Monday, February 17, 2014

Facebook Changed its Gender Options. As a Christian Woman, Here's Why I Care.

“I’m going with woman.” Kid One said.

“Hmmm…every time I see it, I end up going the other way,” I mused.

“I’m going to have to pay more attention,” the Other Kid said, “I didn’t even know this was a thing.”

The “thing,” was one of those conversations (I assume) most of us have had: was that retail worker/waitress/pedestrian a man or a woman?

Perhaps my confidence in the universality of this issue stems from the infamous Saturday Night Live sketches concerning the ambiguous identity of “Pat.” I assume the sketch is funny because we all have “Pats” in our lives, and no one knows what to do about it.

Our particular gender bender conversation coincided with the development late last week wherein facebook added over 50 gender options beyond the simple M/F construct with which we’re all familiar ( there’s now anywhere from 51-58, depending on where you get your news).

But wait…what did I just say, up there? The construct “with which we’re all familiar.”  Pretty cozy, exclusive language, don’t you think?  And it flew effortlessly from my fingers and on to the screen. I suspect it’s not too bold an assumption that the phrasing flew right past my regular readership, too.  Thankfully, for most of us gender identity can be communicated by a simple check of a box.  Nice, neat, normal.

But what about those who live outside the male/female boxes?  Each one of the 50-plus gender options represents not just a person but an entire group of people who live in the margins, literally outside the boxes.  People who, by accident of birth or twist of psychology have no way to concisely communicate their most basic human experience. 

It seems interesting to me that we have hundreds of thousands of people living in a genetic or psychological no man’s land and most of us respond by pointing and laughing from the safety of our boxes.

As a Christian, I believe it’s the people outside the familiar boxes of normal living that should be our main focus.  Not with the goal to changing them, sorting them out, or otherwise sanitizing them, but to simply listen, learn, and love.

So go ahead: be curious.  What’s inter sex?  What does it mean to be gender fluid?  What’s a transwoman? 

Ask the questions. Would a pangenger person be welcome in my church? At my dinner table?

Listen to the answers. Open your heart. Begin the dialogue.


Joanne Tanner said...

Great post! I have often felt outside the margins, so I understand this. I identify as female because of the two options I was always provided, female is how I am physically constructed. However, in many ways, my brain acts and behaves and thinks in a decidedly male-oriented way. Scientific research on brains have mostly attributed traits such as logic and spatial reasoning to men's brains while cross-brain thinking and nurturing were traits reserved mostly for women. Well, somewhere along the way, someone forgot to tell my brain. I am way better at directions and navigation than most men I know. I am also very logical and have been accused of being unemotional due to my skill at controlling my tongue when I am upset. Do I see these traits as making me less of a woman? Absolutely not. But it's interesting to think that one day we will be allowing for gender and sexuality along a grand continuum rather than checked boxes. I imagine things like this can even change over time and allowing for that is useful. I know there are days where I feel quite masculine and days where I feel completely feminine depending on where my mind is focused and what I'm doing. Anyway, interesting development! Glad you feel freer to post such things!

Cynthia Davis said...

The grand continuium concept adds a layer to the topic, and I appreciate your honest response. I really hadn't considered ways that I could be anything other than female, so I feel this takes the conversation down another interesting avenue.


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