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