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Misunderstanding Gender

Updated on January 8, 2016
A Trans woman with the letters XY written on her palm- courtesy Wikipedia
A Trans woman with the letters XY written on her palm- courtesy Wikipedia

X, Y, Z? Chromosome confusion

I've given gender a lot of thought. About 11 years ago my father became a transsexual (biological gender does not match gender identity). Many transsexuals live as the opposite sex in which they were born and even get sex reassignment surgery. My dad has done all this, but now lives as I would describe non-gender specific. What does that mean? Beats me! Since I see the way people observe my dad when we're in public, I know they want to know- male or female? No one considers both.

The easiest way to describe my thoughts on gender and to straighten out any confusion on gender is the example of a young child, because many of us have had children or been around them. You may not remember being that small, but believe it or not there was a time when we were more concerned about our belly buttons than the ins and outs of anything below them.

In the early years children are experiencing a curiosity for life, toys, games, and costumes associated with both sexes and from both perspectives- healthy exploration. My daughter, for instance can kick some serious dragon butt in a sword fight and also be the fairest frilly princess in the land. My daughter is also able to view my dad as a person, not associated with male or female. I see him through her eyes and the importance of gender in society could possibly be the problem.

Another way to look beyond gender is the spiritual description of a spirit or soul, contrasted with the material body. In many religions, after we die we become a spirit or a soul, not male or female. Also, God is described to be "Principle, mind, soul, spirit, life, truth, love"- none of which mention male or female. Looking beyond gender is basically getting to know someone for all the above words I quoted. Somehow that is enough and gender is rather a small thing in the scope of it all.

Disorder or Third Gender?

If you think about it, the medical community stands to gain a lot by convincing, and jumping to conclusions about what needs to happen if someone believes they are trans. First, they are ethically bound to follow certain procedures in dealing with any disorder. However, transgender is the only self-diagnosed disorder out there. Therefore, does the medical community even have an unbiased perspective or a handle on the proper way to proceed with someone who comes to them with their own diagnosis. It's similar to a phantom illness- doctors have turned other patients away for self-diagnosing or perhaps something be "all in your head."

Going to school for a Psychology Degree, and before my father's transition, I struggled with the term 'Gender Identity Disorder', someone with persistent feelings of identification with the opposite sex and discomfort with one's own sex. If someone told me I had to be a doctor and I felt strongly against it, would that make me have 'Career Identity Disorder'? Perhaps I just don't want to be a doctor. One society's expectations should not result in a disorder when it causes more harm to the individual than to the society.

In other societies, there are terms for a third gender. In Polynesian and Samoan societies, fa'afafine is a third gender and wholly accepted as such. They usually are male, but dress as female. In some Indian cultures, Hijras are a third sex, usually enjoying an living a normal life. Native American societies recognize a two-spirited person who identifies with both male and female, Warrior and Clan Mother. If you think about it, that would be a significant advantage to have both identities. It is interesting to know that not all societies view various gender identities as a problem.

Gender and progressive parenting

"Parents Keep Child's Gender Under Wraps" was the headline of an interesting article I spotted recently. Maybe you've heard of parents keeping their unborn baby's sex a secret, but what if they kept it secret after it was born? That is what one couple decided to do with their third child, Storm. The parents believe it gives the child the freedom to be whoever he/she wants to be. The baby is now 4 months old and nobody is sure how long the parents plan to go on with this.

I have no problem with people raising their children in an open, accepting, creative, unconditional loving atmosphere. This gender neutral child is an experiment and a point the parent's are trying to make, believing it is a tribute to freedom of choice. The way I see it though is the child still doesn't have a choice. I think it inadvertently puts an emphasis on gender.

The parents of this child claim 'other parents make too many choices for their kids, it's obnoxious'. I wonder if they plan to let that child discipline itself or let it decide when to grow up too. There is such a thing as healthy persuasion- you know this if you've had to potty train a child.

I am fully aware of some parents influence on gender bordering overbearing. My mom relentlessly dressed me up in bows and dresses all the time, but eventually I got an idea of what I liked around age 7 or 8, and I wore jeans and t-shirts for the rest of my youth. So even if parents put their influence on children, they usually turn out the way they are going to anyway. This also encouraged me to be me in any environment, even where there were strong influences to be otherwise.

Their experiment also suggests that gender is not biological. They are promoting a freedom of choice agenda but even transsexuals say there is not much choice in how you feel about your gender, despite influences either way. If gender identity is biological then it would not make a difference if they withheld the child's sex and influenced it's environment in the way they are. But on the off chance, gender is influenced by environment, then they could very well be doing some damage by not giving gender cues.

Their other two children, while knowing their sex, are allowed to dress and be who they are. The oldest, approaching five is now having issues about his choice to dress in girl's clothing and having really long hair. He gets upset when others mistake him for a girl. I think it makes gender an issue even before it should be of concern in a child's life. I dress my daughter as a girl and if you were to call her a girl or a boy, bad or good, she would just respond "No, I'm Haley" (her name). Her identity is not wrapped up in her gender. Bottom line, is be open without influence either way. A child can play with toys and clothes of opposite gender, be told their gender, and still realize who they are.

Coming out

There comes a time in one's life when they realize who they are, they differentiate themselves from others around them, and learn to navigate their way through life. Believe it or not, I was once painfully shy. My parents expected me to be a good girl, never talk back, quiet and pretty, and never have a thought or opinion of my own. Even when I began getting bad grades in school, my report card always read I 'was a pleasure to have in class'. That was my identity, but eventually I got my own.

I can understand how people feel trapped by their early influences, expectations, and parents, whether it be gender identity or self-identity. We all have some coming out to do when our growing up is done. Not everyone will accept us and most importantly, it is not important whether everyone does. Only when it is important to fit in, does gender (or anything else) become a problem. Concerning gender identity, clothing does not say something about roles, gender status, or even choice of partner. This goes for both society's views and even those wishing to transition from one sex to another.

On a happy note, I've also known many people who are 'different' but extremely comfortable in their different skin, and somehow everyone around them is not only accepting, but happy to be around them. It's only the beginning when you figure out who you are, the other aspect is accepting yourself and being truly comfortable aside from what others think. 


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