Monthly Archives: May 2011

Quote on a Sungday

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Silence is more musical than any song.

— Christina Rossetti

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The straightjacket of gender

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I originally had something else scheduled for today, but then this article caught my eye on Twitter: a couple in Canada has decided not to disclose the sex of their child to their friends and family. To the parents raising a “genderless” child is a tribute to freedom and choice in place of limitation, a logical continuation from the upbringing they are giving their other two children, two boys, who are allowed to put on a dress or wear their hair in braids if they wish so.

I find the story, and especially the underlying philosophy, incredibly fascinating. I have been giving quite some thought to the whole transgender-debate after the addition of a transgender male-to-female character to one of the fanfictions I’m following caused quite a stir within the fandom – in a positive way. The amount of people writing to the author of the story, thanking her for creating a character which they could relate to, and a positive, accepted character at that, was simply overwhelming.
 


First off, I have nothing for or against transgenders. I cannot understand what would bring a person to make such a huge change in their life, because I have never felt uncomfortable with my gender or my body (to that extent), but I do believe that people should have the freedom to make this decision, to change gender physically, if they wish to do so. This may sound condescending (though that is not the intent) and I might get this all wrong, but I find it similar to getting a boob job or getting tattoo’s all over – you shape your body the way you feel best in it.
That said, I can’t help but wonder if people would be less inclined to match their ‘male’ body to their ‘female’ soul (or vice versa) if society would allow more freedom to the individual to determine the boundaries of their gender. If a man wants to wear skirts, is he a man who likes to wear skirts or is he really a female inside? I realize many transgenders hate their “birth-body”, but do they actually hate the boobs or do they hate what they represent: a symbol that leads your peers to determine what you can and cannot do in terms of expressing yourself?

So imagine that you are not burdened with the presumptions and assumptions that exist in society today, that you don’t need to limit yourself in any way to whichever package of actions, feelings, … is deemed appropriate for the type of body you happened to have been born with. This goes further than buying your baby girl a toy tractor or giving you little son a doll to play with – you eliminate all conscious AND subconscious prejudices and expectations people might have towards your gender: you can wear heels, play football, work as a trucker, take salsa classes as the follower and nobody would bat an eye (note that the aforementioned might be accepted when you were born female, but likely not so much when you are born male). It means a whole new type of freedom…

… and thus also a whole new type of responsibility.

I love the idea. I really, truly love the idea and I honestly believe many people would feel more comfortable with themselves if they didn’t feel the need to restrict themselves to a pre-defined set of actions and feelings which are supposed to go with their gender. However – gender is not just a collection of societal can’s and cannot’s, it is also a biological given, with certain implications and limitations (the average female body cannot develop as much power as the average male body), and it is important to be aware of those (being a female athlete in a male competition would be a very frustrating experience indeed). Allowing overflow of what is deemed appropriate behavior for either gender is not the same as eliminating gender altogether. And however interesting an experiment it would be to study how strong the influence of society on gender identity is exactly, it is still an experiment, and I don’t feel children should be made part of it.

At this point I am tempted to argue that, in a sense, every type of upbringing is an experiment, the outcome of which depends both on the parent(s) and the child(ren) involved. But – raising a gender-less child automatically implies that the gender be kept secret, and secrets are never (rarely) a good thing. It is and will be confusing for the child, if not directly, then through the second-hand confusion it experiences from its peers who will likely not always know how to approach the child. It gives plenty of food for thought on how widespread gender-based preconceptions are, sure, but there should be other ways to have this discussion than letting a child be the instigator.

How (not) to go to the sauna – revisited

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Remember this?

This is Malmö’s kallbadhuset, a sauna-and-bath complex located at the end of a 200m-long pier. Last December, a friend and I thought it would be a neat idea to go to the sauna – it was the middle of winter in Sweden of all places, so it was only fit. The “fun” trip turned out to be a nightmare involving getting lost in a construction site, spraining an ankle, incredible disappointment when we found ourselves before closed doors because of misinformation on the sauna’s websiteand ultimately pleasant surprise when receiving two vouchers for a free sauna visit after complaining about said misinformation. So when a friend of mine came over last weekend, we thought we’d finally cash those vouchers and enjoy an afternoon of bathing.

Turns out…

… the vouchers are for a different place.

See, when we initially looked up the opening hours for the bath house, we actually were looking at the website of ANOTHER bath house, which coincidentally has the same name. But not the same opening hours. So when we found ourselves before closed doors it was not because there were two websites, one of which was not updated, it was BECAUSE THERE ARE 2 BATH HOUSES!

So basically I complained to the second bath house that the first bath house was not open during their hours.

Derp.

Standing in front of the cashier with my totally worthless vouchers, I felt immensely stupid.

We still enjoyed our (paid) visit though. I am used to sauna complexes with literally 10+ types of sauna scattered over a domain, while here there were only 2 sauna’s, and just plenty of room to sunbathe, but the atmosphere of the place is so unique – located almost literally in the middle of the sea, the whole complex gives you a stunning view over the water wherever you are, and it’s such a charming, quiet, peaceful place. In addition, men and women’s sections were separated, which at first I found a bit stupid (and odd… it’s bloody Sweden! they don’t even have separate restrooms!), but which, in strange way, did make the whole experience a whole lot more relaxing. The “best” thing though? Cooling off after the sauna in the sea. There’s nothing quite like a 10ºC (50F) salty bath to arrest your blood flow ;).

I still got 2 free vouchers for a bath house I don’t even know the location of though… .

Quote on a Sungday

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One can survive everything, nowadays, except death.

— Oscar Wilde

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While life was happening outside…

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So this has been my life for the past couple of days weeks. It has been fun and rewarding exhausting, but I have learned a lot:

  • I can function on an average of 3 hours of sleep a night.
  • As long as I have chocolate I do not need any other food.
  • Crystallography is a pain in the ass.

Well, to be honest, I’m not sure about the first two, but trust me on the last one. Don’t go there. Just… don’t.

Hello to you too and hold on to your seats – I am back.