I have been trying to write this article for so long, I honestly don’t even remember when I started. I believe it’s been over a year. I actually posted my first draft of it up on the old equalizeit.com, but when we switched to our new site, I read over it and realized I wanted to revise it before I reposted it. I have written so many versions of it I have lost track, so I finally decided to scrap the entire thing and start over from scratch.
Here are a few terms that I want to define before I get too far into writing this:
cisgender: identifying as the gender assigned to you at birth
transgender: identifying as a gender other than the one assigned to you at birth
genderqueer: very simply put, identifying as a gender that is not necessarily male or female, but something in between or outside the binary, or as no gender at all
Here’s the deal, Equalizers. First off, I’m kind of a perfectionist, so I hate publishing anything that I don’t feel is 100% perfect. That would be fine if I was writing articles about things that are concrete, but the thing is…gender is anything but concrete! It’s something that is always in flux for everyone, whether they realize it or not, because it’s always in flux in society.
Gender is difficult for me to even define. There’s the standard queer advocacy definition of, “Gender is between your ears, sex is between your legs,” to show the difference between sex and gender. There are folks that say, “Gender is a social construct,” and those that say otherwise. Some people say gender doesn’t exist and others say it’s extremely real.
This says to me that gender is whatever the h-e-double hockey sticks you want it to be! For some people, gender isn’t real, for others it’s the core of their being. Some people see their gender as something society assigned for them, others don’t believe that to be the case. Any way you look at it is fine!
It’s so difficult to pin down because I can say, well, in general, gender means the way you present yourself in regards to your (perceived or actual) sex. That’s fine for a lot of folks, but it gets foggy when people are gender non-conforming. This is where things start to break down for me as I write about all of this. I get into this thought spiral that starts out with questions like, “What about my cisgender male friend that likes to wear heels? He’s not really genderqueer or transgender, exactly, he just likes wearing heels and looking androgynous.”
Then, that propels me into an internal philosophical debate about what gender is anyway. In the early 1900s, there were no boy and girl colors until one day, some company decided pink was for boys and blue was for girls (yes, you read that right). Then, ten or so years later, there was a big debate between department stores about which color went to which gender, and it was finally decided that pink was for girls and blue was for boys. So if that’s the case, what does that say about the gender presentation for female folks that are all about “pink and girly”? If it were 1915, would they be all about “blue and girly” because that’s what society told them was feminine? Or do they actually just enjoy wearing the color pink?
It’s probably some kind of a mix between the two, but it just makes me think about how people get so tied up into gender presentation that is, in the end, pretty arbitrary. However, that doesn’t mean that these folks don’t strongly identify as their gender.
(Note: I’m not saying it is good or bad to enjoy presenting as society’s definition of a gender, just pointing out how this changes over time and wondering how that ties in to people’s personal identities, kind of a version of the ol’ nature vs. nurture debate.)
What do you think, Equalizers? What is your gender like? Are you cisgender, transgender, genderqueer, or something else? Do you fit our society’s definition of what it means to be your gender? Is that just in physical presentation or is it also in personality characteristics? Is it something you consciously think about, or does it come naturally to you?
I will be writing more about gender, transgender, and so forth, but this is something that I really needed to get out before I could move forward. EQ-ties, let’s really try to get a dialogue going about this! Talk to your friends, family, classmates, coworkers, and everyone you can about gender and see what you discover! Feel free to report back to us on our facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/equalizeit or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
by alex algebra