Recently I took part in a project regarding gender variances. Contributors were asked to send in photographs of a phrase that described how they identified and then a “confession” revealing something that could be perceived as “off” for someone that identifies as such. I made five submissions:
- I am genderqueer. I have a vagina….but I have penis envy.
- I am genderqueer. I have a vagina…but I like to be called Sir.
- I am genderqueer. I have a vagina…but I wish I had no breasts.
- I am genderqueer. I do not want to be the opposite sex. I am both and OK with that.
- I am genderqueer. I will not be boxed in, feel less than or change to fit you.
After the first part of the project was complete and I viewed all of the submissions, I was amazed at the number of people that “identified” as one thing, but their “confessions” said something else. What started out as a transgender project ended up, for me anyway, a realization that so many of us fall somewhere in the middle on the gender spectrum. I was clearly not the only one that appreciated, or was confused by, the fluidity of their gender.
I think the key element in the project was how little we recognize and teach gender variance. It seems that even those that completely challenge the gender binary end up right back in it, just on the other side. It was very apparent that the use of the transgender identifier could have, and maybe should have, been replaced in many circumstances with a more appropriate gender variant term.
When I was young there were girls and there were boys. You were one or the other. I first realized I had feelings for women at a very young age. I did not know what a lesbian was. I had never seen one, or even heard of one. All I knew was that I had a desire to do things for girls like a boy would. I wanted to kiss them, touch them, and save them heroically. In my eyes that meant I should have been born a boy. It wouldn’t be until years later that I would understand some of my feelings were because I was a lesbian and some were because I was genderqueer.
The attitude that there are only two specific genders and nothing in between is not only ludicrous, but also forces our young people to seek out alternatives when they question their gender. Unfortunately the information out there on gender variance is so limited. An internet search on gender confusion or gender identity will ultimately lead you to transgender information. A young person with limited resources and support may very well misconstrue sexual orientation and gender identity as being transgender, when in fact they may be gender variant and belong somewhere on the very broad spectrum between male and female. Unfortunately realizing this too late can have devastating lifelong effects.
The Gender Confessions project showed me there are a lot of people out there that do not fit into the stereotypical box. It highlighted the fact that even within a label we all are still very different. It made me aware of just how important it is to reach out to our youth letting them know there are options and resources. It also showed me how far we still have to go.
Echo resides in northern New Jersey with her wife and the two youngest of their five children. You can visit her blog at dysphoricallyspeaking.blogspot.com.