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.
The other day, my sociology 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?
About a month ago, 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.
Furthermore, it’s indicative to equate genitalia to gender. We have intersex people, people born with both masculine and feminine genitalia, and how are we supposed to gender them? Intersex people, I can only wonder, must feel pressured to pick and choose male or female binaries. I have heard that intersex people at birth recieve surgery to remove either the penis or vagina, whatever is the easiest to remove at the time. A disparity they might face is identifying with another identity than assigned with that specific genitalia. These people don’t have the time to grow up and gain the agency to become who they are - instead, they are forced into a specific binary without their choice.
This proves that 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.
are you a boy? your clothes are boy clothes.
are you a girl? your clothes are girl clothes.
are you outside the binary of boy and girl? so are your clothes.
did someone just tell you your clothes don’t match your gender identity? they are a trashcan and their clothes are trashcan clothes.
I need white people to stop pretending consent was possible during slavery.
Stop lying to yourselves that those black cousins are the result of illicit love affairs & grasp that slaves could not say no.
When consent is not an option, when you’re only seen as 3/5ths of a human being & you have no legal standing? You can’t say yes.
I need white America to sit down for a sec. Look into the faces of black Americans with the same last names & figure it the fuck out.
Our ancestors were raped by your ancestors. Regularly. Some of the kids were treated kindly. Most were not. They were sold.
White mistresses punished the slaves for “tempting” master & congratulated themselves on that bloody work. Read the narratives.
Not the cleaned up ones either. Read Incidents in The Life of A Slave Girl & understand that Mammy was a victim, not the one who loved you.
She couldn’t care for her kids, couldn’t choose her husband or their father most of the time. She was a slave.
Millions of people died on the Middle Passage. Millions more died here at the hands of your ancestors. Own that.
Now you want to sing Kumbaya & keep oppressing our communities & erasing our contributions. Spare me the tired bullshit.
Male slaves fared no better. There’s a long history of them being raped, tortured & killed too. That was slavery. Stop romanticizing it.
Our children were fed to alligators as bait (feel free to look that up) died of starvation or exposure & that was slavery too. Yep, we were livestock & you use sickly livestock as bait.
Stop watching Gone With The Wind & fantasizing about beautiful plantations if you can’t accept what happened on those plantations.
House slaves had it better in the sense of access to food & possibly better treatment, but they were still slaves.
14 year old slave girls weren’t falling in love with the men who could beat them & everyone they loved to death.
Read the tales of enslaved women who killed their children to spare them. Read about people beaten to death as an example.
Sally Hemings could have left Jefferson in Paris. Of course her entire family was still in his power. And his “love”? Didn’t free her. Ever.
Go look at the pictures of former slaves backs. Whipped until they bled & left to scar so they were maimed for life & couldn’t run.
Also before you talk about the cleaned up narratives, remember that the people relating their stories knew lynching was always possible.
Records of slavery were deliberately destroyed so that former owners wouldn’t have to pay anyone.
That “peculiar institution” was generations of blood, pain, & terror. That’s what built America. Never forget that.
Now stop talking about anyone’s white ancestors like they deserve the fucking credit for the success of people descended from slaves.
American slavery began in 1619. June 19, 1865 was the last official day of slavery. Do the math on how long it takes to heal that wound.
After slavery was officially over? Black codes & Jim Crow laws followed. America’s history of oppression is longer than that of freedom.
Also before any d*mb motherfuckers land in my mentions. I have a degree in history. I will read you to filth & bury you in sources.
Trust & believe there is no country here for people who want to romanticize a system that is still grinding away at my community.
All this fluffy fucking talk about American history to coddle white kids feelings & engender patriotism? You won’t get it here.
My ancestors built this country, I served this country & I will tell the damned truth about this country. Don’t like it? Fuck you.
Now let me get in my feelings about slavery before Africans were brought here. Because we weren’t the first people enslaved.
We were deliberately sought out for our skill sets & resistance to disease. Know why we were resistant? We’d had contact for years.
All of that “My ancestors never owned slaves so it has nothing to do with me?” Go look at those NDN ancestors again. See how many were free.
While you’re in there checking that out? Look up those old country ancestors & see how many benefited from slavery indirectly.
Also while we’re talking about NDN relatives? Yo, learn a name besides Cherokee. Better yet, learn about the genocidal tactics they faced.
Look up immigrant groups becoming white in America. Find out who had to bleed so they could gain access to white privilege.
Let’s really talk about the Red Summer of 1919 & how it wasn’t an unusual occurrence. Tulsa, Rosewood? They were just famous.
Let’s talk about welfare & who could access it. Hell let’s talk about who is collecting more of it right now.
Let’s talk about the primary beneficiaries of affirmative action (spoiler! White women!) & what it means to attack black people instead.
Shit, let’s get into the Great Depression & the Great Recession & who is hurting the most financially through both.
Let’s talk about conditions on reservations, in the inner city, & the violence faced by POC who try to leave those areas.
Hell, let’s talk about why we don’t see shows that reflect the American population set in the past, present, or future.
Go read Columbus’ diaries & see what “civilization” really meant to the people he encountered.
For that matter go read up on King Leopold & the Congo. I’ll wait while you cry.
That’s the thing about whiteness as a social construct in America. It’s not about white people, it’s about white power over others.
When we’re talking about white privilege? We’re talking about what it takes to shape this society based on oppression.
America is a young country with a lot of power because of genocide, slavery, & continuing oppression. Individuals build institutions.
All of these conversations aren’t about bringing out white guilt, they’re about ending this institution developed over the generations.
Also let’s be clear that America is sick with this ish across the political spectrum. It may manifest differently but it exists everywhere.
Before I go, let me also suggest that people who are curious about anything I tweeted about take a tour through Google with terms.
It’s not that I won’t answer questions, but there are books out there that I think everyone should read on slavery, whiteness, & America.
12-year-old girl: I don't want kids when I grow up.
Society: You'll change your mind when you get older. You're only 12. You're too young to know what you want.
16-year-old girl: I'm pregnant.
Society: How could you be so stupid? Do you know anything about safe sex? You should be ashamed.
20-year-old woman: I'm a single mother with an infant son.
Society: You should've gone to college first. You need a stable career before you can support a child.
33-year-old woman: I'm married and my spouse and I both have stable careers. I have two young daughters now.
Society: You're not staying home? Who's going to take care of them? You're just going to put them in day care while you work? That's selfish of you. You can't expect to raise decent kids with a full-time job.
45-year-old woman: I just had my first child.
Society: Why would you have a child when you're that old? Do you realize the health risks of being pregnant at your age? When your kid is a teenager you'll be a senior citizen. That's inconsiderate of you.
60-year-old woman: I haven't had any children.
Society: Your life must be so unfulfilling. Is there something wrong with you? Why didn't you want kids? How strange.
Yea it’s definitely one of those “compliments” that is actually a bit offensive. Kinda like if someone was like “wow you’re a lot less fat than you used to be!”.
There’s this weird thing where people act as if physical attraction validates someone’s transition. I’m not a fan.
To add on, it’s very objectifying and sensationalizing to say “wow u cant be hot in both genders” because it says that the public only care about trans*people when they are conventionally attractive and passing. This is so invalidating to those who aren’t passing as the societally perceived notion of what a “man” or a “woman” should look like. Aren’t they just as valid trans*people as anyone else?
Furthermore, “both genders” is inaccurate. Gender identity is so much more fluid and complex.