“It’s a boy!” Blue cake is served, blue confetti bursts from balloons and a sea of gifts filled with blue onesies, socks, and tiny baby hats begin to pour in. A nursery is painted blue and a crib is complemented with stuffed tigers and bears. It’s a boy. Before the child has a chance to identify as a person, parents have decided that the child will live their life as a male. Hence the “Gender Reveal Party” (I roll my eyes every time I hear that phrase). But let’s break this down a bit, from a scientific standpoint. Ready?
Okay, let’s go!
Sex and gender are two totally different things. Sex is determined by one’s genitalia. Plain and simple. Gender, on the other hand, is determined by how one identifies personally. Gender is then reinforced by gender norms–the blue onesies, the stuffed tigers, the Hot Wheels and monster trucks, and everything else that is considered “masculine.” Gender is a social construct that is so engrained within our minds that we believe masculine things should be left to the males and feminine things should be left to the females. If a male dare to find himself keen to the color pink or shedding a tear at the end of a really awesome Disney movie, they’re automatically considered girly, less of a man, or gay, all due to social constructs and gender-norms. These social constructs and gender norms have been enforced so strongly that individuals identifying with a gender that is different from their sex may struggle to come to terms with such identity, due to fear of rejection from those that they care most about, from peers, and from society as a whole.
In the United States, a large number of people identify with the gender that matches their sex, but for some, that luxury is foreign due to a sex that doesn’t match the socially constructed gender forced upon them at an early age. And unfortunately, for those individuals, coming to terms with an identity that is different from what they’ve been brought up to own, while simultaneously trying to fit into a society that tells them they’re not real people, turns their head, or simply chooses not to acknowledge their presence at all, just adds to the burden that they’re already carrying.
So I come to you as an Ally. Not because the trans community can’t speak for themselves, but because for reasons that are beyond me, when they speak for themselves, most of the rest of society doesn’t listen. So maybe, just maybe, you’ll listen to me. Maybe I can provide some insight that may change a few perspectives. I’ve got three very simple points that I’d like to make. And when I say simple, I mean REALLY simple, because sometimes simple is better. In this case, it’s best. Not everyone is going to take the time to educate themselves on issues faced in the trans community, and some just don’t care. So here are my points to make life on a college campus, and in the real world as a whole, a bit easier and more peaceful for everyone.
- Get the science right. As stated above, sex and gender are not the same things. Know the difference in order to understand why and how those within the trans community identify as they do. Grasp that concept so that when educating others, you’re able to accurately explain the foundational basis of the science behind how individuals identify as trans.
- If you consider yourself to be an Ally, do just that. BE an Ally. Speak up when those around you have something negative to say. Educate when those around you may be confused or lacking information. Be a voice when trans individuals can’t be a voice for themselves. Be an active Ally.
- If for some odd reason you don’t agree with the identity that someone else chooses to embrace, remember one very tiny, yet important, piece of information. It’s THEIR identity. Which makes it their business. People love to form negative opinions about things that concern them in absolutely no way at all. If it has nothing to do with you, live and let live. And if you find yourself genuinely trying to understand and identify with those within the trans community, remember this: the world is full of beautiful people that bring different, amazing things to the table. Choose to see the beautiful.