Whenever I fill out forms that ask for my “sex” in order to determine whether I am a male or a female, I’m always tempted to cross it out and write “gender” instead and then tick the appropriate box. But maybe I should do like one comedian said he would when confronted by the question and write “yes please”.
I can’t admit to seeing it myself, but from what I’m hearing there seems to be a need for more than two boxes because gender and sexual orientation are quite different from when I was growing up. Well not just different, but plentiful.
A couple of weeks ago, a transgendered person was making the rounds on the talk shows because the individual made it on to the cover of Time Magazine. And since everyone was making such a fuss I decided I better educate myself about what the term actually meant.
And I was met with more definitions than I can remember. And more terminology than I expected to find. It seems that lesbian, gay and bi-sexual are so old school now. To truly express the fluidity that gender seems to have become you have to use terms such as genderqueer, pansexual, agender and a host of others.
Much like a number line, the traditional gender continuum on which we exist has spaces for people who don’t exist at either end, but who can fall in-between depending on who they like, who likes them and who they see themselves as. Back in the day, you either liked men exclusively, women exclusively or if you couldn’t make up your mind, both. But the current conversation seems to center around not how you were made, but how you feel – you should have been made.
Now I don’t want to say that people are just making things up as they go along, because apparently the several definitions of sexuality have been studied extensively, but what a way that we like to confuse the issue! And to complicate matters further I was made to understand in my research that you have to be careful not to call “her”, “him” and definitely not “shim”.
I suppose because the persons involved are struggling with their identities is why you have to be careful not to mash their corns and cause them any discomfort. And so, being politically correct is key.
So even if you see that Mike still looks like Mike and sounds like Mike, please don’t call him Mike if you are told that Stephanie is the name that is preferred. If you knew her as Caroline back in grade school but you hear somebody else using the name Carl, he is still the same person that you used to know – he’s just seeing things through different eyes.
It’s a pity when this gender confusion affects children though. Things were much easier when I used to climb the almond tree in the back of my yard. I was called a tomboy but it didn’t bother me in the least, and I was happy to wear pants instead of dresses while beating quite a few boys at school in a race around the track.
Girls like me would tend naturally to playing the games that boys play especially if we were around boys, but we couldn’t play all of them. I mean, if you don’t possess the right equipment there’s no way you’re going to win at the game called “mountain”.
But I don’t think any of us was confused about our identity. We knew we were girls – we just liked the stuff that the boys did, better. I haven’t forgotten that even though I had to wear a dress to church I never got in the habit of taking a bag, so I was well into my twenties before my mother insisted that when I was going out, I take something other than my two long empty hands.
My daughter seemed to be following in my footsteps because having an older brother, she gravitated to the cars and monster trucks and action figures that dominated his life. For the first two or three years of her life I never had to buy a single doll since she was quite happy with what she (or rather her brother), had.
Thanks to TV and her favourite cousin she has since gotten an appreciation for all things girly, even though she still competes in countertop car races. However, some children at or near her age seem incredibly self-aware and are somehow articulating that something went awry when they were being cooked.
Since we are first and foremost our sexuality, maybe it makes sense that before they even know what they want to be when they grow up, they already know who they want to be – or don’t want to be.
I just hope there’s a box for it.