By Lisa Taggart, MA Candidate
Is Pink the New Blue?
I attended a baby shower recently, thinking that the theme of the shower was the baby. Actually, it wasn’t. The theme was about gender. The parents had chosen to learn the sex of the baby, a girl, and the pink apron of gender was laid upon her before the baby had even drawn a first breath. There were pink blankets, pink booties, pink diapers, and pink piggy banks. Perhaps you have had a similar experience, where blue or pink outmuscled anything falling in the neutral category.
This idea of gender is ours. We have spent much of the last century assigning how we want our girls to act, our boys to look and for both genders to fall into categories that provide a prêt-a-porter wardrobe of acceptable roles, appropriate emotions and how to behave. Well, what if someone feels like a combination of pink and blue?
According to the Human Rights Campaign http://www.hrc.org, gender identity is “the gender that one claims for oneself,” which may or may not align with the one assigned at birth. In other words, the pink booties may fit better in blue or orange or purple or who knows what. Gender identity is different than sex, which is identified at birth as either female or male. Occasionally, even sex is not one or the other, because some babies are born as intersexed and have sexual organs that are not typically male or female. In these births, the identity of the sex may be chosen for the unsuspecting baby. For more information about this, please visit the Intersex Society of North America at http://www.isna.org/.
Gender expression is how a person behaves, appears or presents oneself with regard to societal expectations of gender (HRC.org). This is where booties of many colors become important. Each of us has a choice about how to express our gender, revealing the truth about how we see ourselves, but that choice is not without risk. Coming out as someone who is transgender can be both frightening and dangerous. For instance, do you know that in a majority of states it is legal to fire someone from a job simply because they identify as transgender? Or, that 26% of transgender workers report they have lost their job because of their gender identity? Furthermore, 97% of transgendered workers report negative experiences at their workplace, such as harassment or assault.
What does it mean to be transgender anyway? I will refer back to our friends at the Human Rights Campaign and borrow their definition. Transgender is an umbrella term describing a broad range of people who experience and/or express their gender differently from what most people expect. It includes people who describe themselves as transsexual, cross-dressers or otherwise gender non-conforming. Some people feel more comfortable with the term gender queer. Of course, being transgender really means so much more. People who are transgender want to live their truth and be accepted for who they are in the world. People who identify as transgender want to share their lives with others, experience love and be loved. And, this is only the beginning.
Maybe you have someone in your life that expresses gender outside the boundaries of pink or blue. Perhaps it’s someone you love or co-workers who are afraid to be true to themselves, because they fear being harassed or assaulted. One of the most invisible populations in our society consists of people who identify as transgender. Let’s extend a hand of acceptance, love and advocacy, while embracing the truth in all of us. If you are interested in learning more about yourself or others, check out the following resources: www.transequality.org, www.wpath.org, www.transgenderlawcenter.org or www.transfaithonline.org .
Perhaps the next time you go to a baby shower, you will choose yellow or green. Make it about the baby, and think about the ways you will enjoy watching the gender journey unfold.
Lisa Taggart, MA candidate at CU Denver, is an intern counselor at Maria Droste Counseling Center who embraces the diversity of the LGBTQQIAP community and counsels individual adults of all ages working through life transitions, discovering strengths, and exploring grief and loss.