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by Heather Aymer
The dichotomy of either/or, male this, female that, is so built into our society we readily assume it a natural course, a categorical imperative designed expressly, therefore, immutable.
It’s a lie.
Yeah, it’s been around a long time. Many a language has masculine and feminine articles. Just consider the lie traveled a long way through eons in our culture, our ethnocentrism and tendency to take over everyone we met, well, it’s what lies are built on.
LBGTQ youth I frequently interact with as an Adult Ally with Affirmations think this whole dichotomy thing a legacy they refuse to pass on. In their eschewing of labels, embracing gender fluidity and advocating the truth of intersectionality, they feel let down by their elders a bit.
I’ve been told by some transgender youth that they often don’t interact with older transgender individuals because the adults, as it were, tend to think in strict binary terms. The youth don’t think about ‘passing,’ but about liberty and self-expression. The elders discuss the need for surgery. Many a youth would like surgery, others feel it is unnecessary, and others posit that transgender is about identity as well as expression, but that the expression doesn’t require a strict adherence to socially constructed gender normative dress and manner. Expression and strict adherence to binary is oft discussed by others in the alphabet as a hindrance to self as well.
Primped hair, makeup and stylish nails do not make a woman, nor does a beard, short hair and pants make a man. Society has built strict ideas of how a man is gender expressed, and how a woman is presented and objectified. The youth want nothing to do with this.
No, there is no complaint in how the elders choose their expressions for expression is freedom, however, to suggest that the elders’ expression is the example a youth should follow is not what the youth want. Nor should they.
It is not intended here to deny the elder generation credit for the great work they have done. We live amidst progress. The youth, grateful for the freedom bought them through death and struggle merely would like to point out that they are growing a new paradigm of expression.
For many youth, the word Queer has been recaptured as an empowering label, the one label many only use. The categorization of previous generations, gay, lesbian, femme, dyke, butch, fairy, bottom, top . . . To many youth mean nothing. Queer as a derogatory identifier thrown in the war of generations past no longer holds sway in our youth, instead they captured it and changed its semiotic tune. A great battle feat we should praise.
I get what they mean. The youth have taught me much. When I started becoming involved in the community, I was given many a label as I revealed myself, and found it rather demeaning. I’m me. Telling me I should be this with that group over there, a sub group of a group of a group made me feel more alienated initially than I ever expected in finding community.
We come to community, to find acceptance, ease stress, gather loves. We should stop throwing each other into boxes of sub-ness, and embrace fluidity as the babes do. Our youth are telling us, “The work you have done has given us liberty. We can exercise it, now!”
No, it’s not perfect. Yes, we have more work to do. But we must stand tall and embrace our youth as they rise up and soldier forth to take on our works. The world of hiding in bars, code words, scarves, pure hedonism and caves is falling behind us. We can openly marry, raise children.
We are no longer just about sex, as action, but people who love. We must move beyond the labels we created to hide, embrace ourselves as normal, stop forcing categorization that hinders our own progress, and, from the mouths of babes, be individual persons whom define a culture, innovate, commune with governmental and commercial success, take on the world openly, resolute in science, social justice, art, as ourselves, embracing and honorable.
To live and love.