Wednesday, October 30, 2013


Posted on Facebook in reply to this link: Why Are Americans Terrified of Transgender 6-year-olds?
People are deeply unsettled by any ambiguity whatsoever around gender. Just take a look at some clips from the "It's Pat!" skits on Saturday Night Live poking fun at this human trait.

Try going into any toy store and saying "I need to get a birthday present for a two-year-old." They will immediately ask, before saying ANYTHING else, "Boy or girl?" They can't even BEGIN to process the request for help picking out a toy for a toddler until they have entered the correct gender category. For two-year-olds, who themselves don't yet have a fixed gender identity!

I remember in one of my Sociology classes learning about an experiment conducted in the viewing area at a maternity ward (back when babies all sat behind glass in the nursery). The researcher stood there admiring a particular baby. Another person or family would come along to gawk at their new relative, and he'd strike up a conversation. He'd ask who they were there to see, and say admiring things about their baby. They'd reciprocate, and he'd say, "That's my new niece over there." They'd then remark on those ballerina toes, or adorable cheeks, or beautiful curls. "What a delicate little angel!" they'd say.

They leave, next family comes in. Lather, rinse, repeat, only this time, "...nephew." Same baby. "Wow, look at him shake that fist! He'll be a tough one!" "He's built for football!" "What a little bruiser!" SAME DAMN BABY.

My own experiment: I've got two children. We didn't find out gender in advance for either of them. Cue fifteen random strangers a day asking "What are you having?" and not even knowing what to DO when I didn't know. My shower cake was half "It's a Boy" and half "It's a Girl" because the bakery literally didn't have any gender-neutral decorations.

We are nearly compulsive about reinforcing gender identity, as soon as possible, with everyone. We form our mental image of who a person is based on their gender first. It's no wonder that people who don't fit the assigned binary gender framework cause unease. We begin ALL social interaction with gender, and don't know how to proceed without it. That's what we need to change. People first.

No comments: