Thursday, October 14, 2010

Realization


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.

Later, folks.

Marius

6 comments:

Ari said...

Wondering why trans men aren't simply happy as masculine lesbians is a common confusion. I'm used to thinking outside the gender binary, so it's easy for me to dismiss a correlation between someone's gender identity and sexual/romantic attraction, but it took me a while to get here, and I'm not perfect- I still sometimes jump to conclusions. This kind of deliberate mental readjustment makes you a great LGBTIA ally, and I'd also like to thank you for realizing that it was appropriate not to ask him about his relationship - some people are happy to share, but even well-meaning curiosity can make an LGBTIA person uncomfortable.

I'd also like to mention that "Jonathan is able to love a person for the contents of their skull, rather than being concerned with the contents of their trousers" isn't the best way to put it. As a non-straight guy, he probably DOES have a vested interested in the contents of his partner's trousers, as well as the contents of their skull, just like you or any other person would, regardless of orientation.

Jellyjubs said...

I just wanted to comment on something Ari said. It might be an assumption to assume that he does have a vested interest in his partners trousers because he could consider himself as a pansexual, bisexual or polysexual.

:P But I'm proud of you Marius and Ari, you are one wise cookie.

Stinkypaw said...

You did/do good... keep it up. The world would be such a better place if more people thought like you did.

Monkey said...

I am late to the party- but have you read anything on that book that recently came out written by a woman who transitioned into a man. He write about how often he is asked to repair things and do other traditionally "male" things now that he is transitioned- even by people who knew him before the change- people who should be aware that a physical change does not make someone more mechanically inclined- etc.
Gender, sex-roles, all of this stuff is so hard. I wish there was just a mandate that stated simply- "everyone must treat each other fairly and civilly" That, in my mind, would solve so much- without jerkiness, we could all let our guards down and teach each other....
I could go on and on- sorry for the ramble.

Marius said...

You never need apologize for commenting, dear Monkey. Your words are wise, and welcome. :-)

celebhith said...

I find myself in the same position, though I have no Jonathan/Andrea in my life. Totally against my better self, I still find myself labeling people when the truth is I could care less whom they love or how they do it. In fact, being GLBT is so difficult at this time, I have such incredible respect for these brave, wonderful people. And yet I still find myself pigeon-holing people. Why is that???? Am I that much a product of my up-bringing?

And I agree with Monkey. . . treating everyone civilly and as you would like to be treated surely would solve a lot of problems.