Gender Identity Questions: Why The Conversation Is Ongoing
Why It's Important
Have you ever noticed that there are many of us are quite content to dismiss our kids dressing a certain way or doing their hair in a particular style as just them "finding themselves" or their way of figuring out who they are? There are also a lot of people who, when their kids come out to them and say they feel they are somewhere along the LGBTQ+ spectrum, get angry and dismiss it as "just a phase."
Why do people do that?
We live in a world so deeply entrenched with the gender binary that society has lived with for centuries that when someone comes out to us and says they think they're transgender, there's a certain recoil, like "are you kidding?"
In many cases, there's very little understanding even attempted with people who identify as transgender (or gay, lesbian, bi...), and for a society that often claims it has become more enlightened, that's shameful. We encourage our kids to grow to be honest individuals, but how can we do the best job possible if we get angry if they're not honest with themselves about who they truly are?
I realize that identifying as transgender is not something limited to the young. There are seniors who have finally come to embrace who they truly are and eschew the gender binary that they don't feel they fit into. There are those who have come out to their families well into their 60s and 70s, and yet, there are those who would weep for them and be angry and dismissive. There are states in America - and countries worldwide - that are incredibly restrictive when it comes to trans individuals. North Carolina's HB2 law, anyone?
Journalist Katie Couric hopes to continue an open dialogue about gender identity with the documentary being produced in conjunction with National Geographic Studios. Gender Revolution sees the well-known newswoman sit down with trans individuals to hopefully open a dialogue about issues of gender identity. She said she's hopeful that continuing the conversation about gender identity will help lift the illusion that gender non-conforming individuals are any different than anyone else.
"We’ve often viewed gender non-conforming people in a way that sees them as such anomalies that we’ve other-ized them," she says. "We all know that when you know someone that may not conform to whatever the norm is, it’s much easier to accept them as just people with the same hopes and dreams that all of us have."
While Laverne Cox and Caitlyn Jenner are probably two of the most public faces of those who are gender nonconformists, one of the important things about Couric's documentary is that she speaks with non-civilians about being transgender and other issues of gender identity as well.
After all, how can you get a clear picture of the questions you might have about gender identity when the only people talking don't really live as you live?
A Gender Revolution
Mistakes Can And Will Happen
Couric acknowledged during the Television Critics Association screening of Gender Revolution that when she asked Laverne Cox and Carmen Carrera about anatomy and surgeries, she had unintentionally been quite offensive, but revealed that learning about gender identity has gone a long way towards fuelling her own education.
“I feel as though I am on a lifelong journey of learning,” she said. “And on that journey I sometimes trip and make mistakes. And I don’t think that should frighten people away from getting out of their comfort zones and talking about things that are embarrassing. I’m okay with that, and I’m okay being that person.”
Who doesn't make mistakes about anything on a daily basis, though? There are a good many teachers who maintain that one of the best ways to learn is through trial and error. Whether you're talking about baking, dancing or gender identity, there will be things said and done where you're going to grimace and say, "Well, that was really dumb."
By acknowledging the mistakes, you're at least making an attempt to get past any misinformation caused by them. You're working on trying to inform people and in acknowledging any mistakes you make in the process, you're making it seem OK to others that it's OK to talk about things like gender identity.
The key idea to keep in mind, always, is respect. Gender identity can be a tricky thing to accept, even within yourself, so it's important to respect what the other person is saying when they're discussing it. It's important to respect yourself whether you're struggling with it or not; there are many individuals who might struggle with whether they are "abnormal" or "weird" if they identify as gender non-conforming, and keeping that respect for self and for others as they ask questions is important.
The biggest thing is to continue talking and listening. It's easy to be dismissive, but gender identity is an issue that needs openness, sensitivity, and a willingness to actually discuss it in order to improve one's understanding about it. People are people. Embrace that idea. Nurture it. We're all on this road called life; better that we walk it together than separately.