Gender – dogmas and taboos

This morning I came across a touching Indian commercial:

It brought several things to my attention;

  1. Apparently, Hindi does not have it’s own equivalent of “proud” or “sorry”, which I find interesting…
  2. Feminism is still relevant, but it only counts if men get on board too (and no Caitlyn, you don’t count).
  3. Sharing the load when it comes to laundry would be way welcome in my book as it is one of my least favorite chores (and one that I always tend to postpone a bit too long)
  4. Oh look, it’s Ariel… where have I heard that name before… water…. bubbles… mermaids… princesses… Oh wait, didn’t I get all worked up about an Ariel in my previous blog on transgender kids? Time to go back and get that follow up blog done!

Recap

So let’s  go back to that previous blog of mine and summarize it, real quick. The issue I discussed there was transgenderism in kids, illustrated by the examples given in an interesting documentary I saw. The fact that these kids declare that their body’s gender does not coincide with the gender they feel they truly are, is not a choice. Everything from that point on, however, is. And they’re big choices, too.

Some of the dilemmas I faced in the face of theirs:

  • Is it cruel to let a child go through puberty and feel their body change into the thing they dread or is it a necessary thing they must experience in order to be sure this is not what they want?
  • Should we block puberty for a while so the kid and its family have more time to make up their minds?
  • How do we know we aren’t blocking other forms of development in the process?
  • Should these kids be allowed to make this decision at all?
  • When has there been enough psychological help and can there actually be determined that crossing over is the only way forward?
  • From what age should cross hormones be made available?

In a conversation I had in regards to all of this with my great friend and champion in thought provoking remarks, Zeefje, she asked me straight up if I had something against transgenderism in general or just the fact that children were being allowed to make decisions about their gender at such an early age. It is a question I have not really found the answer to yet either, or perhaps I haven’t really dared ask it. I’ll see if I can come up with something resembling an answer in the course of this blog and if we’re lucky maybe even put it into words in an understandable way…

Puberty

So, imagine a kid; 5 years old, without being burdened by notions of what society expects or how gender roles are divided in the world, but very clear about the fact that they may have been born one way, but are most certainly the opposite.

puberty_growth.jpgAnd then as they edge closer to those pre-teen years they become self conscious. They realize what they are feeling is actually very odd. They are, as I have now learned, in the phase of “gender-non-conforming”. They may already have run into a bully or two. They change. They were bound to change anyhow, because puberty is on the doorstep.

Puberty is turbulent enough as it is. It is a phase in life when we all doubt ourselves as we start to  form our own identity and claim our spot in the world. Our bodies change. Our emotions change. Our relationships change.

Kids struggling with their gender can now take hormones blockers to stop the process of transitioning into their biological gender. This is obviously a temporary solution. I guess it buys time. It gives the gender-non-conforming child the chance to witness the changes in the bodies and behavior of gender-conforming peers and decide how they feel about this.

Boxes and gray areas

boy-girl_91.JPGAnd now I’m getting to one of the things that bugs me in all of this. I guess I feel that the real curse is the fact that we have certain expectations of a girl and other ones for a boy. These are often opposite and not supposed to be mixed up. I feel that if the box labelled “boy” and the box labeled “girl” weren’t so sharply defined some of these kids would have a lot more wiggle room to figure out who they are and may not feel the need to cross over at all.

I have this feeling that these boy-girl labels are weighed down more by stereotypes in American society than on this side of the pond. No, I have no hard evidence to back this up. It’s just a feeling.

My point is that if you grow up in a household and society that is laden with taboos, where “that’s just the way it is” is a legitimate answer, I can imagine a subtle feeling of discomfort with your own body can get out of hand real quick. You may feel that if you don’t fit in box A, that your only choice is to transition into whatever box B is.

Don’t sell your soul

I can go on about this for a lot longer and I do feel there is still more to say about all of this but Zeefje already talked me through a lot of my frustrations and confusion and I think I’m not doing anyone any favors by elaborating more.

To conclude this topic I want to go back to Ariel. The girl in the Frontline documentary gave herself that name and I though it was ridiculous at first. I saw it as an another sign she was just a confused child, trying to live a delusional dream. She chose the name of a Disney princess… Silly silly, right?

Wrong. It is actually the strongest and most symbolic name a child in her situation could ever choose and it gave me chills when I finally figured it out… You go girl. Find your feet. Spread your wings. Just make sure you don’t lose your soul in the process.

Programming my sexual preference

Last Friday, while I was at the gym with one of my best friends we saw Louis Theroux pass by on one of the screens hanging around. It was the episode about pedophiles. We both agreed that all though these men were a danger to society, it must be horrible to be them.

Some of them come across as very regular (sane) men with deviant tendencies that makes it impossible for them to live among us. They are often ashamed of this themselves. Some (most?) have never acted on the fantasies they have and accept they are a danger to society. They hate themselves for feeling what they feel, very much like the Belgian prisoner I wrote about a while back on my other blog.

We philosofied about how these sexual preferences come to be. I said I couldn’t imagine that being sexually attracted to children was a feeling someone was born with, but must be caused by some trauma in their childhood, some sort of messed up imprint on their souls. My friend, -let’s call her Z,- disagreed and said she thought it was innate, just as homosexuality is.image

She asked me if I thought homosexuality could be cured through therapy and I was quick to shake my head. No, we agreed, homosexuality is not a disease. Then, playing the devil’s advocates, we wondered if having a history of abuse or molestation is more common among homosexuals and if so, if sexual predators are more attracted to these children because they were different from the start or if they changed because of this experience.

There have been many studies on the relation between homosexuality and child abuse and there does seem to be a correlation there. Politically incorrect as it may be, I then asked to what extent homosexuality could indeed be seen as nature or if there may be cases in which nurture played a role instead. I said I thought it was possible, Z disagreed.

She asked: Do you think therapy could turn me into a lesbian?

She reminded me she had had bad experiences with men in the past and no one would blame her for saying “no more dudes for me”. I think people can be persuaded into many things and most of all love. I told her I thought it was possible, only that this would not be called therapy, but brainwashing…

She asked: What’s the difference?

imageHoly crap… What IS the difference? All therapy is based on a theory and always aimed at influencing the mind. We like to think there is a place called “sanity” and therapy brings you back to this place if for some reason or other you have lost touched with it. But try defining sanity! Is sanity the same as normalcy? If so, I know there are people who’s definition of sanity I absolutely do not accept.

Normal is defined by what is “the norm”. Normal is what the majority thinks, feels and does. Normal is average.

Sane behavior is what we as a society find acceptable or desirable. Sane behavior is controlled behavior. If you decide to jump in the water fountain and take your clothes off, this is considered to be unwanted behavior. It does not mean you are insane though.

imageIt may just mean you are rebellious and want to go against the main stream and the society you are expected to be a part of.

I’m sure some of you might think I’m delusional myself after reading the above. Others may just see it as untactical or ignorant. Maybe my ideas are just incomplete or maybe I’ve been totally misinformed. I blame it on my brainwashing cycle.

How have you been programmed to think?