Transgender issues (by Sheri)

I went to a reading of a play tonight that a guy from my church is working on, using texts from interviews he conducted with transgender individuals. It was thought-provoking and entertaining AND the kids had a sitter!! Date night!! But I digress…

So the larger context of this play was the fight for our city’s non-discrimination ordinance that now includes lgbt protections. And several people were making the point that with the younger generation, many of these issues are not a big deal. One speaker pointed to the rapid progress on acceptance of gay marriage to show the positive direction we are headed. But I wonder whether that is true with transgender issues? I wanted to talk about this more with friends tonight, but didn’t get much of a chance. So I’m thinking as I write and hoping that some of you will want to jump in and think with me.

One post-play panelist pointed out that being more accepting and flexible about gender roles in general will help transgender persons, as well as lots of other people, because a big part of the problems that transgender people face is rooted in our societal expectation of what a proper man or woman should be like. I totally buy that. And that’s where I worry that things are not going to get better anytime soon…because I have a 6 year old daughter and I’ve witnessed the very patrolling of gender norms that she has been surrounded by since about age 2.5. She knows, cognitively, that boys should be able to like princesses and girls should be able to like football. She knows that it should be okay for anyone to wear whatever they like and play what they want to play. But then almost in the next sentence, she makes pronouncements about what is a “girl thing” and what is a “boy thing.” And I think this is getting worse, not better.

I’ve been party to a lot of conversations here where I expressed concern about my DD playing with Barbies or being obsessed by princesses. And usually, many people say things like “hey, I played with Barbies and I turned out ok,” don’t worry about it. But maybe I don’t need to worry about my daughter playing with Barbies for what it does to HER…maybe it’s more of a problem that rigid gender behavior makes the world more hostile to people who don’t conform to gender norms (transgender people, gays and lesbians, or just straight people who don’t conform).

I have no answers, just wanted to talk with some smart and progressive women about this stuff.

March 16, 2013