Friday, June 12, 2015

I See Gender

When it comes to racism and prejudice, there are many essays and articles that have explained why saying “I don’t see color” is not a particularly helpful way to express that you feel you are an ally, well informed, and accepting of all people. 

In fact, Having A Color Blind Approach to Racism is Actually Racist:
“Instead of being color blind, allow yourself to acknowledge the fact that racism is still a problem that hurts a lot of people in a lot of different ways. Some acts of racism are violent and obvious, others are more subtle and even unintentional. If you want to really be an ally for people who experience racism, listen to them. That’s all you have to do: Listen.”

If you think that being color blind or “not seeing color” is a good thing then I strongly encourage you to read the above article in its entirety. 

O.K. so now hopefully we’re all on the same page about racism and how it’s a bad thing. Hopefully you get that until the world is actually a safe place for people of all colors we need to keep seeing color so that we can be part of the solution instead of perpetuating the problem. 

Now, using that as a point of reference, we are going to talk about gender identity. 

Lately there has been an uptick in the number of articles and conversations relating to transgender people and issues in my facebook feed. That’s awesome! 

What’s not so awesome is the lack of respect and compassion that creeps into the conversations from people who think they are intelligent, compassionate, respectful, and/or allies. What’s not so awesome is people who make excuses or who try to make light of their snark with statements such as: 

I was just joking
I respect you as a human but….
I’m old
I don’t care what gender people are (as in “I don’t see gender”)

People try to dismiss the importance of discussing gender identity with comments such as “Why can’t we just all be humans and accept each other as we are? We don’t need all these Labels.” 

As long as half of all transgender people are attempting suicide, and as long as transgender children are been abused, teenagers are being kicked out of their homes, people are being assaulted and murdered, and hate crimes are happening - and all of these things are happening because of gender identity and gender expression - then no, we cannot all just be humans without labels. When people are dying because of who they are then it is not o.k. for you to belittle them or make sarcastic comments about them. It is not o.k. for you to say “I respect you as a human but I don’t care about your gender identity.”  As long as there are people in the world who comment on a 15 year old kid’s YouTube channel and tell them they should be shot because they identify as genderfluid, you should care. 

While you are treating gender identity labels as designer tags that are amusing, confusing, or annoying, while you are making comments about people “just wanting to feel special”, while you are hiding behind your facebook persona, using your age as an excuse, and treating gender identity as the latest fad, people are dying. 

Until the world is actually a safe place for people of all genders we need to keep seeing gender so that we can be part of the solution instead of perpetuating the problem. You need to be part of the solution instead of perpetuating the problem. You need to be respectful of people without the “but,” without snark, hashtags, or excuses.


Your Understanding of Gender May Be Wrong. Here’s Why.

Gender Spectrum offers resources to empower your relationships, work, and interactions with youth and children. From how-to guides, to respected research, to sample training materials, we provide you with the tools necessary to create gender inclusive environments in your homes, offices, and communities.  

Pronouns are Important
Two years ago I wrote a blog post over at With The Family titled "If It's Important to You, It's Important To Me." That's what I want, I want to know that this topic that is important to me and my family is important to those who say they are my friend, are my relatives, or who say they care about me. And that's really what I'm trying to express about pronoun usage: when talking to or about a non-binary person, when you use the pronouns they have asked you to use it shows them that who they are is important to you. 

Vi Hart’s video on Gender  

Monday, June 8, 2015

What Is Up With All The Labels?

This image has been going around on fb. Some people say that it just confuses or complicates things, others question why we need labels and wonder why we can’t just accept that we’re all human, get over ourselves, and perhaps move on to more important issues.

The above chart is far from perfect. It fails to provide a clear definitions of some terms and it leaves out some identities all together. But then again, there are as many gender identities as there are people; we all define, express, and experience our identities uniquely as individuals. 

So why have words to define different identities? After all, if each person is unique do any of them really mean anything? At what point is it all just a ridiculous mess of micro-labels as each person claims their individual identity?

I don’t see these as labels or categories in a strict sense of “Let’s classify everyone and everyone must fit inside a box.” I see these words as just that, words. We need words if we are to have discussions. We need a common vocabulary if we are to understand what we are talking about. Discussing words, what they mean, and how we use them, helps us expand our understanding of not just those words, but of what those words represent to the people using them. 

Sometimes people use words divisively or hurtfully, to stigmatize and isolate people or groups of people. That’s unfortunate, but it does not decrease the validity of having words. It does not take away the importance of having words to help us explain who we are. Words can also help us reach a greater understanding of those around us and how they experience life. Those words can bring people together and help us find others who get us, who will look at us and see someone who shares some common life experience or existence.

As adults around me struggle with some of these concepts, or perpetuate assumptions that are based on lack of information and understanding, it’s clear that we have a long way to go before many people, often including those who think they are progressive or open minded, are well informed and have reached a place of understanding. From trolls on YouTube to well intentioned allies, it seems people struggle to grasp the value of being able to say “I am this!” and having that validated by the people around you. 

Comments revolving around labels, that pointedly suggest that labels aren’t necessary or that people “just want to feel special” frequently surface: Why do we need to label people’s gender identity beyond male and female? Why do we need to label people’s sexual orientation beyond gay and straight? Why can’t everyone just be who they are and not worry about the labels? 

As I learn more about gender identity and expression, and sexual orientation, I think how different it would have been if this information had been available when I was a teenager. I see adults around me perpetuate the myth that every teenager is obsessed with having sex and will be having sex at a very young age if they are given any opportunity at all. This offends a couple of kids i know who identify as gray-ace. Not all teens are obsessed with having sex, in fact, some people are asexual: they are not interested in having sex. I wish I had known that when I was a teenager. Understanding the terms asexual and grey-ace helped me have a greater understanding of myself at the age of 47. And that’s the power of words. Words can give you that Aha! Moment when you understand something about yourself that you could never quite put your finger on. Words can help you feel more comfortable in your skin because can explain something about yourself in a new way - even if you are only explaining it to yourself. 

Educate yourself! 
Raising Allies has a Resources page where you'll find links that explore many words and labels. 

Monday, June 1, 2015

Are you A Romantic or Aromantic

I’m a romantic. That’s an expression most people are familiar with. People may say they aren’t very romantic or might complain that a person they are dating isn’t as romantic as they would like. We tend to take for granted that some people are more into romance than others. Some people want a dozen roses on Valentine’s Day, others think that’s a ridiculous waste of money; the roses are just going to die anyway. Technically an individual who doesn’t experience romantic attraction is aromantic. Aromantic would be their romantic orientation
While most people are familiar with the idea of someone being romantic, or feeling romantic attraction, or desiring romance in their life, many people are not familiar with the idea of romantic orientation. A person’s romantic orientation is their pattern of romantic attraction, it is usually described in terms of which gender(s) they are attracted to and the intensity, or lack of intensity, of that attraction. 
Here’s a list of some examples: 
Aromantic: individuals who do not experience romantic attraction
Biromantic: romantic attraction toward persons of the same and different genders
Heteroromantic: romantic attraction toward persons of a gender other than their own gender
Homoromantic: romantic attraction towards persons of the same gender
Panromantic: romantic attraction towards persons of every gender
Polyromantic: romantic attraction toward multiple persons, but not all genders
Gray-romantic: individuals who do not often experience romantic attraction
Demiromantic: an individual who does not experience romantic attraction until a close emotional bond has been formed.
(This list is a modified version of a list that can be found HERE.) 
Romantic orientation addresses the potential for attraction. Just because a person is generally romantically attracted to men, that does not mean that they will be romantically attracted to all men. Similarly, if a person identifies as aromantic, there may come a time in their life when they will be romantically attracted to another person. This attraction does not invalidate their previous identity as an aromantic individual. Humans learn and grow and change. Their understanding of themself, and their level of comfort in expressing their identity, may change over the years. Understanding this, we can accept people where they are, how they identify right now, and however they identify in the future as they learn more about themselves and have wider life experiences. 
Not everyone wants the same thing from a relationship. Not everyone has the same expectations or desires when it comes to romance. When we take the time to consider our romantic orientation it gives us a better understanding of ourselves, while also making it easier for us to express our needs, desires, and comfort levels to potential romantic partners. This improved communication helps us establish healthier, respectful, more meaningful relationships, regardless of what our romantic orientation may be.