A Grey Identity

Gender politics is not a very easy thing to talk about. Especially when you’re a white guy.

Men have had it easy for millennia. Going back to the early days of our civilization, women were always considered inferior. They weren’t allowed to talk or hold any position of power. Do you know why they say, “behind every great man is a great woman”? Because the women weren’t allowed to be in front.

Now, why was this? I have no fucking idea. Best guess, it has something to do with physical strength. Because nine times out of ten, a man is going to be stronger than a woman. At this point I’d love to say even I am stronger than any woman. But I’m pretty sure at least a few of my female friends could take me down. I don’t work out or anything, and I have no desire to. So a few of them could probably take me down in a fight. Not that I’m gonna test this hypothesis.

Basically I’m saying that domestic violence was likely very common at the dawn of civilization. So women never really got any form of equality until recently, when domestic violence went out of style, and mass media went in style. In the early 20th century, a group of women known as the suffragettes campaigned for women’s rights. Specifically, the right to vote. They got it in 1918. Thank you, Robert Borden.

Of course Quebec waited until the 40’s, so fuck them.

But that was just the beginning. Representation in both levels of government, ending discrimination in hiring practices, and wages equal to men came later. But it did come, and I’m very happy.

Yeah, I’ll call myself a feminist. Even though I think it’s a misnomer. Men and women are different, sure. But one is not better than the other, not by a long shot.

I could go on and on about this, but I’m not going to. I’ll save my feminism rant for another day. Instead, today I’d like to talk about something else. A new front on the war for gender equality. A front that could end up being a much greater challenge than anything faced before. You see, we’re not fighting for women, or men, but for those in between.

Let’s talk about the transgendered.

To put it simply, transgendered people are those who were born as one gender, either male or female, but found, later in life, that the way they see themselves doesn’t quite match up. As a consequence, they make the conscious and independent decision to switch to the other side. So, we’re talking about a woman who was born a man, or a man who was born a woman. There is more to it than that, but for simplicity’s sake, I’m just going to focus on this. Primarily because it distracts from the larger point. You see, I’m pretty sure the transgendered are society’s last pariahs.

Seriously, the gays are winning more and more rights across the world, every day. Meanwhile, transgendered men and women are still being discriminated against. How? Well, for starters, let’s look at one of the simplest litmus tests: public office.

Currently, there are six openly gay people serving in Canadian Parliament. Of particular note, we have Scott Brison, a former Progressive Conservative, and current Liberal. He also held a cabinet position under Paul Martin, which is a big fucking deal.

And we all know about Barney Frank, who served in the U.S. House of Representatives. So fucking gay. Mark Foley, a Rupublican, also gay. Though he did come out after retiring from politics.

But currently, in the U.S. Congress, there is one openly gay senator, and five openly gay representatives.

Now, obviously they’re not representative. Given that gay people make up 10% of the population, those are pretty low numbers. But they’re there. They exist.

There’s also the entertainment industry, where we have: Victor Garber, John Glover, Ellen DeGeneres, Neil Patrick Harris, Sean Hayes (Jack from Will and Grace), Cherry Jones (who played the President on 24 and the nice shrink on Awake), Clay Aiken, Meredith Baxter-Birney, Nathan Lane, Wanda Sykes, Jane Lynch, Rosie O’Donnell, Jim Parsons (the really, really, really annoying one on The Big Bang Theory), David Hyde Pierce, Zachary Quinto, David Yost (the original blue Power Ranger)… You know, I think it might be easier to say who’s not gay.

Anyway, the point is that gay people are well-represented in entertainment, and moderately represented in politics. And they’re represented publicly. All these people are “out of the closet.” Some came out for quite noble reasons. Quinto did it after he heard of a bisexual teen who killed himself; he then decided to start acting as a role-model for gay teens. Others suffered for it. David Yost was harassed quite significantly on the Power Rangers set, which was why he finally left during the fourth season, aka Zeo. Then again, Power Rangers was never a very progressive show. In the SPD season the characters were shocked to see a female red (lead) ranger. She’s a leader, and she has a vagina!? Holy shit!

But on the flip side, how many openly transgendered people do we have in government and entertainment? None, that I know of. Okay, there’s Chaz Bono, but he’s not a very prominent performer. All I know of him, is that he’s the son of Sonny Bono and Cher.

One more I could mention: Erica Andrews. But she’s classified as a drag performer.

I should point out that I’m disqualifying cross-dressers and drag queens by default, since those people generally still identify as their original gender. It takes a bit more than wearing a dress to qualify for that definition. Most trans people fully embrace their new identity.

Think of Steve Carey from The Drew Carey Show. He sort of flip-flopped between dressing as a woman and dressing as a man, and eventually he stopped the cross-dressing thing all together. Yeah, I wouldn’t count him as transgendered.

So, if Andrews sees herself as a man in any way, then it doesn’t really count. I could ask her about her gender identity, possibly over twitter, if she didn’t die a week and a half ago. Which kinda proves my point, since normally when a celebrity dies, it becomes national news, and everyone knows the very next day whether they want to or not. But I just found out about her death while writing this. Heck, I didn’t even know she existed!

So, yeah. Transgendered people have no representation in the public eye. So how does this prove that they are “society’s last pariahs”? Well, because they don’t appear in the public eye. I find it hard to believe that no transgendered individual ever tried to enter the mainstream entertainment industry. They probably did, but were never able to get very far because of such discrimination.

Then we have the results of such little representation. Transgendered kids have no one to look up to. They have no one they can look at to say, “if they can make it, if they can be accepted, so can I.” They don’t have a Nichelle Nichols to their Whoopi Goldberg. Someone who is accepted by the public despite their differences, and is just like them, and not a goddamn stereotype.

These kids have it hard enough. And yes, I did say “kids.”

Interesting isn’t it? Before puberty and consequential sexual development even begins, we start to identify what it means to be male or female. And as a result, some find they don’t fit into the category that was set up for them. Their own bodies feel foreign. So they make the change.

Some may say these kids are too young to be making such drastic and life-changing decisions. But actually, from a psychological perspective, the younger the better. They can prevent turning into the gender they’re not through hormone replacement therapy, and spend less time dealing with the trauma of pretending to be something they’re not. Life’s hard enough, they shouldn’t have to deal with that shit too. You don’t want to grow up to be a woman with a five o’clock shadow.

Now, even today, teens are made fun of for being gay. But all of them have those they can look up to in politics and the entertainment industry, so they know they’re not alone. There’s also the “It Gets Better” campaign aimed at raising the spirits of young gays, to prevent suicide.

But transgendered kids don’t have that. In fact, here’s what they face:

Brave little kid.

Also, notice, she did say “teachers.” Do you really think they’ll buy this “It Gets Better” shit!? Because for them, it won’t. At least not until something changes.

And not until we stop seeing stories like this: Where Smith College, a women-only institution in Massachusetts, rejects a student for being too male. Now, technically it’s a private college, so they can do what they want, but it is disheartening. She is a woman. End of story. We’re done talking. There’s no point in making it harder for her, just because she was born with a penis.

Now, apparently it has something to do with some bureaucratic government nonsense, and they claim they allow transgendered students. But I’m not sure they’re providing much support to that argument.

Transgendered people face discrimination everywhere they go. In fact, it’s even worse for girls (by that, I mean former guys). There already is this weird form of discrimination directed towards guys who act feminine and are interested in girly things, while girls who act masculine and are interested in boyish things don’t really get that much of a hard time.

Take the bronies for instance. How much hate do we get simply for liking a TV show? Meanwhile girls who watch Transformers don’t get bothered at all. At least, as far as I know.

It might be why all of the documentaries I found are about girls (formerly guys) rather than guys (formerly girls). Because a girl can generally get away with simply dressing and acting like a boy without getting teased. They can go halfway without raising any eyebrows. But guys who dress and act like girls get ostracized. Their parents bring them to shrinks thinking something’s wrong with them. It’s much easier at that point to finish the journey, and just say you’re a girl.

I don’t know who I should feel sorrier for. The guys (born girls) who make the transition later in life, or the girls (born guys) who are seen as freaks.

Then you have people commenting that these girls are probably just gay. All LGBT individuals, and even some straight people, should find that very offensive. After all, all gay guys are effeminate. It’s not like there are any masculine gay guys. Just like there are no feminine lesbians, or feminine straight guys, or masculine straight girls. That would be ridiculous!

Yeah, most of that was sarcastic.

Now it’s time to get a little personal. I guess my point of view is pretty unique on this front, which is disheartening, but I think I know why I see things this way. Several years ago, I read a lot of webcomics. One of which was a little tale called Venus Envy. It was all about this girl, and her trials and tribulations throughout high school. Oh, and she was born a guy.

That’s the thing, she was a girl, she acted like a girl, and she was treated like a girl. All the problems she went through were the same problems any normal girl would go through. The only exception to this were the problems caused less by her own gender identity, and more by the bigotry of others, even her own family.

Would I still think this way if not for that comic? Maybe. It’s impossible to know. Perhaps the biases of others would have rubbed off on me if I wasn’t acclimated to the idea, and able to solidify my own view early on. I mean I never knew any transgendered people when I was in school. So it’s possible that others could have moulded me to discriminate against them later in life.

Well, there is one exception. There was this guy who I knew back when he was a girl. We were acquaintances in high school. Of course, how I found out about his gender identity was a bit unusual. His girlfriend yelled at me for using the wrong pronoun. Sorry, I missed the memo, my bad.

But yeah, I’ll credit the comic; and that might be the solution. Not only are there a lot of gay people in the entertainment industry, there are a lot of gay characters in mainstream entertainment. That is one of the reasons why people tend to be easily accepting of gays in modern times. Okay, not everyone, but some people are always gonna be assholes.

Meanwhile there are no transgendered characters in mainstream film or television that people can identify with. Okay, there’s one exception. Boys Don’t Cry, a film starring Hilary Swank as Brandon Teena, a transgendered man. It’s based on a true story, and ends with the man being raped and murdered by his friends, when they discover he was born a woman. Think of the Matthew Shepard case.

Not exactly a positive story is it? We can do better than that. We can do much better.

In fact, someone could just licence Venus Envy and turn it into a TV series. Of course they’d have to cut the sexual elements for… multiple reasons. But it could work, and it would be a huge boon to the acceptance of transgendered in modern society.

Heck, even something as simple as including a prominent and positive transgendered character on a family friendly television show would do wonders.

There was one episode of the IT Crowd that tried this. But it didn’t go well.

Again, not exactly a positive representation.

But it’s not all bad news. Take this story for instance:

See? We have the story of a fat little boy who made the transition to become a fat little girl, and was (for the most part) accepted by all of her friends and family. The future’s looking up for her.

Then we have the story of Kim Petras, rising pop star out of Germany, who’s transgendered. Yeah, I wasn’t 100% honest when I said there are no transgendered celebrities. I found one. Just one, and she’s big in Europe.

I really hope more come out of the woodwork. Come on ladies! Shake it!

And I’m not ashamed to admit it. She’s pretty hot! And yes, I am straight as an arrow! I like women! And I think Kim Petras is fucking hot!

Which brings us to one final point: Love and romance. This was already brought up in those two documentaries, and I think I should talk about it. What’s in the future for those transgendered children? Will they ever find love? Will they ever find a member of the opposite sex whom they love, and who accepts them for who they are?

I hope so. A lot of guys can be real assholes. But love, and sex…

Let’s put it out there guys! Say you found the woman of your dreams; Beautiful, sexy, funny, intelligent, a great lover, and a fascinating conversationalist; and found out she was born a guy! What would you do?

Girls too! Same question, flip the genders!

I want to say I’d still love her. But I don’t know. It’s hard to say. There is one problem: We wouldn’t be able to have kids, and I kinda want kids. But other than that…

Yeah. I think I could. I don’t think it would change a thing. Friends and family may have a problem with it. But fuck ’em! It’s not their life! And heck, as long as the equipment’s the same, why should I care!?

Besides, we can always find a surrogate mother, and new advances are being made in fertility medicine every day. I’ll bet, one day, they’ll be able to transplant my hypothetical transgendered wife’s DNA into a donated egg cell. Then, after my contribution, implant it back into her, within a synthetic womb. Though that second part is probably going a bit overboard. Obviously, it’s up to her, I’m just spitballing.

Love, friendship, purpose, acceptance, equality, and comfort. This is all anyone really wants. But for some people, that last one is kind of hard. They have to change their body to match their identity so they can be at peace. Why should they have to lose everything else for that? And more importantly, why should the rest of the world care?

I’d like to conclude with a shout out to every transgendered boy/girl/man/woman/whatever. Don’t give up, don’t tap out, and keep fighting. I can’t guarantee that it’ll get better; but if we work together, we can make it better. And always remember: you’re not alone.

8 responses to “A Grey Identity

  1. >So, if Andrews she sees herself as a man in any way, then it doesn’t really count.

    Might wanna take out that first she. Also don’t talk shit about Quebec. Anyway, nice article. I was gonna write something about the article but I realized it might be a little too offensive so I will say my less offensive comment: that josie kid is autistic 101%

    • Wikipedia refers to Andrews with the feminine pronouns, so I’ll stick with that.

      However, even if she’s fully transgender, being a drag queen doesn’t qualify her as a member of the mainstream entertainment industry. That particular segment is actually an embodiment of all the transgender stereotypes, and is actually hurting public perception.

      Kid’s not autistic, she’s a kid. It’s easy to confuse the two, but they’re not the same. Trust me, I’ve seen autistic. She’s not autistic.

      She might have Asperger’s, I can’t tell since I’ve always had a hard time identifying those people. But I doubt it.

      Actually, you’re probably confusing autism with nerves.

      If you do have something possibly and unintentionally offensive, I wouldn’t object to you sharing it. It might be insightful.

      If it’s intentionally offensive and merely thought of to piss people off, or make them cry. Well then, you’re part of the problem. So, I suggest you don’t.

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