Tag Archives: parents

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.

You know you have neglected your blog for way too long when…

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… you can’t remember your username to log in to WordPress :o.

It is a serious crime, I am well aware.

It might of course have to do with the fact that my sleep pattern is heavily disturbed lately (so I pulled 2 allnighters in a row. what? there’s so much STUFF on this internet-thing), or the fact that I’m stressing out about my beloved PhD-work which has still not been published and because of which I may or may not be scooped by a Japanese group (don’t they have more urgent stuff on their mind? like a melting nuclear plant?) (and shouldn’t I have finished this ages ago instead of blaming the Japanese and trolling the internet?).

It may also have to do with the fact that my parents are coming to visit tomorrow. That’s good, right? I mean, I haven’t seen them since January. Damn, I have barely heard them. Literally. I called once to wish my dad a happy birthday. That was it.

I have called my parents once in over 3 months.

Now, I’m one of those forgetful people. Out of sight out of mind, you know. It’s not that I am so busy or I got a lot on my mind. I don’t (I should, though). It’s just… I get easily distracted. So yes, when you don’t contact me, chances are there’s not gonna be contact at all. Working quite unsuccessfully on that one, I promise.

So my parents call me. Biweekly, more or less, I’d say. Or well, they used to. The reason for that? Well…

I mean, of course, me and my mum… we’ve never been best friends. Something, somewhere went wrong, I don’t even know what, ’cause really, we’re both nice people. And we’re a lot alike, I hear. But I guess we’re just too different on those little things that really matter. And it doesn’t work. Her and me. Of course, the fact she didn’t talk to me for 3 months when I confessed my relationship with T didn’t help. We’re doing better now, but still… not BFFs. That and I’m not sure she knows how to work Skype yet.
My dad on the other hand… he is was my hero. He’s like… MY DAD. I know you’re not really supposed to have this admiration for your dad when you’re 29 years old, but I do did. As with my mum, I’m actually not really sure why this came to be, but I guess my dad’s just this cool guy, who’s a DIY-expert and helps me out and just generally supports me whatever I do.

So in short – my dad doesn’t call anymore. Because he is very well aware he’s lost his hero-status.

Last December, my dad was given a pacemaker because he has been… fainting, I guess. It appears his heart just… stops… once in a while, causing him to faint. It only happened 3 or 4 times, but when you know one of those times he was driving, you know something needed to be done. Hence, after many tests and checks: pacemaker.
And then, in January, he had another car accident. Let me align some facts on this particular incident.

  • it was a total loss
  • I was e-mailed (!) about this almost a week after it happened
  • although my dad admitted to having drunk ‘some’, he made it appear as if the main suspected cause was his heart

This already pissed me of, but only now we’re coming to the fun part

  • he had almost 4 times the allowed amount of alcohol in his blood

Now, I’m not sure I have mentioned this before, but I have a BIG problem with alcohol abuse. I cannot deal with drunk people. I simply cannot. I see no reason to spend a lot of money on an excuse to act irresponsibly and not remember any of it. And be proud of it, at that. I don’t even know why I feel so strongly about this topic, and I don’t really want to go into this here either, so let’s just keep it at that: I am strongly opposed to alcohol abuse.

(Between you and me, I’ve long maintained I feel my dad has an alcohol problem. He drinks on a daily basis, several glasses, and he gets cranky if for some reason he cannot have his drink at night. It’s the one flaw (that, and the fact he smokes. secretly.) I have had trouble with, but nobody shared my opinion – my dad was just a social drinker (really? while watching tv on his own?) and had it under control.)

And then my dad goes and crashes his car in the middle of the night having close to 2 promilles of alcohol in his blood. That should NOT happen. It míght happen to an 18-year old going out for the first time and (terribly) misjudging his/her alcohol intake, but that is about as far as I’m willing to take it. No excuse. At. All.

Especially not if you try to cover it up as if it had a different cause.
And you don’t mention it for a week.

I’m overreacting. I know I am. But I just cannot read an e-mail from my dad anymore without thinking “you ass”. I cannot think of him without my blood starting to boil. I can’t look forward to their visit, to show them around in my life here and have dinner together because I don’t know what I’m gonna do if he orders a beer to go with the meal. As if the whole picture of my dad has crumbled and fallen apart and there’s nothing left.

“Who’s this guy and what has he done to my dad?”

I don’t know how to deal with this. I don’t want to mess up my parents’ visit by being a moaning jerk. But I don’t want to let it slip and pretend nothing’s wrong either.

I’m picking them up at the airport tomorrow morning at 8h30. Between that and passing by the lab before, I have some 3 hours of sleep left. I better get to it, or I will be too tired to be able to play pretend even if I wanted to ;).