Thursday, March 4, 2010

Get Yourselves TOGETHER People!!!

So the other night at grad school was grossly disturbing and frustrating in so many ways. One of my professors says that sociologists are doomed to live their lives forever misunderstood, and this has been confirmed time and time again in my life post-sociology. I took that red pill (you know, like in the Matrix?) and it was bitter (and yet I would never take it paradoxical). ANYWAYS, this particular class was supposed to be about the social construction of gender (my favorite subject!), and the professor was on the right track with asking questions like, "How do we define what it is that makes a man or a woman?" "What if someone doesn't fall into that category?" Good job, prof. However, the train was headed drastically off the tracks as the class continued, and it was like watching someone in the cafeteria get their tray knocked right out of their hands. You see that other person not paying attention, coming at them and BAM! SPLAT! That is what this class was like. My professor thought it would be an awesome idea to feature a clip about the man who got pregnant. This particular individual is transgendered. If you don't know a lot about transgendered people (It's OK, I didn't), basically they feel like they are the wrong gender/sex in the wrong body. So, if I have a woman's body, I would feel like I was a man and that my body parts didn't match my gender. It's all very complicated, and a very real thing, and really hard for us to understand if we haven't had that experience (like it is with a lot of things). Transgendered people go through a LOT of pain to switch--it would be a really tough place to be in. Anywho, people were FREAKING out. I mean, I would say boarder-line hate speech. They were laughing and giggling. It was bad. They would say things like, "Well, He/She" which is a big no-no and is just degrading in my opinion. This person wanted to be called "he" and we need to respect that. A lot of trans people I've talked to talk about the pronouns that they prefer, and it was interesting watching people say, "He, I mean she, well, she's a she because as far as I'm concerned she's a woman--" it was interesting because they simply could not categorize this man and you could tell by their speech. People were pretty much saying that this man was doing this to get attention, that he was confusing people just to confuse, and that as therapists they wouldn't feel comfortable with this person because it's just disturbing and gross, basically. UGH. I spoke up and said, "Ummm I think the problem with this discussion is a lack of understanding about trans culture as a whole." And the daggers that flew from people's eyes... I'm sorry, but if you don't understand that, how are you supposed to treat someone in your office without basic knowledge!!?? I ask you! And this was the problem with the class--my professor did NOTHING to talk about trans culture as a whole, she simply showed this one case of this one individual, so people were looking at the guy like he was a freak, verses part of being part of a larger sub culture. She DID do a good job of reprimanding everyone and saying that they needed to be conscious of the fact that this man had gone to hell and back and was already alienated from people and the last thing he needed was for a therapist to reject him. This was good. However, if this group of therapists can't understand where these individuals are coming from, how will they ever help? Disturbing.

I guess the bigger thing I saw coming out of this class was the fact that gender IS a really tight box that people have a hard time getting over if it doesn't fit within their schema. I guess I forget sometimes that I've made peace with this fact. I mean, what really does make a man or a woman? Why are we not ok with people who deviate from the "norms" (which, by the way, we all do in one way or another). Why are we not ok with changing things up from how they've always been? The saddest thing is that by not understanding people (especially trans culture) it just leads to so many problems--they can't find therapists to treat them. Hate towards them can lead to hate crimes (and trans people are one of the few groups still not covered by many state legislatures as far as defining crimes against them as "hate crimes"). I think the saddest thing was I felt like my class was ignoring the fact that these people are human beings, and if you believe in God, they are fully made in the image of God as much as you and I are, and deserve the same respect and rights to life as we do. I know this sounds like a rant, and maybe about something that people think isn't important, but if we don't think about these things the consequences are frankly very devastating. I don't want to pretend that I can even begin to comprehend a transpersons' experience, but we (as a society) have to get better at dealing with these issues and loosen our gender definitions for the sake of the human beings around us.

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