Saturday, August 27, 2011

Guest Post: Gender Rules

Since coming out as a man in a transsexual body, I have had some male friends take up the task of teaching me how to “be a man”. Some of it has been very helpful, particularly in the beginning of my transition. It's helpful to have a friendly critique on what to wear or how to walk. But some of these tips have sometimes been a little over-the-top and gender role dependent. Eventually, I've come to the conclusion that at this point, as I am consistently perceived as male, I do not need to take an exorbitant amount of effort proving my masculinity.

Traditional gender roles put too much stock on something that is barely important in determining how we act day-to-day. It is almost funny to me how much we let this idea of gender rule our lives. How funny to hear a transgender person say that, right? But the keyword is “rule.” Gender has been conflated to be synonymous with gender roles, “masculinity” with being male, “femininity” with being female. It determines if we stay home with our children, or if we work to earn money to provide for them. It can determine our hobbies we choose, or don't, which magazines we aren't embarrassed to subscribe to, how we are taught to think about ourselves. And this is so engrained, because it starts from when we are born.

I attended my friend's homecoming talk a year ago. There were two babies being blessed, a boy and a girl. When the boy was blessed, his father blessed him with strength to care for his family and to be a good priesthood leader. When the girl was blessed, she was blessed to serve her husband, no joke, and to always be kind. All of these qualities are wonderful wishes to grant your children, but the gender role binary was definitely in play. Who would that baby girl be told she was? Who would her brother be told he was? What responsibilities would they be given?

Gender roles are continuing to break down in our society, which I view as a good thing. Women aren't as demonized for wanting a career. Men are encouraged to be more nurturing to their children. These are simplistic, but they show an improvement. Being a man, or being a woman, determines very little about our personalities and how we interact with the surrounding world, and we need to stop feeding this myth. Yes, I am a man, and, yes, somehow that is different than being a woman. But this determines very little in my life. I am free to be the person that I want to be, and to lead the life I want to live. As much as I can, in a world ruled by gender, I attempt to reject what is predetermined for me and what defines my “masculinity.”

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