Gender roundup of awesome TED talks

Recently I’ve watched some really inspiring and thoughtful TED talks about gender, because I like thinking about it and hearing narratives from people all over the gender spectrum. These TED speakers run the gamut. I especially love that cispeople question this stuff also in connection to their (or their children’s) gender variance.

“Why am I so gay?” by Thomas Lloyd. Discusses how we lose a significant part of ourselves by suppressing our self-expression, and why it’s important to him to be visible. Suppressing his “gay” mannerisms takes too much “creative energy”, which probably most people reading this blog can relate to (if not “gay” mannerisms, then whatever gender-variance you may exhibit).

“Hey Doc, some boys are born girls.” by Decker Moss. Touches upon mourning a lost boyhood by being coerced into girlhood, as well as losing a part of his identity as a fraternal twin. Also about internalizing his feelings and hiding them from the world, when his twin could pick up on it. His connection to his sister is incredibly sweet.

“Gender Fluidity” by Gabrielle Burton. A straight cisgendered mother describes coming into awareness that she herself sometimes enforces gender norms on her children, and goes on to open her mind and heart in the sweetest way. PARENTS TAKE NOTE THIS LADY IS SUPER.

“Beyond the Gender Binary” by Yee Won Chong. All the practical reasons that trans* individuals face: voter ID laws, navigating restrooms, social justice in the eyes of a non-white trans* individual. Also seeking political asylum for LGBTQ protection, and their relationship with their mother.

“Understanding the complexities of gender” by Sam Killermann. Cis-male white upper-middle class straight people are at the top of the totem pole, right? Even this comedian/spoken-word artist, who falls under those categories (more-or-less), speaks out against how restrictive society is in policing gender. He’s funny and well-spoken and really smart.

“How You Know You’re in Love: Epigenetics, Stress & Gender Identity” by Karissa Sanbonmatsu. She is a scientist slash transwoman who knows her genetics. She does a really good job explaining epigenetics to non-scientists, so don’t be intimidated. It doesn’t matter if you don’t remember your basic biology, it’ll be interesting and entertaining trust me. At one point she speaks Klingon.

Advertisements

A gender rebel’s gotta do what a gender rebel’s gotta do.

I’ve been doing some mindfulness stuffs, as part of a new years resolution I’m undertaking with a friend to meditate and/or do yoga regularly. As a naturally anxious person, I tend to just stew with the thoughts in my head, and most of them are pretty mean. For anyone who is curious, I personally like the super straightforward interface of calm.com for relaxing background sounds and a timer; there are also guided meditations. Nothing spiritual or touchy-feely. Just you doing you, for 2-30 minutes. (If you do 2 minutes nobody will judge you. But it’s awesome, seriously.)

The meditation I try to do is about being gentle on myself and letting myself feel the things I feel. That’s the only reason I’m still thinking, “Okay. Let’s explore this whole gender bullshit.”

I started with dresses, and then cut my hair, and then slowly stopped wearing dresses except when necessary, and then started binding, and then started experimenting with men’s clothing, and now most of my clothing is men’s. It’s a weird progression and has really thrown me off.

When I cut my hair into a pixie cut, I thought that’d be okay. But then suddenly my feminine clothing seemed too feminine in juxtaposition; so I tried styling my hair “pixie” but wound up giving up on that and letting it go androgynous. Then I tried androgynizing my clothing and it felt good. Every step seemed to get me closer to recognizing myself in the mirror. I started exploring how comfortable I am being perceived in different ways. I’m sure I was perceived as ugly at some points along this path; I didn’t like that. I wanted to flirt and be acknowledged. It’s shallow, I know, but I can’t help it. I’m sure i was perceived as confused. I didn’t like that either. I want to be seen as a secure adult, and I’m such a long way off from that.

The reason I feel the need to explore gender is that with this progression has led me through anxiety and depression to a point where I can live with myself, where I more or less recognize myself. So I don’t know if this is where I’m settling down, as an androgynous female with very open views of stuff, or if I need to go further.

I want to know now. I don’t want to wait 6 years to figure things out. But for now, things are getting better, and as a side project to my life it’s not half bad. So maybe I’ve reached the end of the road; but I need to see this through.

I like a few things now: 1) I attract open-minded friends (or repel the closed-minded ones). 2) I am treated as an equal by guy friends and find it easy to be myself around them. I think they think of me as a lesbian but I’m not shy to disclose my mixed dating preferences. So I guess that’s all cool, and maybe I’ve settled down in a place that feels good for now.

If I keep saying to myself, “This is stupid. I’m so foolish and selfish for going down this path; people must know I’m in a quarter-life crisis…” then I’ll never see the end of this road. No, I have to be nice to myself. I’m not stupid or foolish. I’m me. And I am not the most graceful at life but it’s my life to be not graceful at!!

I’ve pushed through a lot of discomfort to get here. When I sly-ly began exploring everything by wearing a men’s t-shirt here and a sports bra there, I had intense anxiety about wearing it in public. But I pushed through. And I feel myself walking taller, feeling prouder, being lighter. And still, I feel I have a ways to go.

A gender rebel’s gotta do what a gender rebel’s gotta do.

“Where the bois are” in NYMagazine evokes conflicting feelings, leaves much unanswered

This article about boi culture in NYMagazine is a really interesting read. Although this article covers a subculture that’s filling an important niche in the queer world, this article seems very dismissive and negative to me. Let’s see what lovely truth-nuggets this reporter has uncovered for us!

First off it’s funny when reporters delve into a subculture.

Secondly, the ageism here is really interesting, as is the rejection of queer politics while at the same time embodying the very same gender-defiance that was made possible by a previous generation of gender-rule-breaking women/womyn.

Boihood has nothing to do with earth mothers or sisterhood or herbal tea, and everything to do with being young, hip, “sex positive,” a little masculine, and ready to rock.

Also note how “sex positive” is in quotes: it’s not political sex positivity; it’s sex positivity in a perpetual-teenager sense.

Some hypothetical questions off the top of my head: Is it a positive thing to have this culture where you no longer have to be militantly political 24/7, this sense that most enemies of LGBT society are vanquished? Or is it an excuse to act like kids even into adulthood because growing up is just too hard? Does it come from a positive environment surrounding LGBT acceptance, or is it a result of a negative youth-oriented age-ist culture? Is it a redefinition of female masculinity in the same way effeminate men redefine masculinity? Or is it brattiness?

As one butch interviewed for the article said:

What’s new is seeing these kids who really seem to be striving for a certain kind of juvenilia, not just masculinity. They really want to be kids. This hit me when I saw this girl—this boi, I guess—barreling out of a store in Chelsea in huge, oversize jeans, a backpack, and a baseball cap pulled down low. And she was running as if she were late for the school bus . . . Her whole aura was so completely rough-and-tumble 8-year-old that I wouldn’t have been surprised if she had a slingshot in one pocket and a frog in the other.

Whether or not it’s necessarily a bad thing to reject “adult” queer culture is debatable. There does seem to be a flexibility in gender roles that is refreshing: some bois date butches, some date femmes, some date other bois, some transition and use male pronouns, some remain female-identified. It’s become non-political in terms of feminism and homosexuality, but in terms of gender they seem to be filling the spectrum from male to female and bridging the gender gap.

The article seems to have found “one of each” bois with douchey views: one that uses misogynistic rhetoric like “bros before hos”, one that is against transgender bois, one that thinks boi-on-boi or butch-on-butch is gross and that likewise femme-on-femme is “air”, one that thinks “butch-femme” is stupid. They also found a femme who is fed up with bois because of her perception that they represent the feminization of butch women.

Maybe this is a product of too many conflicting expectations put on people within the LGBT community, and a young generation even less concerned with rules and politics than their predecessors. The biggest take-away from this article for me was this subculture is about subverting the binary, generally: masculine-of-center dykes don’t have to be macho butch anymore, and male-identified people don’t have to medically transition anymore. But the other take-away is that this culture is associated with exclusion, artsiness, youth, insolence, and lack of respect for others, which seems to do a disservice to non-binary people who are older, more political, more butch, more femme, more traditional, less traditional, less promiscuous.

This article never purported to seek out a representative sample of lesbians, but it never made clear that not all young LGBT people are like this and that this subculture is a luxury in cities such as NYC and San Fran where politics have become so progressive as to render gay rights virtually obsolete, attracting LGBT youth to a scene promising an escape from the gravity of being outsiders in a heteronormative world.

And at the end of the day, having a less-masculine-yet-still-potentially-male-identified subculture is awesome: people female assigned at birth who transition/don’t transition but identify as male don’t have to prove their masculinity? Awesome!! It’ll be interesting to see how this movement evolves with time and becomes more age-inclusive.

What are your thoughts?

Trans* individuals reveal sexism in the work place

This article about people who transitioned after years in the workplace, tackles a really important issue: sexism in the workplace that is subtle enough that, even if you’re read as female, you won’t notice it unless something drastic happens… such as transitioning and experiencing being read as male.

Some quotes from the article (emphasis mine):

I have had the thought a million times: I am taken more seriously.

 

When I was a woman, no matter how many facts I had, people were like, ‘Are you sure about that?’ It’s so strange not to have to defend your positions.

 

I used to be considered aggressive… Now I’m considered ‘take charge.’ People say, ‘I love your take-charge attitude.’

 

And from an MTF trans* person:

Men are assumed to be competent until proven otherwise, whereas a woman is assumed to be incompetent until she proves otherwise.

The article considers the increase in confidence a person experiences when going from presenting at the gender assigned at birth to their true gender, and offers a reason as to why this might not be why transmen are treated better after transition:

Indeed, some suggest that transmen might experience these workplace benefits partly because, post-transition, they are happier and more comfortable, and that this confidence leads to greater workplace success. But if that’s the case, one would expect that transwomen, armed with this same newfound confidence, would see benefits. The opposite seems to be true.

 

Aha! We got you, sexism!

The article does note that if an FTM individual is black, being read as a black male is not always a positive change. Racism: the only card that trumps sexism.

———

Read the article in its entirety to read about why one transwoman chooses not to speak up, and why these researchers believe this is the last chance to do this kind of research on gender with individuals who transition later in life.