“Be who you want to be.”
We hear this preached enough on social media and by inspirational speakers. It is a completely new story when it comes to implementing that belief. From a young age, I was taught to embrace acceptance. Regardless of religious, political or any social beliefs. Its one of the only beliefs I took upon myself without any question.
Gender never really came into my upbringing. I was told I was a girl and that girls wore dresses, (in school, there was no other option). Which I despised because I saw them as impractical. When I got old enough to buy my own clothes I lived virtually in jeans and ‘boys clothes’. It was surprising how many people at school had a problem with by fashion choices and my Tomboyish personality.
Which to me is strange, since every school and place of work will try to tell you there is a “zero tolerance on bullying”. In interviews, when you are asked, “Do you have any questions?” it is important to ask how bullying is dealt with. Nowhere is completely bully free and focus always seems to be on physical bullying, compared to emotional.
Even 10 years prior such issues, there where problems. One case in 1999 started with a small Gender Confused 5 year old called Sav. Her sister quoted:
“Since she was 5, Sav felt more comfortable in doing what other people called “boy things”; wearing boyish clothes, playing with boys toys. everything she was told she wasn’t meant to like. There was a lot of bullying from older kids. Her school basically said she wasn’t normal and needed help. All because of a preference to Army Man compared to Barbie! The bullying was sorted out eventually but she then felt like a total outcast since she was still expected to fit into a stereotype. It hurt my family to see her so unhappy, in the end we agreed if she said she wanted to be a chicken she could. As long as it made her happy”
What I take from this story is that even small differentiation between boys and girls can make a difference. Being forced to like certain clothes or toys can lead to a lot of psychological issues, bullying, isolation and neglect, just to name a few. A lot of issues than can be avoided because society won’t stick to the simple teaching of “be who you want to be”. Some progress has already been made on the acceptance front for LGBT. Gay marriage now being legalised in the UK was a massive step forward. Hopefully, these such changes will continue.
For those who aren’t as brave as Sav, who would just accept the forceful nature of abiding stereotypes, will end up leading a life in which they are not true to themselves. Regardless if this is life as a different gender or similar. A case not too different than what was portrayed in TV show Glee. Actress Dot Marie Jones (character coach Beiste) underwent treatment to become who she felt she was inside. Upon hearing about the character development Marie-Jones stated:
“I didn’t want to let anybody down. I’d done the domestic violence storyline before and having young girls look up to Beiste and looking at it now, it’s just another vehicle to reach another group of people who are learning to be OK in your body.”
She elaborated, explaining she didn’t want to let anyone down. “Just because some girls may be big and husky and what most would call ‘more masculine’ doesn’t mean they are transgender and everyone should accept themselves as they are.”
As well as Glee, movies such as Tomboy and She’s The Man explored different levels of ‘gender confusion’. She’s The Man focused on a comedic take on how girls can be better at football than boys. (Shocking right?)
While we’re on the topic of boys, something I regularly observe is that men who are more feminine and open are apparently assumed to be more comfortable in their sexuality. I think on some level you should be open to the idea that preferences can change. A combination of life experiences and expectations can lead to a change in sexual preference, but this shouldn’t be dictated by a person’s femininity. Why shouldn’t men (and women) act flirtatious and “feminine” if they wish? Or does this further fuel gender stereotypes and bring about ‘gender confusion’?
The media is definitely taking a step in the right direction when it comes to LGBT issues, in my opinion. The education system, I fear, is not. A community group in Manchester were looking to open a LGBT school. Now, for those who are in closed minded societies and have been failed by their schools constantly, this may work. However, this feels too much along the lines of segregation. Bullies in public schools could easily step up their game if they think they can make those who are LGBT leave. I will back acceptance over segregation any day.
I feel a lot of trouble is caused by gender differentiation. If everyone were just more accepting and open minded we wouldn’t have these issues. Such changes could even change Psychology. The NHS defines Gender Dysphoria as when a person experiences discomfort or distress because there is a mismatch between their biological sex and gender identity. But when looking at the signs of such they state:
- A child may refuse to wear typical boys’ or girls’ clothes, or dislike taking part in typical boys’ or girls’ games and activities
- Some may feel so unhappy about social expectations that they live according to their anatomical sex, rather than the gender they feel themselves to be.
“I think there are equal benefits and negatives for a gender-less future… LGBT discrimination wouldn’t be a thing, sexism would theoretically be gone, but we would lose the differentiation, some personality traits, that separate male and female.”
So, without these social expectations and freedom with clothing, could these individuals could live without the diagnosis of Gender Dysphoria? Maybe not but it would be worth experimenting with, compared to trying to diagnose every quirky attribute everyone has. Maybe without such a reliance on labels, associated with sexual preference and gender identity, a lot more people could live in peace without the stresses of wondering “who am I?”