On Being “Born into” Gender

In our current, modern-day society, we are growing in queer awareness in our media. We are slowly seeing queer diversity in our TV shows, in journalism, in arts. However, we still have a long way to go in addressing queer diversity in media and mainstream culture.

In a sociology class once, my professor was discussing social roles. He discussed that some roles, we are either born into or cannot change. He then went to explain that gender is a role that people are born into, and that for the most part we can’t change it, although some people are trans*.

I find the idea that people are “born into,” a gender problematic. We have to analyze what “being born into a gender,” really means. What does it imply?

Trans* woman, journalist, and fierce advocate Janet Mock appeared on Piers Morgan’s segment on CNN. They discussed Janet’s journey through childhood and transitioning to female. The initial interview seemed to go well until the show’s producers decided to take the interview out of context by saying Janet was “born a boy,” or “was a boy,” and the worst – “What if the love of your life was actually a boy?” or something along those lines. Janet argued with these statements via twitter.

After Janet appeared on the show again to debate with Piers her arguments, something she spoke stood out to me when asked whether she disputes being born a boy:

“Do I dispute that I was born a boy? I was born a baby who was assigned male at birth. I did not identify or live my life as a boy. As soon as I had enough agency in my life to grow up, I became who I am. And this did not start at 18 when I went to Thailand to have ‘surgery,’ it started when I was six years old, and my parents saw me for who I was and allowed me to live my life. That’s a lot of nuance, and it’s hard to communicate that in 30 seconds or even in a 140 character tweet.”

This idea that people are born and assigned a gender at birth, or given a gender identity, really has opened my eyes. I feel like it speaks very true, that people are never born as a gender, or people are never a distinct gender. It’s simply that people are born and assigned a gender, and then furthermore, socialized into that gender identity and it’s expectations.

It literally scares me how much children are socialized into gender normativity. I volunteer at a children’s community center, and more than most of the time I receive comments like “You talk like a girl,” or “boys aren’t supposed to be like that.” It doesn’t personally offend me, but it makes me realize how much we socialize gender into children. It scares me how strict these norms are, and how marginalized people that don’t fit these norms must be.

Genitalia doesn’t equal gender identity, and also that people aren’t born into a gender. It’s this socialization of gender that creates this belief, and furthermore objectifies and sensationalizes trans* people to merely their body parts.

We as a society need to start thinking about gender differently. Gender is so complex and so fluid, and people live their lives with a combination of different gender identities, gender expressions, and sexual identities. I hope that in the future, we continue to advocate for gender fluidity and erase these oppressive norms of the gender binary.

by ZAIN AHMED

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image source: http://images.catholic.org/ins_news/2013070839.jpg

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