Archive for the ‘gender roles’ Category

transgender-morphing

About a month ago now, I came to terms with something about myself that I previously never even would have considered a possibility. I am a bisexual, transgender individual. While the initial realization on both points was immensely liberating, it has honestly become very confusing. I cannot help but wonder at how much simpler things would be if we could do away with the ideas of straight, gay, man, woman, trans, etc altogether. Learning about the variability in sexual orientation and gender identity has truly been a wonderful experience, and I can understand our desires as a society to affix labels on all the variations. However, I feel that there is a need to take things even further from our norms before the struggles of many who identify as “abnormal” in whatever way can be overcome.

Being an abnormal girl, even if I did not identify as trans until recently, I’ve long fought stereotypes concerning sexual and gender differences. I believed (and still believe) in considering every person as an individual rather than rely on the societal expectations associated with one’s anatomy. But I grew up in a home that insisted gender was a divine god-given characteristic and that it came with certain… expectations. Being born with female body parts meant I was not privy to ordination to the Priesthood in my church, that I was supposedly naturally better suited to a role of nurturer, teacher, supporter, and homemaker than my male counterparts, that I was automatically physically weaker and thus in need of a male protector, that pursuit of a career was unimportant for me personally because men were naturally better suited to the role of provider and it was to be my goal to find a good provider to marry, etc. Though I did not fit the stereotypical norms assigned to me at birth, I still believed that this dividing line between men and women was accurate and that I was meant to adhere to the mold.

I stood up for gender equality in every way I could while still believing my “eternal destiny” was to play second-fiddle to a man and focus on preparing my future children for their own lives once they were old enough to leave the shelter provided by my future husband’s working hands. Because I was so different from what everyone expected me to be, it was easy for me to accept differences and variation in others… as long as those differences and variations fit *my* expectations. I could support people who felt attracted to members of their own sex or who identified as a gender other than their birth… as long as that “support” just meant believing they were telling the truth about how they felt. I still believed that the RIGHT way to do things was to force oneself into the predetermined mold of marriage between a man and a woman, with the man presiding and providing, and the woman supporting and nurturing.

Needless to say, I was living a very unsatisfying life, and I was going through an emotional internal struggle. I was suppressing my own feelings and while I was comfortable calling myself a “tom-boy”, I couldn’t even begin to allow myself to consider that I might be attracted to other women or that I might not even feel like a woman myself. It took letting go of my religious beliefs and convictions of birth to even begin to open my *internal* eyes and come to know my true self, to accept the thoughts and feelings I’d kept hidden for so many years, even from myself. And when I was finally able to stop hiding, I couldn’t understand why just being ME had to be so complicated.

Now, I don’t have to hide how I feel or what I think from myself or my friends (still working on family). I can live authentically. I can feel and process without shoving unwanted emotions into the dark recesses and corners of my mind. But finding my “label” was just the first step, because even with that label… I still don’t really fit any mold. I have to carve my *own* path, and that is where the confusion comes in.

Physically, I have mammary glands and a vagina. I have ovaries and experience the monthly fluxes that come with the menstrual cycle. I have high estrogen and low testosterone levels as determined by my xx chromosomes. All these things mark me a “woman”..All these things I share with my fellow (physical) women… but in every other aspect of my life I am entirely unique. My thoughts, emotions and feelings. My interests and passions. My aptitudes and skills. My weaknesses and flaws. I do not fit the mold of any other woman or any other man. And it is this way for all of us. We each have our own entirely unique identity. Our own consciousness. Our own “self”.

I am she… but I am also he. And I am everything in between. I am… ME.

And it is confusing to face a world which draws such a stark dividing line. I am finding myself mentally hopping back and forth, trying to determine which side of the line to stand on with any given issue or topic of discussion. I am not so much confused about who *I* am any more, but I am confused as to where my place is in this world. At times, I consider myself a man. At others, I consider myself a woman. I am both, and yet I am none. And I realize the problem is not me any more. I know who I am. The problem is society.

I’ve known ALL my life that the dividing lines we draw between men and women were faulty. I’ve known ALL my life that the stereotypes are wrong. I’ve known ALL my life that we need to stop judging based on appearances, physical traits, or the genetic characteristics assigned to us at birth. You cannot fit people into any mold. In our endless desires to classify and understand, it is impossible to accurately classify humanity. We don’t fit in boxes. We don’t fit.. and we need to stop trying to MAKE people fit.

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On this day of reflection, I think of my father, his father, my mother’s father, my son’s father, the fathers of my nephews and nieces, and the many men and women who have taken on fatherly roles in my life, my son’s life, and the lives of my friends and loved ones. It is an especially poignant Father’s Day for me, as it is the first Father’s Day in which I do not include a “Heavenly” father in my list. It is also the first Father’s Day in which the belief in traditional gender roles has unraveled before my eyes.

According to the religion of my birth and the traditional expectations in place for fathers, it is the purpose of a man to be a provider and a protector for his children. This tradition is a strong one that falls back on the natural physical strength provided men by their biology. Testosterone drives the sexual dimorphism, building physique and inciting aggression. Men were designed by nature to fulfill the roles of protector and provider, but Father’s Day is about far more than honoring the results of sexual selection.

Father’s Day is a time to honor those who go above and beyond. It is a time to recognize those who’ve provided guidance and direction to their children and the rising generation. It is a day for reminiscing on quality time, bonding moments, and fond memories. There are many men in the world who neglect their familial obligations and fail to make the selfless sacrifices that build lasting relationships with their children and pupils. There are many men who abuse the natural power granted them by their physical advantages over the weaker sex. As a result, many do not have quality time, bonding moments, or fond memories with their biological fathers on which to reminisce. Many have painful memories and lost opportunities that retract from the joy meant to be shared on this day of honor.

According to the religion of my birth, the ideal conditions for a child are to be raised in a home with a father and mother fulfilling their traditional, gender-specific roles. But there are many homes that break such tradition. There are homes in which the roles are swapped, dual income homes, single parent homes. There are children raised by multiple families due to divorce and remarriage, children raised by grandparents, children raised by adoptive or foster parents, by aunts, uncles, or older siblings, and countless children in orphan homes or marked as “wards of the state” who have nobody fulfilling a parental role. There are children with two mothers or two fathers, and there are children who’ve lost parents through death, divorce, abuse, or indifference.

Countless children are raised in conditions far from the “ideal”, and despite what religious leaders would have their followers believe, this is hardly a new trend. Non-traditional families have been a part of society for quite some time, and children raised in these non-ideal homes are still turning out okay. While not every child will have a traditional father to honor on this day, most have at least one person who has stepped in to fulfill the roles of provider, protector, teacher, and guide. Most have at least one person they can look up to and express gratitude to for their involvement and influence on their upbringing.

And so, why insist on maintaining tradition? Why insist on an “ideal”? This incessant need to provide a mold for the perfect father causes more harm than it does good. It hurts the self-image of men and women who DO step above and beyond expectations to fulfill fatherly roles for the children who fall under their wing, by birth or circumstance. It creates division between those who’ve been “blessed” with an ideal family and those who have not. It causes those children without good memories of a traditional father to feel left out and often fall into depression on what should be a happy occasion.

It is on this day that we honor the ROLE of father, and not necessarily the men who fit the “ideal”. Because, in reality, there is no ideal. There is no mold. There are those of good, strong, moral character whom we choose to honor for playing an important role in our lives. What matters is who has personally helped shape, guide, and direct YOUR path, whatever the circumstances. And so, on this day, I would like to honor all those who have provided for me and my son. I would like to honor all those who have protected me and my son. I reflect on all the memories I now cherish of those who have guided me, taught me, and helped shape me into the person I am today. You are ALL my “Father”, and you make this world a brighter place.