Kids say the darndest things

I’ve been mulling over a post since a few nights ago when a friend was telling me she has a hard time figuring out whether she wants to put anything in the orientation field for her myspace profile. Her reasoning: It’s sort of hard to decide how to answer that question if you identify as genderqueer. After all, you could be a bio man who only ever dates bio women. But if you have a fluid understanding of your own gender, are you straight? And, to reverse the question, what if you’re a bio woman who tends to date genderqueer dudes? Are you straight?

Then I got an email from the organizer of a panel I’ll be a part of next Sunday. (Background: it’s a panel for 13 year olds on sexuality. I did it last year and wished they thought I was cooler, but hey, that’s what being unpopular in middle school will do to you for the rest of your life.) This year, we panel members (one lesbian, one gay man, one straight female ally, and one trans woman) received a few questions in advance, and one really stood out to me:

“When do most transsexuals realize that they aren’t heterosexual?”

I have to admit, I chuckled a little. I mean, I like that thirteen year olds even have “transsexual” in their vocabulary. But my immediate response was, well, being transsexual (or transgendered) doesn’t mean you can’t be heterosexual. Gender identity and sexual orientation aren’t the same thing.

But thinking back to my little myspace conversation, clearly they’re related, and for genderqueers even more so.

Of course, in utopia, identity categories like these wouldn’t matter, and it’s not a huge deal to leave that question blank when making the rounds of your favorite social networking sites. But in the real world, of course, labels and identities do matter, even if for only relatively trivial reasons. Like, you’re hott (like said friend) and don’t want random dudes hitting on you all the time. Or you’re writing a personal ad and want to be clear how you identify. Or you’d just like to find more people who identify (or don’t identify, as the case may be) the way you do, for support or friendship or a roll in the hay.

Thoughts?

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6 Responses to Kids say the darndest things

  1. It’s amazing how many things are attached to gender that don’t necessarily relate to it at all. As soon as you start shifting/playing with gender presentation a whole new set of assumptions is made; in fact it would make more sense to simply forget pre-disposed gender ideals.
    If you present a gender other to your bio that may or may not be because you identify with the characteristics society associates with that gender. Or it may just be that you think it looks good. Or it may be a million other reasons.
    I find it frustrating when people assume my clothes are making a statement other than what I’m trying to make (which is generally simply that I think I look good in this and it feels comfortable).

    Having said that, it’s only in certain situations (parties and social situations with friends I’m familiar with) that I’ll play with my presented gender that much. I’m often quite wimpy on that one.

    Thanks for the post, raised some thoughts…you’ve got some interesting ideas all over this blog. Thankee.

  2. […] Crippens So, I was following a bizarre trail through the webterworld and stumbled upon a thought provoking post or two by a fellow wordpress wanderer […]

  3. pandanose says:

    Thanks for the ping, Alabaster. I wouldn’t be too hard on yourself for being “wimpy” about gender presentation. There are an awful lot of reasons not to play, from simple social discomfort to the threat of violence, and I would never encourage someone to ignore those reasons.

    For some of us, though, it’s a little hard Not to play with presentation. I look like I’m in drag when I wear stereotypically appropriate attire for my gender, and when I recently forayed into growing my hair out I managed to look more like Hugh Grant than ever. I happen to be more comfortable in men’s clothes, but even if I wasn’t I would probably go through the same hassles just because I’m a relatively tall woman with a relatively low voice.

  4. I’m pretty sure you’ll still look better that way than I would in an evening dress.

    My problem is partly that I don’t want to present female…it’s just that ideally I’d not want to present male either. I’m a big fan of androgyny, but find its not the easiest look to pull off if you aren’t into OTT glam or goth type looks.

    Social discomfort and threat of violence are indeed best to avoid, but to be honest…i do often think about the fact that the social discomfort thing is the kind of thing you can get over by simply presenting/being a certain way and talking about it. A lot of the time peoples attitudes are fed more by ignorance or stereotypes…both things which normally get destroyed by even just one meeting with an example of that which they’ve built up a prejudice against.

    As such I feel like I should stand by my views more diligently…but then…to be honest…I never dress in an uncomfortable way.

    Comfort should definitely come first.

  5. pandanose says:

    I’ve had other people suggest that a single run-in can do a lot to alter people’s narrow perceptions when it comes to gender presentation, but I don’t know that I wholeheartedly agree.

    Stereotypically “feminine” women still have a much easier time playing with presentation–think Avril Lavigne wearing a tie. Those of us who already fall more outside the norm (androgynous features, hairstyles, voices) have a little rougher time of it. Even if we can leave an awkward encounter on a positive note, we still run the risk of the other person assuming we must be queer or some kind of freak–meaning they still haven’t expanded their perception of what it means to look female/male.

  6. Changing minds is difficult and rare….but we can all still try.

    I think you might be surprised at the difference that can be made. I think the problem with celebrities expanding these boundaries is that they are kind of expected to be ‘weird’ and ‘crazy’. So even when they do start trends (Avril and the ties) its attached to them as famous people rather than real people as people.

    There was a big hoo-ha over David Beckham wearing a skirt…but most of the media coverage was basically: ‘oh look how bizarre and eccentric the fashion sense of rich people are’.

    Doesn’t necessarily carry into peoples everyday perceptions.

    Here’s hoping though.

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