Teaching Gender 101
Today, our psychology teacher suddenly started talking about sex and gender (she’s my most open-minded teacher, which is why I sort-of came out as trans to her). She did a pretty good job. For instance, she didn’t state that “some people’s genders don’t match their sex”, which is a common thing to say but favors one sex/gender combination over another. Instead, she said that we usually associate a certain sex with a certain gender, although other combinations are certainly possible.
Alas, she kept speaking in binaries, and defined gender in a peculiar way: as masculinity and femininity. I do agree that those are important parts of gender, but I tried to point out that there’s another significant component — being a man or a woman (or something else). I think these are very different concepts. Sure, they tend to be bound together –which is why I sometimes feel conflicted over wearing pink pajamas– but they aren’t inextricable: I have learned to embrace my traditionally feminine traits without feeling any less of a guy. The example I gave in class: a person can be “born” “male”, identify as a woman, and be masculine.
Unfortunately, the teacher didn’t understand my point, but at the end of the class she approached me and said “I’m not an expert on these subject; you could bring some material to the class, if you want”. I think I accepted; I was very nervous at that point, having talked about something so close to home, and in the environment which makes me most insecure about my gender.
I usually love discussing issues of sex/gender/sexuality, but maybe it isn’t worth doing that among these particular classmates. On the other hand, it might be an opportunity to make my them understand my identity. They do sort of know I’m trans, although I haven’t come out directly to most of them; I guess, to them, I’m a butch lesbian who wants to be a man. It would be a great relief if they started using my chosen name.
I don’t know what I’m going to do — I don’t even know what the teacher meant by “bringing something to the class”– but, just in case, I’m looking through Audacia Ray’s Human Sexuality Syllabus 2.0 for articles explaining gender/trans 101. Scarleteen’s Genderpalooza article is a good resource, too. When the teacher approached me, I mumbled something about Judith Butler, although I don’t know if she’s written anything short and accessible; I also thought about the theorist Beatriz Preciado, but the same goes for her.
Do you have any recommendations? Trans 101 articles, or websites that help you to explain the complexities of gender?