If you listen to National Public Radio you may already know about the show called “All Things Considered.” Today they will tackle the question of whether gender matters. Their promotion includes the voice of a small child who says this: “Sometimes they say I am boy, sometimes they say I a girl, sometimes they say, does it really matter?” Let me say this, Hillary Clinton wants to be the first woman president of the United States, should her “first female” gender make any difference?
Remember the story about the couple that refused to specify a gender on their newborn’s birth certificate? Their reasoning was something about not wanting to “gender-type” their child—but allowing their child to “self gender identify.” Okay, so how do you dress a “gender neutral” child? How do you even describe a “gender neutral” child to family and friends? If it’s not a boy or a girl then what is it? Is it a temporary “it?” There is not enough space in this column to discuss all the issues surrounding gender identification starting with the birth of a child. What we know is that since the creation of mankind there have been two genders, male and female. Whether you believe that God created Adam and Eve or whether you believe that we evolved from fish slime, still there had to be more than one gender for procreation. But procreation and “gender identification” are two different issues.
Let’s start with children in first grade. If a first grader shows up the first day of school and needs to go to the bathroom, which bathroom does a “gender neutral” child go to—boys or girls? What if as the “All Things Considered” preview suggests, a child wants to be a boy one day and a girl the next—how do school administrators handle ordinary things such as accounting for the number of boys and girls in a class—or again, going to the bathroom? Should a child be allowed to flip-flop on “self gender identification?” If it’s just “child’s play,” how long should a child be allowed to postpone permanent gender identification? Should the U. S. Census and jury panels stop asking for one’s gender? What difference does it make it you are male or female for purposes of jury selection? Should a lawyer care whether a juror is male or female? Why should the U. S. Government census care whether a citizen is male or female? Should we get rid of “It’s a Boy” or “It’s a Girl” balloons when a child is born? Should parents stop saying whether their newborns are boys or girls and just say, “Well, let’s just wait and see what he/she chooses?
Beyond silly questions, there is the serious issue of what is it that makes a person “feel” like a girl or “feel” like a boy. How do you know if what you are “feeling” is related to gender identification? How do boys feel inside their “boy skin?” The same goes for girls inside their “girl skins.” There have been scores of stories of individuals who never felt comfortable in the skin of their “obvious gender.” These individuals have eventually had to make a decision to get rid of the “dissonance” of looking like a boy or girl and feeling out of place within that gender. We now have the tabloid case of Bruce Jenner, the former Olympians who, by all accounts is becoming a female. What’s behind this change will no doubt be the subject of a Jenner book that reveals “something” early on that made him feel uncomfortable continuing to live as a man. What about men who cross-dress? What it is about being “essentially female” that drives men to prefer to live in women’s clothing. Things are slightly different for women when it comes to “cross-dressing” because women wear pants and pant suits all the time. A woman can even look stylish, for a while, wearing a suit and tie. Even some women’s shoes, especially loafers, look like men’s shoes. Women simply have the flexibility in so many ways to dress in diverse ways and not appear “obviously male.” Not the case with men. Women can wear very short hair and still look female with make-up and jewelry. But men do not have this same flexibility. A man in a dress and high heels will raise eyebrows period.
So what does it mean to be male or female or boy or girl that makes it troublesome to claim or act otherwise? Are there still “male specific behavior and expectations,” or “female specific behavior and expectations” that each gender must adhere to? Some of the best chefs around are now men. Women now install electric power lines, work on road and bridge construction and drive big rigs. Many men are now entering the nursing field. Women now work in every conceivable profession many of which were formerly exclusive to men. But, is this more about having the “skills for a job” rather than challenging one’s gender identity? When a woman wears a hard-hat on a construction job does this make her “male-ish,” or just complying with workplace safety attire?
So what about the first grader who says, I’m a girl today and I’ll be a boy tomorrow—and what difference does it make? What difference should it make if Hillary becomes the first female president of the United States—so what? If she wins will her “femaleness” present her with a set of challenges and expectations different than a male president? Will she be dubbed an “angry white woman” if she is forceful? What if Bill Clinton becomes, “First Man or First Dude?” How will his role be compared to “First Ladies?” What if he wants to plant a garden? I am not fond of boxing period, but there are some female boxers who can “whup” your butt in a boxing ring landing blows like Sonny Liston. You go girl!—or is the comparison too gender critical? Do female boxers face challenges of being “more masculine” outside the ring? Remember the South African female runner whose “femaleness” was challenged because she blew out the field of female runners. I think she eventually had to submit to some type of male/female hormone testing to prove she was a female. Should we get rid of all male/female sports? Why do we have women playing women in tennis? I want to see Serena Williams and the top male player on the court—or did we already try this with Billy Jean King and Bobby Riggs in November 1973 in their “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match. Billy Jean whipped Riggs’s butt. But we know that was all in “good fun.” So what if a child says, “I’m a boy today, and I’m a girl tomorrow?” Should this be cause for concern—if so by whom?
Copyright 2015 – L. Arthalia Cravin. All rights Reserved. No part of this commentary may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the author.