A new perspective on gender


Emily Girard

I want to be a cisgender guy for a day.

I want to hitch a ride in the brain of somebody who was raised as a man, just to see how they navigate the world. Because even though I was raised as a woman, I didn’t think we were that different. Now, I don’t know.

Over the past few years, I’ve been trying to figure out my gender identity. I’ve always been unsure about it, so I finally decided to try and see where I fit in the gender binary — if I even fit in at all. That led me to need more information. What does it mean to be a man? What does it mean to be a woman? How do different genders feel inside, carry themselves, interact with the world? This seemed like a basic concept. It was very much not.

(Also, for the record, the conversation is going to get very binary from here on out. I apologize for this.)

I have always been a black and white person. If something makes sense to me, I expect it to make sense to others, too. I realize that this doesn’t always work. Everyone’s different, after all. I also realize that my moral code hasn’t really changed since I was five. Be nice to people. Stand up for people who are different and people who are getting bullied. Listen.

I thought everyone learned this and decided to stick with it, like me. I also had a vague idea of gender roles, and that men and women were taught to value different things as they grew up. However, I didn’t think they deviated from the basics: respect, tolerance, patience, understanding. They’re good principles, after all. Why would someone stop acting on them?

I used to think that whenever someone interrupted someone else, it was always an accident. Someone just got too excited about what they had to say or thought it was their turn to speak or wanted to say something before their thought became irrelevant. But when that happens, I thought everyone stopped, apologized and let the other person finish, because obviously everyone’s voice is valuable, no matter who they are. Now, I’m seeing women talk about how they’ve started talking directly over men when they interrupt them, because it’s happened to them so much they’ve run out of patience.

I’ve lost count of how many times my parents have told me to get out of people’s way, to be aware of where my body is in space. Now, I’m seeing women count the times they’ve been knocked aside by men on the street who, for whatever reason, refuse to get out of their way.

A few months ago, I watched “Miss Congeniality” with my roommates, and the relationship between the two main characters always confused me. Sandra Bullock had just spent two hours being insulted by the “Law and Order” guy, and suddenly they were kissing. My roommate, who has worked in the male-dominated materials engineering field for several years, noticed my confusion and explained that, up until now, he was just treating her like he would his male colleagues. This type of banter is typical, they said.

Banter? I thought. That’s not banter. Banter is when you make fun of your friend for forgetting to put in their contacts for the fourth day in a row, and then they say that at least they have the common sense not to eat week-old tater tots out of the fridge and give themselves food poisoning. Then you both laugh because those little mistakes are funny to talk about, and you know you love each other.

Mr. Law and Order told Sandra Bullock her teeth were mainly composed of beer stains and steak residue and then complimented her breasts. That is not banter. That lawyer would be getting disbarred real quick if he said that to me.

At the end of June, I wrote an opinion about recent Supreme Court actions. Considering that I was coming off a panic attack when I wrote it, it never developed much depth. Just a lot of confusion and plans to move north. I also brought up empathy. My relationship with empathy has been complicated, but I am pretty sure I have a lot of it. Is that because of how I was raised? I don’t know. I didn’t think the basic ability to understand people, even people who are different from you, was gender-exclusive.

The majority of current Supreme Court justices are men. I’m not saying that the way these men were raised allowed them to limit their empathy enough to live with their decision to severely limit women’s bodily autonomy. The prospect is so ludicrous to me that it sounds impossible.

I’m not sure what this ramble is meant to do. Maybe if anyone reading this was raised male, this could give you a perspective of another side of the world you never experienced directly. Some of you are probably rolling your eyes at me right now. You were raised as a girl for over twenty years, and you’re just now picking up on this? And yes, I can be dense at times. But maybe the problem isn’t just me. After all, how can these trends be so prevalent in society, and yet it takes an only slightly sheltered young adult twenty years to understand them?

I’m still trying to figure out the true depth of my own upbringing. I don’t know what the future holds for the next generation — if there even will be a next generation and the earth doesn’t burn up before we get the chance to reproduce. What I do know is that, if everything I have said is true, we need to nip this issue in the bud and start raising everyone the same way. Maybe some real progress will be made for once.