U-Michigan working towards a post-gender society

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There was a great article in last week’s Michigan Daily about gender and the way it plays out on the college campus:genderneutral1

Seeking a post-gender society (The Michigan Daily)

The article focuses on two trans students, and discusses their experiences quite well.  I was slightly dismayed by the implication that all trans people must or will undergo sexual reassignment surgery, but that aside, I thought it portrayed them in a very fair light.

A lot of my friends have been struggling with my decision to identify with gender-neutral pronouns, and I hope this article might offer a bit more insight into that decision.  Gender is totally socially-constructed, and not all of us fit perfectly into the definitions of “man” and “woman”; in fact, most of us don’t.  In fact, 1 in every 2000 births does not even fit into the sexual dichotomy of “male” and “female.”  Even though I relate the most with a masculine presentation, there are many times when my behavior might be perceived as effeminate or unmanly or simply ungendered.  For this reason, I don’t think I completely fit into the gender-binary, and I prefer that the way people refer to me not force my identification as “he.”

I love the way Mak describes himself in the article:

“The way I look at my own gender is that I am post-gender,” Mak said. “I think of myself as sort of a synthesis of various gender stereotypes and roles.”

These are complicated issues, and I don’t expect it to make perfect sense to everyone.  Still, I think we are a happier, healthier society when we work to better appreciate difference instead of forcing conformity.  There are a ton of beautiful identities that exist beyond the gender binary, and I feel like we are selling ourselves short by disregarding them.  We need to recognize our own gender and the effect we let it have on our lives so that we can work towards existing beyond it.  Life is too short to worry about conforming just for the sake of conforming.

My esteemed colleague Gabe Javier made a great observation in the piece:

“Gender is like the air we breathe,” said Gabriel Javier, senior assistant director at the Spectrum Center. “We do not notice it in our everyday lives until someone points it out.” But in the everyday lives of students, it is constantly being pointed out in the way we choose to dress, the bathrooms we use, the dorm hall we live in and the way our peers treat us.

Gender can be such a burden, and many of us do not even realize all the many ways we force ourselves to fit into these norms.  I hope those of you who have questions regarding my choice to use gender-neutral pronouns please feel comfortable asking them, but also be respectful of identities that are different from your own.  Tolerance is better than hate; acceptance is better than tolerance; respect is what we all deserve.

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There are 3 Comments to "U-Michigan working towards a post-gender society"

  • Will Rundle says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, Zach, because I’ve only seen what you’ve written here – but are you saying that you’re using gender-neutral pronouns merely because your *behavior* “might be perceived as effeminate or unmanly or simply ungendered”? Not because of an actual inner identification as genderqueer?

    If so, consider what that implies – in this case, that you can’t be male without acting stereotypically masculine. Then how well you conform to your sociocultural gender role, and not your actual identification, would define your gender. And frankly, that position does not strike me as very gender-egalitarian at all.

    I think you’re putting the cart before the horse, so to speak. In my humble (and much less-informed, I’m sure) opinion, it’s much more useful not just to talk about “gender,” but to consider both one’s innate gender identity and one’s gender role (as expressed behavior). If you do identify as male, why alter your self-definition just to match how you think your behavior would fit into societal standards? It’s wrong to suggest that people who do identify as simply “male” or “female” must also fit rigidly into the associated gender roles. I know I don’t.

  • ZackFord says:

    Gender and gender presentation are different, but obviously connected.

    I might still identify as gendered, but I guess my question is… why do I need to be identified as gendered? Should it matter how much my presentation matched my internal gender identity? Should it matter whether I’m totally conforming to patriarchal expectations of masculinity or completely defying them? Is being genderqueer the only excuse for choosing to not to be identified by your gender?

    My presentation and inner identity might closely resemble a man, but does that mean I HAVE to be identified as one? My preference would be to have that expectation not set upon me, but to be appreciated as the unique individual that I am. That is the intent behind my preference for gender-neutral language, if it makes any sense.

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