It’s almost midnight and I was hoping to be at work by 7 am tomorrow. I should go to sleep, but I just had an inspired moment and felt compelled to jump online and blog. The morning’s going to suck, but there are too many thoughts in my head to sleep anyway.
I went to the SSA meeting tonight, and it was awesome. We had some great discussion about what ways/if someone having a faith that gives them hope could be a bad thing and if there is a way to objectively classify good vs bad art. We also had a few Christians join us tonight, and after the main group discussion was done I had some great conversation with them as well. It was refreshing to have respectful discussion about why/what we think and believe.
One topic that came up was gender roles. One of the SSA members explained that a big part of her problem with religion is the attitudes that most religions have toward women- that we should submit to men, that our most important function is childbirth, etc. I completely relate as that was one of my starting points in questioning my old faith as well, and I think it’s a fascinating subject worthy of some posts of its own in the future, but not what I want to talk about tonight. We didn’t talk about this at the meeting, but I was pondering it on the drive home: I want to go a step back from gender role and discuss gender itself.
A while back I watched a documentary called “Trained In The Ways Of Men” about a transgender teen who was murdered after some friends discovered that she was a biological he. At the end of the movie they poll some people on the street and ask them the questions “What gender are you? How do you know? If you had a genetic test that proved you were the opposite gender than you think you are, how would that change your life? Would you choose to live as the other gender?” Like the people in the movie, I was surprised by the first two questions- I’d never really thought about it before- and as far as that 3rd questions was concerned, I thought it was philosophically interesting but didn’t have much application to the real world. Surely that doesn’t happen.
Well, actually…it’s rare, but it does happen. Go read that article when you have a moment; it’s about the complexities of gender in relation to “one man/one woman” marriage laws, and lists several situations where your gender can be biologically different that what you think it is. After reading it, I’ve been insanely curious and sorta want to go have my genes tested just to find out what gender I “really” am.
So, I’ve been thinking a lot about those questions posed by the documentary, and would like to take a stab at answering them. Disclaimer: This is just me thinking out loud. I am by no means an expert in genetics or gender and I retain the right to change my mind in the future based on new evidence, life experience, etc.
What gender am I? Female
How do I know? Because I was raised and socialized as a female, and am comfortable with that categorization of myself. I have female reproductive organs (as far as I can tell, anyway) that I use to enjoy physical pleasure and that play a role in my overall health. I may not wear a lot of dresses or any make up, but I do mostly prefer the clothing found in the women’s department and feminine hair styles. I am an engineering major which is traditionally a male field, but I’m not pursuing it out of a desire to be male. I’m doing it out of an interest in roller coasters! I love knitting, hate cooking, adore cats, don’t want children, and enjoy the occasional romantic comedy; I fit some of the stereotypical ideals of a woman, reject some of the others, but overall I accept and am happy to be the gender that my body appears to be.
If I had a genetic test that proved I was the opposite gender than I think I am, how would that change my life? Would I choose to live as the other gender? It’s hard to know how I would react in the moment. It’s one thing to discuss this hypothetically and another thing entirely to actually have your perception of yourself turned on its head. I imagine that I would be confused and upset at first. I’d be worried how it would affect my relationships. How would by boyfriend accept the fact that he’s dating a biological male? Would other people who knew shun me out of fear of the unknown, potentially murder me when I don’t fit into a nice tidy gender identity?
I would be fascinated to experience life the way a man does: to walk past a stranger at night and not worry about rape, go to my engineering classes and not constantly feel slightly out of place, experience what sex really feels like for a guy, pee standing up. But, a sudden revelation about my genetics wouldn’t give the ability to do those things immediately, and the other changes needed to accomplish them wouldn’t be worth it to me.
Ultimately, I don’t think I would change my life or chose to live as a male. I’m almost 25, and female has worked well for me thus far. If I have some genetic anomaly that causes me to have a female body but male DNA, I’ve been that way my whole life. Female worked for me when I was ignorant of my genes so I think I would continue to live a female after I found out.
And that’s where I am. I’m very interested to hear what others think about this. What gender are you, how do you know, and would you switch if you found out otherwise?