Writing by Isa Denney Strother // Photograph by Lais Azevedo
I’ve written about gender before, but I feel compelled to do so again after an experience with a friend and the conversation that followed. This friend has a lot of good, true ideas about things — messages I whole heartily agree with and preach myself, such as never blaming a victim of assault, etc. She recently posted about these subjects on Facebook, which is great, but she ended her post by saying, “Genderfluid is fake, and there are only two genders.”
To me this seemed to suggest that in her mind, the issues the LGBTQA+ community face with recognition and respect in the world somehow detract from the issues that rape victims and women face in the general community.
Later I asked her about it, and she told me it was just her belief and she meant no offence (though she seemingly had offended several of her friends) to anyone personally — a common misconception is that your beliefs don’t affect or hurt anyone as long as you didn’t aim them at someone in particular, which ends up being a very hurtful belief.
One must understand, as I explained to her, that when you are talking about an identity that is directly related to human beings (such as any gender) you may not think it’s personal because personally it doesn’t affect you, but it’s deeply personal to those who it does affect.
Trans people face all sorts of invalidation and discrimination based on gender in their every-day lives, and when someone they know posts something like that, though it may not be aimed at them in particular, it affects them.
Your choices don’t just affect you — if you vote against gay marriage for example, because personally you aren’t gay and do not wish to marry someone of the same sex, you might not think about it, but it affects the neighbor you love who wishes they had the right to marry their partner.
When you publicize and preach that there are only two genders, or that you must identify as the gender typically correlated with your sex, you are further damaging what trans folk have worked so hard for — to be recognized for who they are, to have their proper names used, to have their pronouns and gender identity respected.
You may not realise it, but your choices have the power to empower people, or on the other hand, to further diminish their rights.
The fact that someone I know and who knows me (even if it wasn’t very well) could say something like that, and then tell me, “well it wasn’t aimed at you personally so it doesn’t affect you” was hurtful, but also a wake up call. We haven’t moved as far ahead as I thought we had from incidents in LGBTQA+ history when people were treated as second class citizens, as “crazy people,” as people just making a fuss over nothing, as I thought we had.
At this point, science had shown that gender (as we think of it typically, correlated to two sexes) doesn’t exist and never has; it’s simply a construct — a metaphysical (sometimes literal) book of rules that the sexes are supposed to conform to in order to differentiate themselves from each other, because otherwise the only noticeable difference is in hair, build, and genitalia.
I asked her, if she saw the sky as purple, but science could prove it was blue, would she still argue it was purple, and when she said yes, I had a sudden realization: this is the mindset of people who refuse to respect gender fluidity, who refuse to look at the science, or even believe just the personal experience of the people that struggle with gender.
This mindset is hurtful because it’s directly related to choices made that can make life as an LGBTQA+ person very difficult, sad, or even dangerous.
Please, even if it doesn’t directly affect you, remember that your opinions and choices relating to gender (and sexuality!) can directly affect and influence those around you; anything you say or convey is personal to someone. You’re not the one being affected by your believes in this case — it’s me, it’s my girlfriend, it’s my friend Alice, it’s people like us who have a right to be offended by YOUR views and to speak up when you voice them.[share]