The Gender Revolution?

It used to be so much more simple!  It used to be that you were either gay or straight, period.  Or at least that is how it was in my world growing up in the 60’s/70’s and partying my ass off in the gay bars in the 80’s…it used to be easier I believe.  I’m not knocking anyone’s gender or orientation choice here, just saying that it’s gotten VERY confusing for me.  I was just reading this article on npr.org titled “A New Generation Overthrows Gender” by Jon Brooks.  It was posted on Facebook, thus I clicked the link and knew I was in a world of word trouble immediately. 

First word I came across that is fairly new to me is “agender” – which according to the article means neither ale nor female.  The particular person in the article used the pronoun “they” instead of he or she.  Ok, so I am really, really trying to be okay with this.  I am really trying not to be internally phobic, or form an immediate opinion – because I know I don’t like it when people do that to me.  BUT I just don’t get it. 

Second word I came across related to this is “Transgender”.  Thank God.  A word that I know and can understand to some degree.  Transgender meaning someone who has changed from one gender to the opposite gender.  Transitioned.  More on this later. 

Third hurdle here “gender-fluid”…which means (according to kid in the article) that you feel like a guy or girl at different times.  I can somewhat relate to this.  There are definitely times for me that I get this twinge of feeling like a girl, but normally I just feel like a guy – although I know I’m a girl.  Confused yet? 

Fourth stumper “non-binary gender” meaning not female and not male according to the binary gender scale.  I’ll see if I can locate a picture of that old scale before I publish this.  But it’s like if you give Female a 1 and Male a 10, and you rate where in the scale you may fall or feel that you fall. 

Near the end of the article they bring up “gender non-conforming” – which I can definitely fully relate to.  I am one who does not conform to the gender norms of female.

And of course we have the weird word “cisgender” meaning you identify as you were sexed at birth – either male or female.   

Then it dives into Gender Vs. Sexual orientation Vs. biology….yes, it gets very in-depth for a minute here:

“Gender identity is different from gender expression, being different from biology” says Adam Chang, a consultant with Gender Spectrum, a provider or gender identity resources and services in Berkeley, CA.  “Identity is what you know in your heart and mind, and expression is external – hair, makeup, roles you take on in society.

“Biology of course, means physical attributes that have always been used as a proxy for gender,” Chang says.  “And all of those are different from sexual orientation.”

((HOLY SHIT BATMAN!))

Chang goes on to put it this way:  “Sexuality is in and of itself not enough information to reveal a person’s gender identity.”

I am 55 years old.  I am Butch.  I have said before that Butch is my identity.  Lesbian is my sexuality. Female is my gender.  Even THAT feels confusing at times.  I’m SURE it is confusing to those who don’t know me, or anyone like me.  Simply put, I’m a Butch Lesbian.  Lesbians are women (females) who prefer relationships with other women (females).  Or so it is in my world today.  There are so many new words that I can’t possibly keep up anymore.  Especially living in rural America where most of my contact with the rest of the LGBT world is via the internet.  Where we have no real “formed community” to fall back on or to learn alongside. 

I have seen a LOT lately about our youth and transitioning genders.  It worries me a little because the human brain is not fully developed until around the age of 25.  This is part of why we make so many stupid choices and dumb decisions when we are in our teens.  I’m afraid that if kids (under 21) are looking at things like transitioning physically with surgery and drugs that they will be doing things that are not reversible in their young futures.  AND I personally just don’t think they are old enough to be doing things like surgery or hormones. 

THAT is my personal opinion on it.  I understand that we are seeing a sort of “gender revolution” happening, that kids have access to all sorts of information that we did not have when I was growing up.  I never even knew the word “transgender” existed or that people could even change genders if they wanted to.  Sure, I was a tomboy, and there were times I am sure that I wished I was a boy, but I am happy with being a woman today and who know what I would have done had I known or had the means as a kid to change my gender.  It would have been a tough one for me I bet.  So, in many ways I am happy to have grown up when I did before all of this revolution and changing stuff came to the surface. 

I have young female friends who are considering transition.  One, in particular that I am thinking about.  I have been trying to be a good Butch role model and influence, answering questions and being a bouncing board for her venting.  But she is edging closer and closer to transitioning.  She’s now 17, I’m just not convinced that she should make that kind of a life altering decision before she’s 25.  Now, saying that I don’t see any harm in her presenting as she wishes.  I am just against early surgery or hormones. 

I know some will disagree with me.  It’s the elephant in the room sometimes even.  I am not anti-trans, and I have many trans friends who I love dearly for exactly who they are.  I respect their choices and decisions.  But most of them that I know made those decisions in adulthood, not in a pre-pubescent fog of “who am I?” or on a whim to fit in with the “in” crowd, or do the new fun thing. 

My fear is that the kid does this, transitions, and then at 25 the kid looks at every adult in her life and gets very angry at them for not stopping things until she was really old enough to make that kind of life-altering decision.  Know what I mean?  Adults are supposed to protect kids from themselves; from making irreversible mistakes, and what if transitioning turned out to be just that mistake that the kid makes and regrets at maturity?  I would hate to be in those shoes. 

Kids are maturing way faster than ever in todays world.  Information travels at lightening speed through the internet and across the world wide web.  We know things that we never knew, and probably never would have known, had it not been for the interenet – some good and some bad.  I think it’s great to explore sexuality and gender and to discuss our views based on the information at hand.  I just hope these kids today are doing their research and not just following a fad that could leave indelible marks.

The rest of the article goes on to talk about suicide rates (40% of trans-identified people attempt suicide), sexuality, and society.  It seems that while many more people are adopting identities of various names across the gender spectrum, that fewer are actually physically transitioning now.  Perhaps that is because we are making it okay to be who you are without having to completely change your body.  All in all it’s a very good article that everyone should take 20 minutes to read and gain some knowledge from.  I do think it’s very cool that kids are encouraged to live as their authentic selves, to express themselves and to be who they ARE in the world.   

So, check out the article and let me know what YOU think.  Peace.  ~MB

This is a highly controversial topic and I respect that everyone has their own opinions and views.  Please be respectful of everyone reading if you comment, which I invite you to do, below. 

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6 Replies to “The Gender Revolution?”

  1. One of the reasons the conversation is confusing is that “gender” has many meanings and people rarely define how they are using it. That’s all I’ll say here because I won’t get all controversial on your blog. 😉

  2. I am concerned that young GNC girls and young women aren’t seeing role models of adult, mature women who are successfully living as masculine of center, that they are instead being pressured to transition early and at all cost.

  3. “I am 55 years old. I am Butch. I have said before that Butch is my identity. Lesbian is my sexuality. Female is my gender. Even THAT feels confusing at times.”

    Whereas I am 53 years old, femme, male 🙂 . Though I feel less male than I used to, more non-binary in fact. Yes, it can be confusing sometimes. And tiring as well as confusing. Bear Bergman wrote: “Is it terrible if I say that I’m exhausted with talking about my gender? These days it’s only so interesting, and only for so long, and the interesting part is over very, very fast.” I posted that on my own blog, along with another couple of quotes from Bear’s second book “The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You”. Bear is a good person to read about this border stuff, in hir case between butch and trans.

    As for young people transitioning and suchlike: I think their choices are different because they have more choice, not less, because know more (certainly than I did at that age) and have so much more language to talk about it. Their identities are now described in imaginative and ever-changing terminology, which can seem so lightweight, almost frippery. There used to be so few words and they had to encompass so much more, which gave them more significance and made them all the dearer to us.

    That doesn’t mean I think we should give them up. I think it’s important for “elders” to be true to who we are, to keep our words, to show our different ways of living, to act as potential role models just by being ourselves. But personally, I’ve learned more from younger people than they ever have from me.

  4. Hey Ang, 21 y.o. butch here. Sorry for the late comment.

    The pressure on gender nonconforming AFAB (assigned female at birth) people to transition is absolutely a real issue. However, I don’t think that the existence of trans and nonbinary identities is the source of the problem. It’s that many people don’t understand what it means to be trans or what it means to be GNC. There’s simply not enough information out there, and it can lead some people down the wrong path.

    I rarely ever see discussions about how a butch’s dysphoria might be different from a trans man’s dysphoria, so people lump us into the same category. This does a disservice to both groups because it simultaneously implies that butches are not real women and that trans men are not real men.

    (For example: Rather than feeling like my assigned gender puts me in a group of people I don’t belong to, my dysphoria comes from society’s mandate that as a woman I must be attractive to men and be subjected to the male gaze, etc, etc)

    Cisgender people who are trying to “tolerate” trans people still want to uphold gender roles and equate gender with presentation. They see a trans person as “a woman who wears men’s clothes and therefore wants to be a man” and vice versa. This when they’ll ask a butch, “So when are you going to transition?”

    We need more voices from trans, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming people across the board to help people understand who they are. I think that as long as young people are given this knowledge, they should have the option to transition. Just like many of us know our what sexual orientation is beyond a shadow of a doubt, there are many trans and nonbinary kids who feel the same way about their gender, and the sooner they can get to a better place for their safety and happiness the better. But speaking as someone who in my early teens was led to believe that my dysphoria meant I couldn’t be a woman, the pressure on GNC girls to not be girls desperately needs to be addressed.

    1. You are so right that the pressure on GMA and Butch girls/women desperately needs to be addressed. I have been thinking about it a lot lately. And seeing more in the media. It’s horrible how Hollywood will not portray Butch women in a real way, they must feminize us so that we are more comfortable to the straight viewer’s gaze, its irritating as fuck.

  5. Hi MB. I’ve been following you for the past four years as I love your words of wisdom. It’s the first time I’ve heard of ‘agender’. I’m 32 and call the in-between ‘gender neutral’. I fit in this part of the spectrum, although I don’t really label myself as I’m just me. 🙂 I feel less male than I used to referring back to my childhood to adolescent years. It is a bit confusing as gender can be fluid at times. I’m also lesbian.

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