Christian Jordan Skinner
Picture a baby boy sitting on the floor. In front of him are two different piles. One pile is comprised of bright pink toys and clothes: Barbies, tutus, etc. The other is filled with blues and masculine toys: trucks, tools, an action figure. The assumption that this baby boy would gravitate toward the blue pile every time due to a biological inherence within him is problematic.
You have probably heard the general discourse taking place when it comes to gender. Words and phrases are being said more and more often in the general public: words like “transgender,” “genderfluid,” and “non binary.”
These terms are not new, but have most likely been heard when discussing the controversial topic of gender neutral bathrooms. Gender as a spectrum dives much deeper than bathrooms though. For many, it defines who they are.
Asking what makes a boy a boy is a loaded question that cannot be answered simply. Unearthing the ideology of gender requires a look at human behavior. At the earliest points of our humanity we established guidelines to living life and have not looked back. Traditions. Things like government, commerce, and the idea of a binary gender.
Judith Butler is a feminist theorist and gender studies scholar who innovated a term known as “performativity,” which can be described by the idea that everything we understand as society is not inherent and is instead created through constructs.
Butler’s use of the term applies it to gender. Her claim is that every single person was handed a script as they were born and the doctor either said “it’s a girl” or “it’s a boy.” A person being born and assigned girl at birth is immediately assigned other things like colors and interests, simply due to the repetition of traditional and societal ideals that are associated with “girl.”
“We act as if that being of a man or being of a woman is an internal reality or something that is true about us,” Butler says. “Actually, it’s a phenomenon that’s being produced and reproduced all the time.”
What she means by this is that, in actuality, our gender is something that we have adapted culturally to mean a set of ideals. It is no doubt a bold claim, but can be considered when looking at the idea of gender in a vacuum— without any outside influence. We need to ask ourselves why it is inherently feminine to wear a dress. “Because it’s pretty,” you might say, but it is then important to ask not only why it is pretty, but why “pretty” is immediately associated with feminine ideals. Take a moment and genuinely ponder this.
We need to accept that some people are not comfortable with the script they have been handed. This script has evolved through countless facets of societal influence. What I mean is, people making assumptions based on your gender or physical appearance. This identity is vital to accept because the statistics of abuse toward transgender and gender nonconforming is immensely high. A study on the matter surfaced some devastating results: 41 percent of participants reported attempting suicide, compared to the 1.2 percent of the general population. 55 percent lost a job due to prejudice, and 61 percent had experienced physical assault.
These statistics cannot be ignored. Thousands of people are living through these experiences and the experience of not feeling comfortable in their own skin, let alone in this world. For these reasons it is vital we all make the effort to accept those who do not fit into these constructs that we are undoubtedly evolving away from. And that acceptance first comes with understanding. With empathy.
In the Realm of Gender:
A term people use to identify themselves if their gender does not fit into the gender binary: man or woman. A number of harmful feelings and psychological discrepancies come with this discomfort. Countless other terms exist too, like “genderfluid” and “androgynous,” all of which fit into the umbrella term “genderqueer.”
A composition of two things. In the case of gender, either man or woman.
An idea or theory that is conceptual and subjective. Examples are mentioned in the article, but can also include something like marriage. A couple that is married achieve a new status in the eyes of the government, but all of this is based on societal traditions we have created.
The largest ever at its time in 2011, this study of transgender and gender nonconforming people was done by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. Its recipients spanned ages 18-80 and covered locations from all 50 states as well as Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Islands.