Gender’s Not the Problem

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The other day, I stumbled upon an article from Buzzfeed. It was a compilation of different tweets made about “gender reveal” parties for pregnant women. Interested, I clicked the link, and was almost immediately astonished and outraged.

What I learned from the article is that it’s very offensive and out of line to ask “what are you having?” What seems like casual conversation to me is apparently frowned on today. I was mind blown.

When I was younger, I was a total tomboy—a fact that might surprise friends and coworkers I know today, but it’s true. Growing up, I’d rather be playing football outside with the boy next door. I shopped in the boy’s section of clothing stores; I wore those ugly, puffy, Osiris brand shoes, baggy jeans, and collared shirts. I didn’t care for makeup—I barely had the energy to comb my hair in the morning. Camo backpack, wrist watch, whatever. It didn’t have to look good; it had to be comfortable. I wasn’t offended when girls called me one of the guys—that’s what I was going for.

But I was raised just like any other little girl my age. I had a pink bedroom, and I was dressed up in little frilly dresses for events. My mom would blow dry my hair to look nice and would pick up bubble gum-flavored lip balm for me when she went shopping. I was a girl, always have been, always will be, and I was never told otherwise. Those were the cards I was dealt, but I didn’t mind.

My parents never stopped me from being whoever and whatever I wanted to be. While my sister was playing with dolls, I was playing Tony Hawk’s Underground. When my sister was asking my mom if she could wear a little make-up, too, for church, I was putting on dress pants and a nice collared shirt. I was never told that I wasn’t allowed to act like a boy, but at the end of the day, I was still a girl.

Fast forward to today and there’s little trace of “boy” left in me. I do my hair and makeup every morning and take more than 30 seconds to consider my outfit for the day.

What I’m getting at is, the color of my room had no effect on me growing up. I was a tomboy until my friends put makeup on me one day; I fell in love and I transitioned into a whole new me. I was never told that I couldn’t do something because I was a girl, and so being a girl was never an issue for me. Similarly, when my brother was younger and wanted to paint his nails, we let him, and he still grew into a very typical “boy” today.

My point is, there’s no harm in labeling someone as a boy or a girl. The problem arises when you act on those labels. As humans, we categorize things. Think about it—dogs have no real concept of gender or labelling. You can put a pink bow on a male dog and that won’t affect his behavior—you can call your daughter a girl and she’ll still want to play outside in the mud with the guys, if that’s what she wants to do. The words “girl” and “boy” mean nothing to children—it’s just another way to categorize things in life, as humans have a tendency to do. They only understand those words when you put power in them.

It feels like we’ve gotten to a point in society where we’re afraid to hurt each other’s feelings or offend people. And, in addition to that fear, we’re also very quick to jump down people’s throats when someone is as bold as to assume something about us—whether they’re right or wrong. It seems like we’re all ready to fight each other at any given minute.

We’ve gotten bitter, harsher, and the world, as a result, feels a little colder.  Instead of worrying about having correct pronouns, maybe we should be a little nicer in correcting people when they’re wrong or have accidentally assumed something about you, and maybe we should be a little more open to offering apologies when we may have done something wrong.

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