Tales of a wandering lesbian

Should we really define our friends by gender or even accept those that do?

The questions surrounding gender identity and gender expression are fascinating, and ever-shifting.  I am by no means an expert on the subject, but it’s something I consider on a regular basis.  Usually when I get called “sir.”

I’m going to take the question as it’s presented.  There are other issues that come up when we’re looking for a partner – a mate.  Gender identification and roles can prove helpful for some of us in those situations.

So, should we define our friends in terms of gender?  I think it depends.

I define myself as a woman.  It’s an important part of my experience and the story line that is my life.  But whether I have a penis or breasts or both isn’t the essence of who I am.  It does, however serve as a short-hand, signaling to other women that, without a word, we have a shared language.  A shared set of experiences.  We both probably know what it’s like to buy tampons, for example.  In a world where resonation, community and commonality are important, I think there is value in using gender as a way to acknowledge similarities.  That said, using any one factor as a singular definition of a person is dangerous.  And limiting.

I’ve played softball with a number of trans folks, both those transitioning from male to female and from female to male.  There have been times when I haven’t been sure how someone identifies.  So I ask.  I’ve found it incredibly humbling for me, and empowering for them, to ask the simple question, “what pronoun do you prefer?”  (I didn’t come up with that on my own.  I learned the question at a training somewhere.)  Just asking puts me in a vulnerable place, where I show my desire to define.  But it also shows my respect in allowing the other person to define for themselves how they will be seen in the world.

So, I think the answer is that self-identification is incredibly important.  Self-identification.

If someone wants to identify themselves as a man, a woman, neither or both, the best I can do is to allow room for that, acknowledge it, and accept the story-line they express for their life’s experience, whether that’s their gender, sexual orientation, race, culture, religion, or reality TV affiliation.

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