This year I met trans people who have helped shape the way I see the world and listen. It is like I have new ears that now begin to pick up gender oppression coming from channels I never expected.
Just this week, I felt shocked and unsettled by words I heard and read, some coming from trusted sources. Seems even in “progressive” queer circles, gays and lesbians need to sort out their issues around gender. Our societies taught us severe rules in regards to gender presentation. Just like the ex-gay movement vehemently seeks to stamp out same-sex attraction and behavior (along with behavior and presentations that are not gender normal) many gay, lesbian and bisexual people insist that queer people must act “normal” in regards to gender, or they will be punished.
Punishment comes in many forms but often begins with a look and a few words.
Overheard at a street fair in Palm Springs.
A very gay male/gay-friendly crowd gathered at this street fair on Thursday night. As I walked past some booths, I overheard a man lash out in harsh tones at someone near by. I can’t say for sure, but from the company he was in, I assumed the man hurling insults was gay. He sneered:
Choose a gender that works and stick with it!
I then saw the gender blended person he attacked. Male and female beautifully balanced with the hair style, clothing, makeup and walk. Yet this look provoked the man who saw the genderqueer person. Unhappy with ambiguous gender, he verbally flogged the person.
Words of a friend on gender exploration
Recently I spoke with a gay bio male friend on my pondering about gender in general and mine in particular. I stated that I don’t always feel 100% male, that I feel I am part male and part female and want to understand and express my gender more fully. I added that I’m looking to buy more pieces of women’s and unisex clothing to add to my wardrobe as one of the ways that I can explore my gender. As I spoke he gave me disapproving looks and he replied,
You are exploring someone else’s gender. You are male, Peterson.
A respected web source pontificates in the dark
In reporting about New York City’s recent decision to allow trans people to change their sex status on their IDs without having to have sex reassignment surgery, a usually thoughtful and insightful blogger I like to read shocked me with her opinion on the decision.
I’m with some of the doctors on this one. I think it’s extreme, and potentially problematic from a legal identification and social standpoint (affirmative action, population and demographics spring to mind). Birth records are supposed to be factual and a matter of legal and historical record. I believe in self-identification and self-definition. I believe that gender roles are socially prescribed. But how you identify yourself and live your life doesn’t change how you popped out of your mama’s womb.
I think of the often clueless and hurtful words about same-sex attraction and the “gay lifestyle” I hear coming from straight people, many of them well meaning and identifying as my ally. I know they still have things to learn about gays, lesbians and bisexuals, and I try to be gracious trusting the heart from which they speak. In the same way as a gay bio male, I learn bit by bit how my mind needs to be renewed in regards to gender and in particular transgender issues.