Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Bullying is bullying, gender aside

And the Fairbanks North Star Borough School Board recognized this last night at their meeting, with all four members present speaking in support of including gender identification its nondiscrimination and harrassment policies.
The issue was brought to the committee’s attention when a high school administrator and school counselor said students had raised concerns of bullying and harassment toward other students who might be questioning their gender identity.

The current policy addresses sexual orientation but not gender identity — which are two separate issues, according to Gayle Pierce, labor relations director for the district.
Unfortunately, a few of the News-Miner's bloggers seem to think that the issue is one of "social engineering," or that gender identity is the same thing as homosexuality, or that it encourages kids to have sex.

Nope. The issue is one of bullying, harrassment, physical and verbal abuse. And that is simply not acceptable behavior. It puts the people engaging in it on the level of pigeons or chickens, making them dumb, brutal clucks. It demeans them and their victims, hurts people, and NOT addressing bullying allows this very bad behavior to flourish.

Gender identity is very important in our society, but gender is not, as I've said before, a simple black/white, male/female issue. Gender is a continuum, both physically and mentally, and a complex of physical traits and hormones and emotional, psychological, and spiritual facets. It's just not always a simple thing.

Take me, for instance. I am a woman with a slight moustache and developing beard. I don't like the beard (really a goatee), but I do like my rather feminine moustache. So I tend to shave my chin hairs and leave my upper lip hairs. But I don't do it every day, and, you know, hair grows. Every once in a while, some little kid looks me dead in the eye and asks me, "Are you a girl or a boy?" or they point to my face and say, with surprise or glee or shock, "You've got a moustache!" It's a bit refreshing. Kids, little kids, just blurt out the questions. Grownups pretend they don't see anything different, and either avert their eyes and shun me, or simply accept me, or--after they've known me for a while--hesitantly come out and ask me why I don't shave or get electrolysis or whatever. (Women are the ones who tend to do this, and then frequently try to convince me that really, it would be so much more attractive/civilized/better/nicer if I did shave.)

So I answer the kids by explaining that I'm a woman, and that some women have hair on their faces, but that most of them shave it off, and I just don't feel like it. It's no big deal. But for them, the identifying factor on maleness or femaleness is hair (and whether one has an outie or an innie, to quote a poster on the News-MIner blog). But it gets confusing when one has both, or one's reactions and feelings and hormonal shifts seem to match one official gender but one's body parts or way of moving or something else matches the other official gender. There is tremendous pressure to choose one of the two official genders, and to stick to the rather narrow parameters of that official gender. For some, this is right. For others, like me, we buck a trend by being just a tiny bit--or hugely--ambiguous.

1 comment:

Arvay said...

Bravo. I wish more people would be comfortable living "ambiguously" instead of feeling the need to conform to what society tells them their biological gender should look or act like. And to be frank, I wish fewer people felt the need for sex change operations. I mean, if you're a man who likes ballet, is attracted to other men, wants to wear women's clothes, or whatever else, what's wrong with that? Why have a risky surgery to have a body part cut off, and then take risky hormonal therapy, just so you can make your body match your brain? Isn't it much easier and healthier to decide that you're quite fine the way your are, thankyouverymuch? Much better to have a society that accepts men who like ballet, are attracted to other men, wear women's clothes, etc. Then you can just stay the way you are.