My friend, Cody, has this amazing t-shirt with “Gender is a drag, perform Shakespeare instead” on the front and every day that he wears it, we beam at one another with pride because a) we are literary buffs/book nerds/theater geeks and b) because he supports my queerness with the utmost beauty!
“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players…” The Bard most likely didn’t realize how famous his lyrical lines would become when he had Jacques speak these words to Duke Senior in “As You Like It.” The idea of being an actor on a stage has me chuckling – I am quite awkward at times as I tend to blurt out random thoughts as they enter my mind – this no doubt muddles any current conversation I’m carrying. When people catch me in a moment of awkwardness, I simply claim full knowledge of my behaviors and act as if “I meant to do that.” I can pull it off, sometimes. One thing I can’t pull off well is being a girl. Biologically, yes, I possess the reproductive organs of the female sex, but…Well, I’d be acting if I told you that my gender matches that. I’d be acting if I told you that I feel at home in my body and comfortable in societally normed women’s clothing. I’d be acting if I were to claim that I love my curves and womanly body. None of those things are me. My sex and gender – they don’t mesh, they don’t match.
Gender. What is gender? Merriam-Webster defines gender as “the behavioral, cultural, or psychological traits typically associated with one sex.” In a 2016 article in Psychology Today, When Sex and Gender Don’t Match, the argument of sex vs gender is discussed: “Sex” refers to the physical attributes of the male or female body, while “gender” refers to the psychological experience of being a masculine or feminine person.” Personally, when I think of gender, I think of it as binary – black and white. Gender is a societally-forced label that places emphasis on “dressing as your sex” and completely neglects to celebrate the person as an individual. Why does a person’s reproductive organs have to dictate their gender? Why does it dictate how they adorn their bodies, what grammatical pronouns are used, or what body modifications are desired?
Body modifications…The American Society of Plastic Surgeons reported 17.1 million cosmetic procedures in 2016. I imagine many of these surgeries were performed on cis-gendered individuals – some medically necessary, some optional. Do we heckle women when they get breast implants? Do we judge men who lift weights and sculpt their bodies? No.
Why? Why do we judge transgender individuals seeking comfort in their own skin, but encourage that #summerbody with the utmost enthusiasm? Because us transgender kids make people uncomfortable – we are not “normal” by societal standards – therefore, we must be a threat to society, correct? I can assure you, I am no more a threat to society than any of the women in my family that have had plastic surgery. I am no more of a threat to society than any of the men and women working out in the gym every day. I am no more of a threat to society than any individual having a medical procedure done to better their health.
Speaking of health…gender affirming acts, such a going by a preferred pronoun, having surgeries, and hormone replacement therapy can be huge game changers for transgender individuals struggling with anxiety and depression. This feeling of mismatch between sex and gender is coined “gender dysphoria” and simply means that a persons assigned gender is distressing mentally as for that individual, sex and gender are not synonymous. Society pressures us to conform to standards that don’t always match our mold and this has a direct effect on our mental well being. My psychiatrist fully believes that if I were to take part in these gender affirming acts, I could see relief from chronic depression and possibly lessen the amount of antidepressants I take. I can attest that the pronoun change alone has made a difference – my students are my number one advocates in this area…they love to correct anyone who calls me “Mrs. Taylor” instead of “Coach Taylor” or “Mixter Taylor.” As a matter of fact, it was a 15 year old young man who politely asked one day if I would rather go by something other than “Mrs.” because to him it was obvious that I preferred to represent the masculine side of the spectrum. Kids these days, they can actually teach us so much…
The month of June is coming to a close and I was fortunate enough to celebrate LGBTQ Pride with my friends, family, and school. In the spirit of this, I am proud to say that I identify as transgender – and if you are looking for an even more specific label (because we loooooove to label), I identify as genderqueer (I do not ascribe to a binary gender) and transmasculine (I was born as the female sex but identify masculine). I believe that just because I was born with ovaries, this doesn’t mean that I have to wear women’s clothing, wear a feminine hairstyle, use female pronouns, and keep my curves. I prefer male pronouns over female pronouns, but personally won’t get upset if I am “misgendered,” as I prefer to ultimately label myself as a human.