Thursday, April 22, 2010

On Zucker

Kenneth Zucker is probably one of my least favorite people on the planet. I dislike his ideas about trans people, but more than that I hate what he gets away with doing to children. If you're not aware- he takes trans kids and forces them into the most rigid hetero/cisnormative gender roles that many cisgendered kids aren't expected to fit into these days.

It is completely backwards thinking. "Boys can't play with Barbie, girls can't play with GI Joe". What century are we in?! So what if a boy wants to wear pink? So what if a girl likes her hair short? Can someone please provide me with proof that children are scarred for life, utterly traumatized by being allowed to play with the toys they like?

The idea might be based on the studies that show that kids who show transgender tendencies don't necessarily grow up to be trans. My first question here is "maybe we can't actually identify when people are transgendered". Plenty of therapists still think that any trans woman who shows an interest in sex is just a fetishist (because, as we know, women are celibate creatures who never want sex), any trans person who's willing to have sex in their body is considered not "trans enough" by some therapists. For all we know, half the kids we say have "transgendered tendencies" aren't transgendered (or, at least, not transsexual) at all even at that age and there are plenty of kids who don't show "transgendered tendencies" who are, but the "experts" can't really tell which is which.

I was an extremely femme thing growing up. I had stereotypically "male" interests as well as stereotypically "female" interests, but I'm pretty sure that if I had been born in an assigned-male body everyone would have assumed I was a trans woman (well, everyone who knows what trans women are). It is possible that I would have gone along with people saying I'm a girl because my interests are associated with girls- but as soon as I got a better grasp on what gender is, I pushed away from it as much as I could. Now, yes, I am transgendered. But not in the way you'd expect. In fact, most people would probably have assumed I was cisgendered because my interests and assigned-sex matched up. If I had expressed that I was transgender as a child, most "experts" like Zucker would be completely confused. "But this isn't a child who thinks it's a boy- it's playing with barbies!" (I'm talking about myself here- so don't bitch about pronouns)

Accepting Dad came up with a list of tendencies that tomgirls, gender variant boys who may not identify as transgender, show. In another post he also makes a good point that when young kids insist they're [gender] it doesn't necessarily mean the same thing that it would to a 12 year old or adult. Young kids don't always understand the complexities of gender the same way we do- they may assume that the toys and and clothes are gender. A lot of adults buy into the idea that only girls like dolls (so anyone who likes dolls must be a girl)- why couldn't kids fall into the same idea?

I also really don't like the idea that letting a kid grow up to be trans is a horrible thing. It just further "others" us. It implies that being trans is so awful that it's better to emotionally torment your child than risk letting them grow up to be trans (or risk letting htem grow up knowing their parents accept them for who they are. We all know that's horribly scarring).

Trying to figure out what bathroom to use sucks, the lack of social acceptance (note: this isn't my issue, they have an issue with me that's actually more about misinformation than me) is disgusting, etc. But I like my gender. I like the 3rd-party perspective I have on gender roles, I like the open-mindedness I have that I attribute at least partly to being trans, I like the challenge of trying to find gender neutral language and the freedom of having no expected roles attached to my gender. Hell, some days I even like the freedom that comes with knowing I can't pass as my gender (seriously- when did you last walk down the street, see someone, and think "Neutrois"?) that means I don't have to spend time angsting about what I'm doing wrong that I can't pass and can just wear what I want.

I don't want to be a girl and I don't want to be a boy. I tried one and hten I tried the other. That didn't work. If someone were to "cure" my transgenderism, they'd be "curing" a giant chunk of my personality away. I can respect "trans" people who consider themselves, post-op, to no longer be trans- that works for them. Sure, no problem, be what you wanna be. But when I'm not bogged down in intolerance, which is an external force, I actually like how I turned out. And a chunk of how that happened is from being trans. So, no, I don't want to be "cured". And I don't really like the idea that I should have been cured, or that I could have been cured, or that I'm worse off for being who I am. I really don't like the idea that "allowing" your child to be trans is the worst thing you could do!

But I'm not opposed to the possibility of gender/sexuality/etc changing over time. It doesn't happen for everyone, there are plenty of people who have a static gender/sexuality/etc for their entire life, but there are people who do change for whatever reason. I don't think you can will yourself to change, I've never seen it done (though I've seen plenty of people try their damned hardest). I don't think the possibility of it changing denies the validity of what it is now. If we insist that "you might change later" is a valid reason that you can't know yourself now, then we'll only be able to know who people are when they're on their death bed! Think about that for a minute- going through your entire life having to say that you don't know what pronouns you prefer or who you're attracted to because "they might change later". Bad idea.

On AVEN, an asexuality website, a common complaint was that "young asexuals shouldn't be allowed to say they're asexual because they might just be late bloomers". I can understand the logic- but I don't like it. There's a couple of problems. 1.If a girl their age thinks she's heterosexual, no one will say "oh- you're too young to know!", why can't we know? 2. How old is "old enough"? 3. A few of the people on that forum used to be sexual and are now asexual, but they're allowed to say they're asexual now. 4. Right now they are asexual for all intents and purposes. They aren't sexually attracted to anyone. They face the same problems asexuals face. They face the same feeling of non-belonging, the same wondering if they're broken, the same pressure to be something they aren't, many of the same relationship problems. The fact that, in a few years, they might experience sexual attraction doesn't change what they experience now. Should we really deny them support now just because they might not need it later?

And it's the same with these kids. Yeah, they might not be "true" trans people. Of course, they might not even be "true" trans people right now, we just assume they are because anything that isn't 100% gender conforming must be trans. They might even grow up to be the most hetero/cis-normative people on the planet. They might just grow up to be cisgendered, but still prefer that sort of presentation. Or they might grow up to be trans. But in the mean time- what harm does it do to let them play with the toys they want? If letting your son play with barbies and have long hair makes him happy, is it worth the risk to throw him into depression or force him to lie to you just so that you can feel like you're trying to make him "normal"? Even if you live in an area where you literally can't allow your child to show gender non-conformity for their own safety, there are ways to let your kid know that their parents love and accept them for who they are.

I don't think we should assume people will change. It's probably more likely that they won't change. I don't know of any statistics but it seems more common for people not to change. But we shouldn't deny people the right to know who they are because "you might change later", that doesn't change who they are and what they're going through right now.

Every now and then there's someone who's more fluid than static, someone who's orientation/gender/etc changes and we (or, at least, I) don't really know why. And because of that, I think we should be open to the possibility that it could happen, while acknowledging that this potential change doesn't devalue who they are now.

No comments:

Post a Comment