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Gender Roles and Their Impact on the Transgender Community
He’s unique. He’s interesting, he’s passionate, he’s intelligent, and he’s extremely close to my heart. Let’s call him Alfred.
Alfred had always appeared to be the kind of person that danced to the beat of his own drummer, so maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised about what he said to me on the say I became a transgender activist. But what always intrigued me about my best friend was how comfortable he was with himself. He didn’t care what other people thought; his priority was being himself.
One day, I asked him why he was so apathetic about not fitting in. His face lost its color.
“Not fitting in with others is painless,” he whispered, “if you’ve lived with not fitting in with yourself.”
I didn’t understand. “How can you not fit in with yourself?”
Alfred excused himself and left the room for a moment. I was afraid I had somehow offended him. He returned with an old Polaroid picture.
“This is how you can not fit with yourself.” he said.
Yes, reader, my transgender activism started with an old, torn photo of a little girl in a yellow flowered dress, labeled, “ALFA, AGE 4”.
There is a rising population of transgender and transsexual people in our society. A transgender is someone who insists that they were born in the wrong body. While they have the body of one gender, trangsender people have the conscience of the opposite gender. Experts have found that signs of Gender Identidy Disorder (the medical term for transgenderism) can and often do begin at age two or three.
Imagine, for a moment, going to the hospital for a surgical procedure. As doctors are readying the anesthesia, the head surgeon ensures you that you are going to be fine. That is the last thing you hear as the general anesthesia envelopes your senses and you lose conscienceness. When you awake, the surgeon happily informs you that your sex change surgery is complete. What? you think, I thought I was getting my appendix removed! But, alas, there’s been a mix-up. Although you are still the exact same person you were hours before, you are now trapped inside the body of the opposite sex.
That is how every transgender person feels, except instead of this discovery being a sudden process, the transgendered child realizes gradually but certainly that he or she is different. 20% of transgender youth report being bullied at school, and many become self-hating and depressed. According to GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) transgender teens are twice as likely to commit suicide as their gay, lesbian, and bisexual peers. Trans teens feel so much self hatred because they can’t fit into one of the the societal “male” and “female” boxes that some feel death is the only way out.
Not everyone conforms to the black-and-white, binary genders that my parent’s and grandparent’s generation insists are still valid. Everybody knows plenty of effeminate guys and “tomboyish” girls. I have one friend who is particularly masculine. People who have a problem with it keep to themselves, and she keeps to herself. What’s the problem?
The problem is that transgendered people want to be seen by the world as the opposite gender, not as the gender given to them at birth, like my friend, who is seen by her peers as female despite her masculine mannerisms. If people saw you as being the opposite of your actual gender, they’d make judgements that may affect you based on that, right? This in my opinion, is the root of the problem; transgenders are judged every day by others in ways that affect them, and they’re being judged as something other than who they really are.
Imagine a society without these gender roles and stereotypes. Where no one cared if you were a boy or a girl. Where gender didn’t matter at all, and you could be anywhere on the gender spectrum that you wanted without being judged. That is the world I am fighting for, and though I’m aware that I will probably never live to see it, knowing that it could someday happen is worth it.
As a matter of fact, the stormy skies are already clearing for many transgender people, particularly transgender youth. Witness the story of “Jazz” an 8-year-old girl born as a boy who was featured on ABC News’s special, “My Secret Life” with Barbara Walters. By age two, Jazz identified her self as a girl, and after much counseling, her parents decided to let her live as a girl.
“When someone asks me why I used to be a boy and am now a girl,” said the then-six-year-old in an interview in 2009, “I say that I have a girl brain and a boy body, and I think like a girl, but I just have a boy body, and it’s different than you.”
When asked if it’s okay to be different, Jazz replies:
“It’s okay to be different, because it matters who you are; it doesn’t matter if you’re different than anybody else, it matters if you’re having a good time and you like who you are.”
With people like Jazz leading the way, the stormy skies may eventually clear all together, revealing a rainbow we can all share together, regardless of gender.