Fluid Gender Identity. I Don't Understand, But I'm Trying.

During the battle to legalize same-sex marriage I had no patience for compromise (Civil unions? Come on). Rights mean full rights.

I’m also not budging on my support for transgender bathroom protections but I understand some of the confusion around gender identity. There’s a wide and changing spectrum of self-defined gender categories and with that, some muddy privacy issues.

Why do we need transgender bathroom protections?

People who identify as transgender want to use bathrooms and locker rooms of the gender they identify rather than the gender assigned at birth. They want the same peace and privacy everyone wants. They also don’t want to worry if someone will beat the crap out of them simply for being who they are.

For God sake this isn’t asking a lot, but opponents believe the bathroom law opens the door to perversions and pedophiles.

Remember way back when (a few years ago) when some people thought gay meant pedophile? Well transgender doesn’t mean sexual predator.

Simply put, sexual predators are deviants while people who are transgender just happen to identify with the opposite gender of their birth. This is not deviant.

But for the ever-fearful, consider the true sexual predator and how the bathroom protection law might give them access to attack women and children. Sexual predators choose precise places and times where they won’t get caught, often establishing a relationship with victims long before they molest.

So, it’s not likely a plethora of sexual predators will use the bathroom law to dress up like a man or woman so they can access an opposite sex restroom or locker room for nefarious reasons.

Of course it’s possible some people will take advantage of the law and gawk, grab or attack but in reality it would take all of 3 seconds before someone stepped in and grabbed the sick bastard by the collar.

So the fact is we have no right to deny the dignity of transgender people because of irrational fear.

The fact is transgender people are in danger from us. We’re not in danger from them. “Trans women are killed for using the men’s restroom, and they’re jailed for using the women’s restroom,” said Tyler Beebe, a 27-year-old trans woman who lives in Brooklyn. “In the end, what choice do we have?”

Gender identity is the next frontier for LGBTQ rights and with all social change, step one is to build understanding and empathy so granting rights and protections becomes a natural extension of simply being human.

What’s gender fluidity?

The other day I watched a documentary about gender identity and besides the terms “cis gender” (a person who identifies with the gender of his or her birth) and “transgender” (a person who identifies with the opposite gender of his or her birth), I clearly had a lot to learn.

Some people reject the idea of the gender binary, that a person must identify as strictly a man or a woman.

Someone can identify as androgyne/androgynous, agender, bigender, gender questioning, gender fluid, gender non-conforming, genderqueer, gender variant, neutrois, pangender, other or two-spirit.

“Gender fluid people may have dynamic or fluctuating understandings of their gender, moving between categories as feels right,” writes Debby Herbenick (“It’s Complicated. What Each of Facebook’s 51 New Gender Options Means”). “For example, a gender fluid person might feel more like a man one day and more like a woman on another day, or that neither term is a good fit.”

Okay I’m trying but I’m a little confused.

When I say confused I’m not saying anything is wrong with the spectrum and fluidity of gender identity; I’m saying I don’t understand how someone can feel like a man one day, female the next or at any given moment, somewhere in-between or entirely genderless?

But to quote my 19 year-old daughter, “Mom you don’t need to understand something to accept it.”

Clearly my ignorance and age is showing.

I’ve been socialized in a culture that lives and breathes by the construct of two genders, whether as cis or trans. No where in my upbringing despite liberal parents and my lifelong need to understand “the other not like me” was I introduced to gender identity across a moving spectrum. This is a new and complex conversation even inside my progressive circles.

Writes German Lopez, “It’s now more accepted if someone is a man and loves a man, or if someone is designated a woman at birth and identifies as a man later in life — or perhaps during childhood. Seeing this progress, others are trying to expand concepts of gender even further — to directions many Americans may not be used to.”

Actress and model Ruby Rose explains what gender fluidity means to her:

“Gender fluidity is not really feeling like you’re at one end of the spectrum or the other,” she said. “For the most part, I definitely don’t identify as any gender. I’m not a guy; I don’t really feel like a woman, but obviously I was born one. So, I’m somewhere in the middle, which — in my perfect imagination — is like having the best of both sexes. I have a lot of characteristics that would normally be present in a guy and then less that would be present in a woman. But then sometimes I’ll put on a skirt — like today.”

My daughter who identifies as cis gender told me that yes it’s all very confusing, the genders and associated matrix of pronouns (he, she, they, ve, ze…) but that her generation just isn’t hung up on labels.

But I feel old and stuck and I admit, a little uncomfortable with gender fluidity as it relates to privacy in public changing spaces.

What if I walk into the locker room at the YMCA and someone walks by who appears to be biologically male but who self-defines as a woman that day? Of course this is all wildly hypothetical. I’m not going ask the person’s gender identity.

But does the fact that my stomach drops when I see a presumed man in the locker room mean I think he might be a straight guy sneaking a peek at naked women?

Well, yeah.

But then we get into the issue of sexual orientation which has nothing to do with gender identity. Sexual orientation is the gender you are attracted, and like gender identity can be fluid. It can change.

And the reality is in any given moment in a locker room, on the beach, in the sauna, we have no idea who is attracted to who. We just go about our business.

I don’t pretend to understand the fluidity of gender like I understand the fluidity of sexual orientation. Even the most open-minded well-intentioned people can be prisoners of cultural imprinting and stubborn brains.

So I’ll keep watching documentaries, reading articles and talking to the LGBTQ community. I’ll keep asking my daughter to translate her generation’s pronouns until we evolve into a society where one day gender fluidity like sexual orientation, becomes a collective shrug.

This is a very helpful article: 7 Things Genderqueer People Want You To Know

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