Gender Identity

This week has marked the tenth anniversary of the publication of Vampires of the Scarlet Order. Vampires of the Scarlet Order I’m giving away up to five books. Be sure to visit the Scarlet Order Vampires Page for details about the Rafflecopter Giveaway. One of the things I love about the novel is that I tell the story in the voices of men and women from several different cultures. I love the interplay and diversity the novel represents.

Also, this past week, I had an interesting discussion with my college-age daughter. She pointed out that there’s a lot of peer pressure on her campus to settle on a gender and sexual identity. I’m not really surprised by this given how much these issues have been in the news lately. What I found interesting was how quantized her peers view gender and sexual identity. In short, I gather there’s a strong expectation that a person of a particular gender and sexual identity will follow a particular, strictly codified set of behaviors.

At some level, this makes perfect sense. We have certain social expectations for people based on how they identify themselves. On the other hand, it seems just a little disturbing. In my experience, there’s a complex mix of genetics, upbringing, and life experience that go into who each of us are. The result is that I have a difficult time seeing the sexual spectrum as a discrete set of identities. Rather, optical spectra blend from one color to another. I suspect there’s a similar blending and blurring between the lines in gender and sexual identification as well.

Stepping back a bit, a friend of mine raising a toddler has been dealing with the issues of boy toys and girl toys. The toy store is clearly delineated into these two sections forcing a whole lot of expectations on what makes a girl and what makes a boy. In some ways, this strict quantization of gender and sexual identity feels like a limited version of what I’m discussing. It’s just that instead of two, you now have several discrete choices. A gay male will follow one strict set of social guidelines, a heterosexual female will follow another strict set of guidelines, and so on.

Where this comes into play personally is when I hear some people talk about the expected gender roles for a heterosexual, cisgendered male. For example, I’ve read articles and heard stories that say boys like sports, rough and tumble play, and that they’re hard wired to compete and win. Thing is, I never really was into sports or rough and tumble play. I can be competitive, but it’s actually something I have to work at. I much preferred to read and make up stories as a kid. Despite all that, I think I would be dishonest if I described myself as anything but a heterosexual, cisgendered male.

Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek once said we’ll be ready to go to the stars when we move beyond merely tolerating people for their differences but actually celebrating people for what makes them unique and different. Next time you meet a stranger, try not to classify them. Try to get to know what makes them unique and interesting.

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2 comments on “Gender Identity

  1. Greg Long says:

    Interestingly I just wrote a very similar collection of thoughts in reply to a post on someone else’s blog 🙂

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