Thursday, October 14, 2010
I have a student that, for the sake of this tale, I'll call Jonathan. Jonathan looks like a boy, dresses like a boy, acts like a boy, but until this past summer was known to all of us as Andrea. When he friended me on a certain popular social media site I noticed many photos where he was trying to look like a Jonathan, and not an Andrea. At one point he even asked me if I would please call him Jonathan in class, and if I would use only masculine pronouns when referring to him. Of course I agreed, and though it took me a little while to reprogram my brain to think of him as a he, it wasn't that difficult. Now in class, though my roster reads Andrea, I call him Jonathan when checking the roll, and as you have read above use only masculine terms when a gender specific pronoun is called for. It has proven to be a very gratifying experience for us both, because I often refer to my student workers as ladies or gentlemen, and when I speak of him in the latter category he lights up with barely controlled joy. This also has let me do a bit of mental back-patting as I inwardly congratulate myself for being so progressive. Then today something happened that showed me just how deeply parochialism and prejudice can run. There has been a young man hanging around the halls of the theatre lately that I don't know. I noticed him today and was going to ask him why he as loitering about when I saw Jonathan go over and sit on his lap. I knew Jonathan was in a relationship, but I had always assumed his significant other to be female. I had unconsciously equated 'wanting to be male' with 'gay female'. As I tried to work out the mechanics of such a relationship in my mind, even going so far as to contemplate asking him about it, I had an epiphany. First of all, it's none of my business, but more importantly it's irrelevant. If two people love each other, and they don't care about 'traditional' gender roles, who am I to say that a person who is on the road to a sex change must automatically like only members of the soon-to-be opposite gender? Even though I do my best to be as gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgendered friendly as I can be, I still try to label and pigeon hole people. Gender and love, while often intertwined, are not always related, and if Jonathan is able to love a person for the contents of their skull, rather than being concerned with the contents of their trousers, then that's fantastic, and I shall simply accept, even if I don't fully understand.