Apparently you’re out to get me. You and every other non-hetero-normative thing I can think of.

Last night I was out with some group members working on a project for class. At the end of the night I got a phone call from Christoph saying he was ready to pick me up. As soon as I got off the phone, one of my group members said “Oh you have a boyfriend?” I cringed a little, quite a bit actually, and then responded “yeah.” The group responded with various “aww”s and “cuuuuute”s, which basically killed me inside.

Who said I was straight? You guys don’t know me. I specifically haven’t mentioned any of that because it’s not any of your business.

Also, why do we need to use such gender-defining terms? WHY “boyfriend” or “girlfriend”? I do NOT like these at all. Why can’t everyone use terms like “partner”? Not everyone conforms to society’s labels for male or female. If we eliminate the constricting terms, we can create an environment so much more conducive to exploring of the self and identity expression. If the words being used to pigeonhole people are gone, the negative feelings won’t have words attached to them, and the thinkers will be forced to re-evaluate the way they are reacting. As it is, it’s easy to say things like “you can’t act that way because you’re a girl and that’s not how girls act. No one will want you to be his girlfriend ever.” Instead of living up to the expectation of being someone’s “girlfriend,” one should try to find a relationship where each participant is a partner – working together.

I almost said something last night. What would I have said? Could I really go off on this rant to people I barely know? I’m not sure I have that kind of courage. I’m also not sure I could have rationally expressed my thoughts – I was much more likely to get angry and defensive, and not present a convincing argument at all.

Oh, Gender. by Marie Hicks, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.

3 Responses to “Oh, Gender.”
  1. Jason says:

    You are a free thinker. I like free thinkers.

  2. Carl Beach says:

    You present one of the common and therefore overlooked hurdles in gender/sexual equity: the assumption of heterosexual paradigms. Unless you either present yourself ambiguously or fall into stereotypes of homosexuality, you are believed to be straight first until proven guilty, figuratively and literally. Unfortunately, this presumption negates individuals’ identities as legitimate. How to counter this? The range of responses is huge…but regardless, stinging humor usually works for me…

  3. Paul Roth says:

    When a gender-orientation stereotype appears like it’s going to block equality and freedom for people, I think the right (and ridiculously difficult) thing to do is speak up and call people on their bullshit. I think Maryam does this best of anyone I know personally and I admire her for it, even though it’s often a struggle for her.

    But when such a stereotype is not acting directly to harm anyone, my opinion is that it should be dismissed as unimportant — because it is. If someone said to you, “Strawberries cause AIDS,” you’d probably realize that as crazy and ignore it. Well, the gender-slanted phrases are just as crazy and deserve just as little attention.

    Something I do with customers at work who make absurd assumptions is respond with a correction without directly addressing the mistake:
    “Can my computer upload the facebook?” “We did install a web browser for you to be able to look at websites like facebook.”

    In your case, rather than confronting the label, maybe something like this could have helped?:
    “Oh you have a boyfriend?”
    “I have a partner who’s coming to pick me up. They’ll be here soon.”

    Sadly, until a decent gender-neutral pronoun becomes widely recognized, we may have to use plurals for it. I don’t know if that’s helpful or not. Regardless, good on you for at least thinking about challenging their narrow mindsets!

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