My daughter started college last week and on the first day her professor, I mean ‘they’ professor, asked the students how they preferred to be indentified:
She, he or they?
“They” was recently anointed the singular gender neutral pronoun.
It sounds totally awkward and grammatically incorrect. But after researching gender, gender fluidity and gender-queer topics all weekend, already that usage doesn’t feel as awkward as it did when my daughter first described the scene at school.
My reaction was not discriminatory. It was not judgmental.
I was just flabbergasted.
This is probably a testament to how things make it into the mainstream: what seemed ludicrous on Friday, after a bit of research started to make sense, or at least feel more comfortable, by Sunday.
Months ago, I read New York Times article about gender and the use of ‘new’ pronouns, but I really didn’t comprehend the gist of the piece. It didn’t fit into my schema of things and wasn’t anything I could relate to.
We’re adding new pronouns and changing language to refer to gender?
We can’t use he or she anymore and if we do we risk offending someone?
“They” is now singular?
Some people don’t want to be labeled a specific gender?
None of this made sense.
So I did what I believed to be right and fair. I looked into the subject. This is some of what I found out:
“Genderqueer people are those who identify their gender somewhere between male and female, reject traditional notions of gender, or reject the concept of gender altogether.” – Huffington Post
“Genderqueer, along with the somewhat newer and less politicized term nonbinary, are umbrella terms intended to encompass individuals who feel that terms like man and woman or male and female are insufficient to describe the way they feel about their gender and/or the way they outwardly present it.” – Slate
I’ve written about how it’s impossible to fully understand the experience of another. (See blog post: Why Should We Watch Movies Like Still Alice?)
But it’s essential that we try.
Empathizing is the essence of our humanity and it’s our responsibility to educate ourselves.
There are some who think we need to stop this “madness,” this foreign concept of gender fluidity but there was a time lefties were forced to use their right hand and homosexuals underwent electroshock treatment.
I hope we are past discriminating in such cruel and insensitive ways.
There are new terms on the horizon that are being used to identify individuals and you might as well get used to them.
- AAB (assigned at birth).
- AFAB (assigned female at birth.)
- GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender.)
- Gender binary is the idea that there are two distinct genders, one male and one female, with nothing in between.
- Nonbinary-having no gender or moving between genders.
- Transgender- you are born as one gender but feel more comfortable as the other.
- Gender Fluidity or All-Gender- you feel like you are both, that gender is flexible. It’s not about who you choose to be with sexually, it’s about how you identify yourself.
So yes this subject had me feeling like I was lost in a foreign land, unable to speak the native language, without a map. If that were ever the case, if I were ever in that situation, it would be on me to find my way out.
This past winter I watched Transparent, a television series created by Jill Soloway, based on her transgender father.
The show is fascinating and well done. It is informative and entertaining. Through the main character we learn to find our sameness—our shared humanity—how our families matter, how we want to belong and be accepted, how we aspire to find our true identity.
In 1900 women couldn’t vote.
In 1950 black people used separate bathrooms than white people.
And in 2000 homosexuals couldn’t get married.
While there is still a lot to learn, through conversations, television, books and art we have begun to enlighten and educate.
I think there are limits and boundaries in this world .not all thoughts and freedoms one feels should be allowed. I study very intensely the laws of our religion and therefore cannot accept transgenders 😍 Saraht
Last week I watched the Dutch Girl. It was disturbing to me yet very sad. It seemed so rare ,all of a sudden so common.
Thanks Joy for commenting! The movie is The Danish Girl and it involves the groundbreaking journey of an artist, a transgender pioneer. I have not seen it. But it is through the arts we are exposed.
Might be easier, in accommodating all the identity changes is to have in mind, amidst all the labeling is the we are first and foremost "humans." Instances of humanity. Sapiens. And as time evolved, Homo Sapiens. Part of the species and family of mankind.
One but of many who came before and part of the ongoing collective. And in the wonderful social experiment that is America – free to choose. And free to be.
Since the Olympics just ended this is fresh in my mind and I wonder how "labeling" athletes, and the idea of gender, will play out. There are issues to consider regarding strength and hormones and fairness.
Interesting article. People have the freedom to do what they want as long as they don’t preach or harm others. As long as you are happy within yourself is the key. Unfortunately a lot of transgender people are confused n aren’t so happy within themselves. Homosexuals, heterosexuals, transgender, transsexuals etc. r still human beings n the bottom line is to be happy within yourself.
Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity Cannot survive.
Love that Margo. Thank you for sharing!
if you don’t like gay marriage, don’t get gay married" – probably one of my favorite ads (manhattan mini storage a few years back in 2011).
…Thank you for taking that a step further and highlighting the importance of educating oneself in matters that are foreign and even at times uncomfortable.
"Free your mind, and the rest will follow" … great song Free Your Mind by En Vogue.
Thanks Corie for expanding the conversation
I don’t think anybody can truly understand someones experience – therefore i am happy that we live in a time and country that allows us to be who we are
Our creator gave us each our own taste and senses, and who we want to be touched by or make love to and how is a personal choice
I personally will fight for anyone’s right to live their true identity – just as i will fight for "they" that want to practice "our" religion the way "they" see fit.–Just don’t impose it on me
I suppose the God of my understanding is "gender fluid"
"I am no better- Neither are you, We are the same- whatever we do"- Sly and the Family Stone
Seems the world is just getting too weird for me…but I have no where else to go…so while I am here, I can only hope and pray things settle down a bit and return to "boys will be boys" and women well…they are from another planet altogether
Ditto Charlie! Thank you for putting into words what I couldn’t.
Such a brave/progressive topic to write about, thank you!!!
In response to the other comments… though some transsexual people may consider themselves genderfluid, others do not and never will. The two labels are not synonymous. Genderqueer is not about what is under someone’s clothing but rather a term for ANY human being who does not feel comfortable with the cultural/societal expectations of what it means to be either a man or a woman. The decision to go by they/them can be a political act about accepting people regardless of gender because we are all equal.
Thank you for commenting Priscilla and for making those distinctions more clear. We have a lot to learn!
Corie, so thoughtful and well said.
When I am confused about where I stand on a social issue I think of the iconic photo of a woman screaming in the face of a Black child trying to enter a newly integrated school in Alabama. It is so obvious today that her hate and fear made her lose sight of her humanity and put her on "the wrong side of history" and I wonder if today she is ashamed or regretful. At the time she thought she was so righteous.
It is so impossible to imagine a grown woman doing that to a child seeking an education.
What if a kind hearted woman married a man and was clueless that he really wished he was a woman? It’s called gynophelia .
The shock of the discovery at first felt cruel. I kept an open mind.
But nobody can ever imagine the pain and suffering the gender confusion plays into what was supposed to be s heterosexual relationship.
I am sure that is true but I wonder if that pain is any different than the pain one might feel if they married someone only to find out that their partner wasn’t the marrying kind, that they decided they wanted to be single. There are many ways (an affair or discovering your partner is gay) in which when we make ourselves vulnerable, especially in matters of love, that we can get hurt or feel betrayed.