with me while carrying. Keep me safe from lunatics trying to kill me because obviously it’s only those lunatics over there that actually kill people, not you. Never you. If you think that will make this country safer, have at it. Whatever. Just stop using those guns to kill other human beings.

This is not a thing that is happening to them over there. This is happening to us. Right here. And the sooner we realize that someone who looks different than you, who is maybe a different color or a different shape or loves a different kind of person or has different hair or eyes or came from a different background than you is part of us, is just like you, the sooner we can maybe start to treat this disease that is creating “lunatics” and “outsiders” who “seem like a nice kid” but are really planning on hunting down and killing women, or walking into a school or a church and opening fire. These people, they are us, too. And we need to accept that the way you accept that you have a terminal disease. Oh shit, that’s bad. And then you deal with it. Talking about it, making these assholes out to be something other than us is saying “this problem…it’s not really a problem. That’s a one-time case.” If only that were true. Killing and hurting people who are different? That’s a fucking cultural tradition in America. That’s not a new concept. That’s been done countless times in every state in this country. Accept it. Treat the disease. This isn’t an isolated incident. It’s the product of our cultural upbringing.

I’ll end with Jon Stewart’s reaction to the Charleston Church shooting on The Daily Show.