Between Pink And Blue: The New Revolution In Sex And Gender
Man, woman. Woman, man. There is a pause sometimes. It’s happened to me, so I know it’s happened to everyone else. That pause you have when you’re out at the mall, the grocery store, in an office…. Is that a man or a woman?
Observing the details of people is so wired into the brain, it’s beyond habit. Because of how social we are, it’s like breathing or blinking. What should have been a glance, makes us pause just a little longer. The brain searches for other categories that would signify sex and gender– the clothes, facial hair, body shape, gait. It sometimes can’t be answered, and it almost causes our brains to glitch.
Why are the rules about sex and gender so important to our society? Anyone can point out that the rules tell you how you should treat a person. It’s a huge social faux pas to misinterpret the someone’s gender– to call them “sir” when they should have been called “ma’am.” To be born with certain parts tells others how your brain is wired, how your parents raised you, down to how society is supposed to treat you. In many unfortunate aspects, it colors the opportunities that are going to be given to you. To put it a simpler way, whether to put a pink balloon on the mailbox, or blue.
This happens before you are even born.
There have been more and more stories in the media of people who somehow slipped between the pink and blue categories. It’s confusing, because how could that happen? These people crash assumptions– things that you never had to think about because they were pre-loaded before your own memory. Suddenly there are people who are moving from pink to blue, blue to pink, and others say that they’re some shade of purple. Because they give so many of the population reason to pause, transgendered people do not fit into this “binary” system and are regarded as either seriously ill, or an abomination. Some are curious– why would you want to change your body parts? Others fret–what do I call this person, how do I have sex with this person… What’s the etiquette now that the rules have changed?
The lack of understanding and even hatred in places like the United States is most likely due to the assumption that gender equals sex. You are born with boy parts, therefore you are a boy and your identity is grown from this. The chemicals in your brain say you’re a boy. Sex and society aids in how your identity is shaped over time. In the LGBTQ crowds, the idea that gender and sex is the same thing is turned on its head and puts into question: does sex actually equal gender? To put it another way: does hardware equal the software?
The answer is a resounding “No.”
There are people who do not identify with the binary, and it’s putting even more light onto how gender affects oppression and biases. In a society that has such biases, the dependency on a binary gender system is what keeps up “tradition” and something that has “always been”. The differences between how each group is treated from one another enforces this need– one in five women are going to be assaulted by their male counterparts. Rape is equated to leaving your car unlocked, though the criminal who broke into the car is most likely going to serve more jail time than a rapist.
For those who identify as transgender or queer, who challenge the binary, the violence against them is multiplied compared to someone who identifies as a woman in both sex and gender. As said in Cox’s speech, she points out that people view a man who alters his body to reflect his desired sex is emasculating himself, while a person who moves their sex from a woman’s to a man’s is like trying to get into an exclusive club. The thought seems to be, there is something wrong when you discard a more sexual gender for one more associated with power. An imposter needs to be put in “her” place. Both of these sentiments point subconsciously to which sex and gender is the most coveted by a society.
Several years back, I was an acquaintance with a woman who had just begun to “pass”. I remembered the days when she lived in the same dorm as me and her slow path to self-discovery. She was born intersex, but made into a boy at around the age of three. When I would hang out with her occasionally, I also found a sort of culture shock from her— the difference of how men and women were treated. I slowly became aware of her terror of even going out.
I had gotten used to protecting myself, and was almost deaf and blind to looks and words spoken to me since before I had even hit puberty. However, she had not learned the “shields” that many women were taught since day one, and was in terror of things that I had grown up with day-to-day until it became as normal as the socks I wore.
It was bewildering to suddenly become aware of how differently I was treated based on my sex, through her eyes. She not only dealt with the pressure of protecting herself as a woman, but also as a transgendered woman.
I find it sad that this was part of her introduction into to womanhood. Living with certain expectations, fears, and shields has become part of being a woman. It’s a weight that no one should have, or should have to learn. There is something very wrong when a person suffers from culture shock in their own society. This shows the divide between genders and that sexism is still a heavy problem in our society.
Sadly, gender etiquette has not changed; or at least they should not have needed to change. Good manners and respect leads to people treating everyone with kindness. The older I get and the more I learn about my identity and the LGBTQ community, the golden rule makes more and more sense: Treat others how you want to be treated. Treat others as if they are human beings, regardless of their sex or gender, whether you can understand it or not. Men are born humans, woman are born humans– and anyone in between. Because people are human beings–just like you–you treat them like human beings. There is no protocol for that.