In Northern Colorado, a *transgirl was refused access to the girl’s bathroom, because the school board did not understand that she was in fact female, despite what genitalia her body was born with. This is a sad state of affairs, and also the current norm for our societies functioning. Those who do not fit into the Gender Binary are often shoved to the wayside, and told to conform. Instead of being allowed to determine their own autonomy, they are told what to be, male or female. This is not only damaging to the individual, but to our society as a whole. And while there are those who view these people as dangers to society, as deviants and people to be ‘fixed’, this is sincerely not true. One can no more fix those who choose to live outside the gender binary, than one can fix those who have different shades of skin.
Now, to explain what the Gender Binary is. This is the belief, however mistaken, that there are in fact only two genders. These two genders being Male and Female. However, studies have proven that many times, a person, usually between the ages of 12-25 find that they do not, mentally, fit into this gender binary. Often, someone born with male organs will wish to indulge in feminine ideas, such as wearing pretty skirts or painting their nails. Sometimes, someone born female will feel more at home with shorn hair and pants than the traditional female garb.
These are of course, not anything to actually be afraid of, although often the idea is met with revulsion, or violence. The rates of violence against transgender or gender queer individuals is almost equal to that of the violence against gay individuals, or even African American individuals. Often this idea confuses people, and for those raised in heavily traditional homes, this often means that they feel threatened by this lack of traditionalism. There are those who even believe that there is something inherently wrong with those who feel this way, and that in order to correct this behavior, one must strictly adhere to one’s gender roles.
There is a mistaken belief that gender roles exist for a reason. That women are inherently better at caring for children, cooking, housecleaning, and various other homey activities. Men are often touted for strength, and logic, and various trough qualities as well. The problem with this is, it is too general. Too narrowed. In this day and age, there are women who have proven to be just as adept at logic as men, scientists, doctors, lawyers. There are men who have proven to be more capable of caring for children than the women who birth the children. There are kindergarten teachers who are male, and their children love them. So holding to these mistaken gender roles does nothing but refute that people are in fact people and capable of being good at things not because of their gender, but because they work hard at it and try.
This ties in, just as much, to the scientific studies that children without male and female gender role models will grow up somehow lacking. Even in most human sexualities classes, we are taught that without a female role model, women will somehow be unable to relate to other women. Without a male role model, men will become weak willed and unable to stand up for themselves. This is just simply not true. There are numerous single-parent households where the children come out with healthy outlooks on life, and the ability to decide for themselves whether they wish to adhere to these roles society places upon them. Even more so, there are children who grow up in households with two mothers, or two fathers, and they too are quite capable of providing good role models for their children.
In fact, by denying that these individuals, these gender fluid people exist, we are setting a very bad example for our children. By saying, no, it is not alright for boys to wear dresses, we are saying that boys cannot be free to choose their own clothing. By telling girls that they are not allowed to be rough and loud, we are telling them that their opinions, and beliefs should not be upheld however they need to be upheld. A long time ago, there was such a thing as segregation. At this point, we have segregated the genders. They are so separated that boys playing with girls toys are made fun of, and girls playing with boys toys are called ‘tomboys’, as if it is better to be a boy than a girl.
This is saying to our children that to feel other than what WE feel, is in fact, unnatural. That if you do not conform to what society tells you to conform to, you are wrong, and need to be ‘fixed’. This is not a healthy outlook for children. In fact, this sort of parenting has lead to massive suicide rates in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and gender queer teens. Instead of embracing, and allowing our children to change as they need to, to learn about the world, we lock them down, force them to conform to our ideas of the norm. This is no better than locking a bird in a cage. Safe that bird might be, but never happy.
The most radical views upon our gender-non-conforming populace say that they are unnatural, that ‘God does not make mistakes’. These are the same sort of people who will refuse a transwoman her hormone treatments and force her to dress as a man. These are the sorts of people who will say that prayer and bible camp can fix a child of his homosexuality. These people have been proven wrong, time and time again. Hiding away someone under false clothes will only lead to depression, to pain and possibly to suicide. And the camps they send homosexuals to, to cure them, have been proven dysfunctional, and often cruel. There is no reason to consider these people deviants or unnatural. Those who do not fit into the gender binary are in fact to be celebrated. They add new life to the world around us, new perspectives to enjoy it from. It is one of the most natural things in the world, and diversity is required for a species to thrive and live.
Often, the final question is “How are we supposed to act around them?” or, “How are we supposed to treat them?” These questions can be answered with an old idiom. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. If the one asking wishes to be treated with respect, treat the gender fluid individuals with the same respect. If one wishes to be allowed to be accepted for who one is, others have the right to expect the same acceptance of who they are. If it’s confusing to know what pronouns to use with someone, ask. If something said might be offensive, bite the tongue. Just treat them with all the respect that they, as a person, deserve.
It really comes down to basic decency. Just because someone has chosen to live outside what is the norm for society doesn’t mean that we must shun them, or that they are wrong. It simply means that they are different, and we must accept them. The gender binary is something we as a society created in order to feel more comfortable with ourselves. It is a construct that is outdated, and tired. No longer are there only two genders, but a whole spectrum. Those that feel male some days and female others, those that choose to be female when born with male genitalia, those that choose to be no gender at all, and those who do not choose, but instead know; they are, all of them, beautiful people, just as those whose genders match their genitalia are beautiful people too. Be kind, be respectful, and care for those around you, no matter how different from yourself they may be. That’s the simplest rule one can follow, and the oldest commandment in any religion. It is time Society accepted it, and began to live by it.