The New Dirty Word
I’m feeling pretty “Cisgender” after the big storm that hit San Francisco this week. I’ve been clearing the fallen brush and leaves around the house in a pretty “manly” way. And for those of you who are as clueless as I am about gender terms, the definition of cisgender is “a person whose gender identity and biological sex assigned at birth align.” I guess that makes me “normal” only anyone who follows the progress we’ve made with gender identity in this country knows there is no “normal.” There never really was. And do you know what that means?
Gender is the new dirty word for all of us who can’t accept that there is no normal.
I hear it in the speeches of politicians. I see writing on the walls, literally as some institutions refuse to comply to the myriad differences that make up sexual identity and hold firm with bathroom signs that designate biology, not choice.
As a nation we’re pretty “Gender Binary” which means that most of us consider all people are either male or female. No exceptions. I’m indebted to Samuel Killerman, gender advocate extraordinaire, for providing me with these terms in his pathbreaking list of LGBTQ glossary. He’s the author of the blog: It’s pronounced metrosexual. And I’m indebted to him for sharing these resources. The trouble with being either/or is that you miss the real person, like reading a predictable novel with a predictable, cardboard character.
Wake up, Hillary. Wake up, Donald. Young people are smarter than you think.
Great fiction has already moved beyond either/or and that’s the reason I think it’s more instructive to us than laws and institutions. Imagine trying to help a young person who is struggling with his or her gender identity. Which of the following options would you choose to help them?
- Ask them to watch the last three Presidential debates, and list all the conflicting references to sex, rape, gender, and assault.
- Hand them a copy of Will Grayson, Will Grayson and say, “I’d really be interested in hearing what you think about this book.”
Perhaps that’s a bit too simplistic, as it probably takes more than a book to get people to see what they don’t want to see. And that’s why I’m devoting this week to interviews and guest posts from the leading thinkers and writers who want to share about what being a young man or a young woman feels like. And I want to inaugurate our dialogue with this simple question: Has there ever been a time of your life when you didn’t feel like the “sex” you were assigned at birth?
That’s a tough question for any adult, and an even tougher question for a young person who’s judged every nanosecond on his and her identity.
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