By Heather Jones of hmjoneswriter.com
How old were you when you realized you were a boy or a girl?
For most of us, this is an uncomplicated question. We were assigned one or the other at birth based on our external genitalia, we were raised with the social constructs that generally accompany the sex we were assigned, and it pretty much worked for us. Sure, some of us girls liked trucks and some of us boys liked dolls, and most of us don’t fit a perfect stereotype, but we didn’t feel discord between how we identified and how we were labelled.
This is not the case for everyone. About 0.6% of the population identifies as transgender, meaning they identify as a gender different from their biological sex. About 1.7% of people are intersex, meaning that their biological sex shows both male and female or ambiguous characteristics in either their physical sex organs or as extra X or Y chromosomes. These numbers are likely under-representative of the actual percentages of the population, and to put these statistics into perspective, the percentage of the population with red hair is about 1-2%. Know any redheads?
In addition to trans people and intersex people, there are genderqueer, non-binary, and gender non-conforming people who do not identify as male or female, regardless of their biological sex characteristics.
Contrary to what the signs on most restrooms would have you believe, gender is complicated, and there is a profound amount of diversity within genders. Indeed, the concept of gender is far more of a spectrum than a box to tick.
It is for exactly this reason that the Gender Free ID Coalition is fighting to remove gender from identification altogether. Imagine filling out a form and seeing a mandatory question that reads, “Are you from England or Spain?” when you are from neither of these places. Maybe you don’t live in Europe at all. What do you choose when you must answer the question, but no options fit? People who comfortably identify with their birth gender can find it difficult to understand how someone can identify as a different gender, or no gender at all, but to members of the trans, intersex, and non-binary communities, this is their reality.
Recently, Kori Doty, a member of the Gender Free ID Coalition, fought for the right to exclude their baby Seary’s gender from their birth certificate. After a debate in court, Baby Seary’s birth certificate now lists a U under sex. This is a step in the right direction, but as members of the Coalition point out, using a third option can single them out and make them targets for discrimination. Currently, in most circumstances, places of employment and other institutions can’t ask you your race, religion, or sexual orientation, and the Coalition would like to see sex fall into this category.
It’s a lot to take in for people used to seeing sex and gender as a one or the other scenario, but thankfully, the concept of gender fluidity is becoming more well-known and accepted. A teacher friend of mine said that her school has an inclusive bathroom to accommodate two students who identify as trans. Another friend’s daughter speaks very matter of factly about a friend of hers who is trans. It isn’t a big deal to her at all, just another variation of normal.
Canadian Law is getting with the times, too. In June, Bill 89 in Ontario granted children protection of their gender identity and expression, and specified that a home environment that was hostile towards them for this reason could be deemed abusive, and intervention may take place. Despite stating that an intervention or order of protection would only occur if doing so was less harmful than not doing so, many grabbed their pitchforks to protest the government for “brainwashing kids into identity crises, and taking people’s kids if they didn’t get them sex changes.” We still have a long way to go as a society, but the bill is a start.
Why is it important for us to honor and support the identities of people on all points of the gender spectrum? Because the suicide rate among people who do not identify with their gender at birth is heartbreakingly high. Because gender non-binary people are more likely to avoid seeking needed medical help. Because crimes against members of the trans and non-binary communities are far too common. Stigma is killing them. They should not have to pay for our discomfort or lack of understanding with their lives. They don’t owe us an explanation anyway.
It is important because humans are humans, love is love, and no one should face discrimination or hate because of who they are. Instead of seeing inclusivity as a threat to our own identity, try seeing it as allowing acknowledgment of everyone’s identities. Just as acknowledging that a woman is a woman does not make a man any less of a man or threaten his gender identity, neither does the acknowledgment that some people do not identify as a specific gender at all. These are variations of normal, and all deserving of the same rights and freedoms.
This post was originally published on The Baby Post.
About the Author
Heather Jones is a freelance writer in Toronto, and mother of two young boys. She is a regular contributor for Yummy Mummy Club and the Savvymom group of parenting websites. Heather has also been featured on the CBC, The Mighty, BluntMoms, The HerStories Project, and several other publications. Read more at hmjoneswriter.com and follow Heather on Facebook and Twitter.