A long time ago, and sometimes in my lifetime, there were very rigid sets of expectations for how men and women must behave. It applied to what types of clothing were acceptable in public, occupations (except in war time because there’s no rules during war time apparently), who did what with their children, hobbies, etc. Sometimes there were outliers, but in general, these rules were forced upon everyone both socially and by the law.
Thankfully I was born well after that nonsense mostly stopped. I have never fit into the box labeled “girl” no matter how hard my parents tried to mold me into the shape of that box. For years I didn’t even care and there wasn’t much that peer pressure could about me. Later on I wanted friends and boys suddenly wouldn’t be my friend anymore around middle school. It was like they thought people would think we were dating and they didn’t like me like that. It was a rough time. I had very few friends and felt lonely all the time. My brother was my best friend and the only person I hung out with regularly.
I had good friends later on in high school that didn’t fit into the neat little box of “boy” either. They liked the theatre and singing. They loved chick flicks and hated action movies. Sometimes their fathers were embarrassed of these less than manly sons and sometimes they didn’t seem to care. It never made much sense to me that these boys were expected to be something they didn’t want to be, just as I was expected to be something I wasn’t.
But why? And why do we continue to have such narrow ideas about what people are supposed to do and be, even if they can wear whatever they want? Well, supposedly they can, but some people can’t help but stare at anyone who doesn’t fit into a neat box.
And this is where non-binary comes in. I see that there are many Gen Z people who have come out as non-binary. I personally know a couple. They feel mostly androgynous in that they would not define themselves as male or female. This is definitely how I felt as a little kid, once I was told enough times that I was not a little boy. Well, if I’m not a boy and I am not a girl, what am I and why does it even matter?
I think that the world around us is so quick to push us into our gender boxes before we are even born, that we lose the opportunity to figure out what our gifts are and what types of things make us happy. Is there anything wrong with children playing with toys while wearing clothes in a size that fits them so they can be safe and not get hung up on things? Who cares what colors the toys or clothes are? Why doesn’t it even matter? I have read various articles about parents working hard to keep their child’s life as gender neutral as possible when they are young and there’s always a ton of comments about how it’s cruel to not tell the child exactly what they are gender-wise.
That actually makes no sense to me. This tiny person-to be in the uterus is completely unknown to everyone. This tiny person might like to be swaddled tightly or this tiny person wants their legs free to kick and move around. This tiny person may hate the way water feels on their skin a lot longer than other babies. This tiny person may love music or they may hate it. This tiny person may be a great sleeper and fall asleep easily every night and go right back to sleep after midnight feedings. Or not. Every tiny person is born with lots of these preferences already set and the adults in their life will have to figure it out by trial and error.
At a gender reveal party, people cut into pink or blue cakes, light some weird firecracker that has blue or pink shoot out of it, hit something that explodes win pink or blue, open a box with pink or blue balloons coming out of it, or any number of other really silly ideas about how to reveal whether this baby is a boy or girl. There is no other option, even though genetics does present other options where chromosomes are arranged differently. Babies are born intersex and sometimes doctors pressure parents into making decisions about which way they want the baby to go, without ever asking the baby what they think they are. The child gets no choice.
As a young teenager, I realized that I was a “freak” who didn’t fit in. I chose to play trumpet because I didn’t want to play a “girly” instrument like flute or clarinet. I wore the most boyish girls’ clothes I could find. I begged for blue things like my bike, clothing, and shoes. I asked for Christmas presents that were just neutral things like video games, music, and even toys that weren’t so neutral like that racetrack I never got. I started to notice that the girls around me weren’t asking for those things and didn’t care about that stuff anymore. They were reading teen magazines, trying makeup, and stuffing clothes into their school bag that they bought with their babysitting money and changed into at school, but changed out of before they went home. None of that mattered to me and I couldn’t find anyone else who was not into that kind of thing.
Why does it matter if there’s binary? Why does it matter what gender someone is to wear makeup or lipstick? Why are skirts only for “girls”? Why does it seem to be a majority of older people that have such a problem with this? Why are they the ones who feel like they must inform Elliot Page that he’s a woman? Why can’t they just scroll on past something they don’t want to read and just dismiss it from their life? What is the payoff in “correcting” someone who has determined that they are not boy or girl? Why does that hurt anyone else? Why does anyone care how anyone else identifies?
I’ll tell you why…because it disrupts the power dynamic. If women can become passable men and men can become passable women, does that mean any man could become a woman, which is the worst possible thing for misogynistic, toxically male men? If transmen exist, and are given the same respect as men, what stops any woman from suddenly turning into a man and taking away the power of cis white men? And what about men who transition into women who “trick” a man into having feeling for her? Then this man sleeps with another man who looks like a woman and that just isn’t ok. That makes him “weak”, “gay”, and tricked into something he didn’t want.
And the non-binary…that’s the most threatening of all. If you can’t tell if someone is male or female, then how will you know if you should marginalize them or respect them as an equal? How do you know who you can have sex with? How do you know if you get to objectify them? And if someone is born to have breasts, why would they want to cut them off because don’t they want men to enjoy them? Why don’t these women want to appeal to men sexually? What happens if they don’t want to be bothered with doing what it takes to be sexually desired by men? What happens if men run out of women to objectify and use to gain sexual gratification?
In the military I ran into many types of men, some awesome and some toxic as hell. I would say it’s pretty much a 50/50 split. There was a spectrum of the toxic ones, though. Some where mildly toxic when surrounded by mostly males and others were extremely toxic, often leaving me wondering how they were even married. Most of these men because sexually starved on deployments and spent their time ranking women they saw walking around, just trying to live life. And they made it part of their fun to objectify these women and act as if these women existed only for them to fantasize about. Women who don’t fit in as women are a threat, just as men who don’t wish to assume their role as men. And not knowing exactly what someone is is the biggest threat of all.