Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Snowflakes and Fingerprints
Here’s something for my friends back east and up north -- enduring all those cold nights, long blizzards, and that fearsome whirlwind known as the polar vortex. Quite honestly, this won’t help at all. I moved away from New England and all that cold long ago. But maybe this will give you something to think about as you look out at all those snowflakes coming down.
Like most people I was raised to believe that there were two genders. Male and female. Simple. Two boxes to check off on every school form and every job application I ever filled out. Boys were blue. Girls were pink. And therefore I was blue.
Snakes and snails and puppy dog tails.
But a funny thing happened on the way to adulthood. Or even adolescence. I started to feel like maybe I wasn’t quite the same as the other boys. I felt different. Odd. And quite often, I felt a little bit girlie.
Like many others, I repressed those feelings. Hid them. Denied them. Buried them in the backyard with all of our beloved pets who’d been hit by cars.
Later in life, when I started exploring my feminine side, I started to see variations in the world. Maybe gender wasn’t binary. Maybe it wasn’t so black and white. Or pink and blue. I remember seeing continuums online. Self-tests that one could take in the privacy of one’s home.
I never took any of those tests, but I saw the results after others took them. The measuring stick was a long bar with male at one end and female at the other end. People would take the quiz, answer a few multiple choice questions, and the survey would tell them just how male or female they were. 85% male, 15% female. 60% female, 40% male. And that seemed like a step up from the limited binary M or F gender.
The world -- or at least my little corner of the online world -- seemed to be gradually acknowledging that there was more to gender than we’d been taught when we were young. And just as importantly, maybe we were starting to accept that straying from that all-male (or all-female) norm wasn’t all that abnormal after all. Maybe it wasn’t so bad to be a slightly girlish boy or a slightly mannish woman.
But it still didn’t seem right to me. I’m no genius. But gender still seemed too wrapped up in something based on that original binary. Male or female. Or, now, degrees of male and female. It worked for some. But not for me. I still couldn’t connect with it.
Then someone pointed me to a scientist/researcher who had a new theory. At least it was new to us. I’m sorry but I can’t recall his name. Nor can I find his study on the internet any more. (Maybe one of our readers will know who I’m talking about. And, spoiler alert, I’m sure I’m about to misrepresent his entire theory. So let’s just consider this the bastardized CiCi version.)
He postulated that maybe gender wasn’t a simple binary or even a continuum based on that binary. Maybe, he suggested, it was more like a matrix.
I liked the Matrix movies... all that latex... so this got my attention.
What if gender characteristics didn’t exist on a straight line or continuum, what if they were elements of a grid. And the left or right sides of the grid meant nothing. Neither side was M or F. And the upper and lower portions of the grid meant nothing as well. What if different characteristics were scattered over the grid haphazardly. With no order. With no meaning assigned. And your gender was made up of all the elements that applied to you. Not a binary. Not a continuum. But something more complex. A matrix of characteristics and emotions that you felt applied to you.
I pictured it like one of those old scoreboards made up of a grid of tiny lights. The individual lights would flash on and off to form giant shapes and characters and words. Sorry about the obscure sports example, but that’s really what I pictured in my head. A light-up scoreboard. For each of us, a few male lights would light up and a few female lights would light up. We were each a little of both. We weren’t a certain percentage. We were a random collection of characteristics. If the rest of society wanted to label that collection as “male” or as “female,” well, that’s what societies tend to do. To label. Classify. Confine. Conform.
But just because society labels us a certain way doesn’t mean that we have to. We can, if we so choose, simply accept our own unique grid of human features as a window into our own gender and personality and self. Heck, if you’re like me, your grid changes daily. Maybe even moment to moment.
I can actually take this whole matrix idea one step further. Because the matrix idea still assigns a male or female component to each individual characteristic. But as most of us have now learned, those assignments are faulty... and outdated. It may have been true at one time that someone who was strong and physical and liked to wrestle alligators was considered manly. While someone who was sweet and soft and liked to play with dolls was feminine. But neither of those definitions is even remotely true... and a simple glance around the real world of today will tell you that.
I suspect that a simple glance around the real world of years passed would have told you the same thing, but societal norms and conventions are very strong. And societies and cultures all over the globe have by and large sought to keep male and female roles quite separate and distinct.
But remove those roles, those conventions, those norms... and what do you have?
For me... it’s snowflakes.
You know, those pretty icy crystals falling from the sky. Those amazing little crystalline shapes that elementary school teachers have told us about for years... each one is different. No two are ever the same.
Like fingerprints. Maybe our gender is like our fingerprints. Unique unto ourselves. Men have infinite ways to show their manhood. Woman have infinite ways to show their femininity. Why shouldn’t transpeople have the same options? To dress and act and feel and behave in a way that isn’t distinctly male or distinctly female or even distinctly trans... but instead, distinctly you.
Others may not agree. Family members. Friends. Wives. Parents. Children. Faceless anonymous critics on the internet. Even other members of the trans community. They may not see the same kaleidoscope of gender that I see. Spinning. Shifting. Changing. Blurring. Connecting. Separating. The tapestry of color. The flash and the brilliance.
But I think our gender is no different than our personality, our physicality, or our identity. It is unique to us. And no two of us are alike. Like all of those snowflakes falling back east. A powerful polar vortex of individuality. An unceasing flurry to cover the earth and change the world.
And if you lay back, relax, and close your eyes, you can make an angel in the snow.
Stay smart. Stay safe. Stay sexy.
Posted by CiCi Kytten at 7:47 PM