When was the first time you knew you were a boy or a girl? I remember when I knew I was old enough to ‘behave more lady like’ and when gifts given to me were of the artificial jewellery kind. I remember realising then that I was ‘girl’ and my brother was ‘boy’.
I knew my first transgendered person before I fully understood what it meant to be transgendered. But I always understood the judgement and expectations that society places on this person because I had my share of it too. Not for the same reasons but judgement has a universal way of making the person being judged feel like an insect. And I guess because I grew up knowing this person I honestly never understood what the big fuss was. It was later that life and science taught me that gender was far more complex than I knew. It wasn’t just a case of XX means girl who likes barbies and XY is boy who likes trains. It wasn’t as simple as having a uterus or not. Because there were girls out there with only one X chromosome and boys out there with too many X chromosomes. There were girls out there who had no uterus and boys out there who didn’t feel like boys even though they were XY and had no uterus. As a kid, this stuff didn’t matter. All I knew was that judging somebody before even knowing their story was borderline ignorant.
I was sitting in a cafe one recent afternoon. There was a small magazine stand near to where I was having my coffee. A small boy and presumably his father stood by the stand and were clearly discussing which one to read.
‘This one,’ the boy said.
‘That’s for girls,’ his father replied.
‘This one then,’ the boy said and from the corner of my eye I could see the confusion on his face.
‘That’s not for boys! Pick another,’ his dad insisted.
This carried on for the whole 15 minutes it took me to drink my coffee.
This boy didn’t care if what he read was ‘boyish’ or not. he just picked what looked good to him but I bet you the next time he and his dad go to read a magazine, he will immediately pick the ‘desired’ one. Because he would have learnt that he is a boy and can only read the ‘boy’ magazine. This is a learned behaviour not a natural one.
This may be a small example but will this boy grow up and tell his daughter that girls can’t be engineers? Will he grow up and tell his sons that boys can’t be ballet dancers? As you and I both know, our society has passed down rules and regulations about what it means to be one gender or the other. No excuses, no pardons. And this boy is growing up in exactly that society.
In a lecture many years ago, the speaker started with: let me clarify one thing before I begin a talk on gender. ‘It’s a spectrum and we all fall somewhere on that spectrum.’
It is our society that created the artificial divide of boy and girl. And society that continues this bizarre practice. But it is also society that can change and society that can allow individuals to have freedom to identify with their gender however they may choose to do so. After all, gender isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ rug. It’s a unique and beautiful gift of nature and should be praised in its many forms.
P.S: Just be kind to others!