What do you think gender is?

Shaniqua gives you a snapshot of the conversation at The Kickback in November when we were talking about Gender Identity.

The Kickback on the 19th November saw us sitting down to talk about Gender Identity, as suggested by Kris.  Although Kris couldn’t be at the event, he sent through some questions that were used as part of the conversation.

I started by asking everyone what they think gender is, which immediately got us into deep thinking mode.  Rhianna thought it was the sex of a person and Zhanai thought it was traditional male or female.  However, Elisha said, “[It’s] in yourself sort of thing, to know your identity really well… I think it goes a lot deeper.”

Zhanai then asked, “On your birth certificate, does it say sex?” to which we answered yes, which led to her adapting her response and changing her stance on what gender is.  “Now there’s so many genders… It’s not what you’re born as anymore, it’s what you decide to be,” she said.  Nalma backed this up by saying, “It’s gotten confusing, there’s so many names.”

Sachelle then posed the question, “You have your gender on the outside, but what happens with what’s going on on the inside as well?”  This linked to something I shared about a friend of mine who is transgender and said that he doesn’t feel it’s what is between his legs that makes him a man.

Zhanai later shared that she had been called a tomboy in the past and went on to say, “I want to know where the jump is from being a tomboy to wanting to be a man.” She also added that the terms tomboy and girly girl are just for girls, but “what was a boy playing with a Barbie called?”

As we spoke more about so-called gender roles and gender norms, I asked what femininity and masculinity meant to those in attendance. Jai said, “The word feminine isn’t in my vocabulary… I exist to blur lines.” Zhanai also shared that she hates the word feminine, as “it makes you sound so vulnerable and so weak… Men get put down for acting to feminine.”

I expressed that I thought the terms masculine and feminine have been abused, and Andrae made an interesting point of asking, “What is masculine and feminine? Who decided that? I think it’s man-made – everything can be changed over time.”

Rhianna then went on to ask, “In languages, why are words masculine and feminine?” Jai responded by saying that languages are old and we’re not, which led to us speaking about how many old ideals and customs we are still following and living by in this present day.

We spoke about the how the mindset of guys on road is funnily old-fashioned but with a modern twist, using the example of people saying that guys should be on the road and women should be doing a 9 to 5. Zhanai added that doing road is seen as a masculine thing, and I brought up how I had a guy who was doing road asking me to let him take care of me, which seemed to come down to him spending money on me while I sat in his house waiting around for him.

The next question I put forward was: How would you teach your child to think about their own gender? I said that I wouldn’t have a conversation with my child about gender unless it explicitly came up, but Jai made the great point of saying, “You need to have conversations with your children, otherwise society will mould your child.”

Zhanai added that you need to have certain conversations with your child in regards to their gender – “My mum needed to talk to me about the menstrual cycle, otherwise I’d be offering boys a pad or a tampon.” I was in agreeance with both of their points and said that I would have necessary conversations in regards to my children’s gender, but I wouldn’t go deep into the identity conversation until they brought it up.

When I went on to ask if you should be legally forced to use someone’s desired pronoun in work, school etc, the responses were varied. Rhianna said, “I’m not doing it,” and Elisha said, “I guess.” Zhanai expressed, “I think you should respect people. It’s not gonna hurt my mouth saying it.”

However, we also felt that the level of respect should work both ways and those that are non-binary shouldn’t lash out in anger by jumping down the throats of those who may mistakenly call them by the wrong pronoun – they should take the time to explain it. Zhanai backed up the point brilliantly by explaining to us that her identity is Zhanai, but she doesn’t “jump up and get angry” at people for saying her name wrong.

My final question was: How do we break down gender prejudices? Rhianna responded by saying it’s about changing within yourselves and passing it down to the next generation, which was the same thought process as Zhanai. “I won’t pass on gender stereotypes to my children,” said Sachelle.

I shared that I think it’s about breaking down gender stereotypes we’ve put in place, but doing it respectfully while having honest and thoughtful dialogue. We all want to get to a place of equality, respect and rights for all, but this seems to be getting more skewed the more we try to carve out our place in society. Jai made the interesting point of saying, “The thing is, we fought so hard for equal rights that now we don’t want to be equal, we want to be better.”

I just hope we can come to a place where we can respect everyone and live on an equal level, regardless of gender, sex or any other label that we put on ourselves, or is put on us. I’d honestly prefer if we could do away with labels altogether, and as Jai said, “Most people don’t want to label themselves.”

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