LGBTQ* (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender or Transsexual, Queer or Questioning) is the general acronym used to describe the community, the asterisk used to denote the inclusion of anyone who is a part of the community, but is not represented by any of the letters, such as asexual or pansexual. But over the past few years, some have argued the trans* part of the community is not being well supported by the rest of the community.
Published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) creates a standard for diagnosis amongst mental health professionals. The current version is the DSM-IV-TR, but the APA is currently working on the DSM-V slated for publication in May 2013. But what does the DSM have to do with gender?
A few weeks ago, I went down to the Office of the Clerk of the Circuit Court in my city and filled out the paperwork for my name change. It was a fairly painless process, and I received the court order signed by the judge within a week and a half. But once you do have your name changed legally, how do you go about changing your documentation: your driver’s license, your bank accounts, your insurance?
Children are often much more willing and able to explore gender than adults. Societal rules are more relaxed in childhood, so children can be open and able to experiment without the risk of feeling the pressures to conform. Some parents and teachers do not feel comfortable with this exploration, but many do. Some of these children are trans*, others go on to be satisfied with the gender congruent with their biological sex.
On Wednesday, I went down to the courthouse to change my name. After all my research and apprehension, it was a very quick process. After leaving my phone in the car and leading my best friend through the maze of downtown to the courthouse, we managed to find the Office of the Clerk of the Circuit Court. A woman came over and asked what I needed, then handed me three forms and helped me to fill them out. She informed me of the fees involved ($41 plus a fee for the credit transaction), told me a judge would look over it soon and the order would be out to me within two to three weeks, and we were done. We walked out of the courthouse, and my best friend danced around me on the steps.
I spent yesterday celebrating the graduation of some of my friends from my alma mater. It is always exciting to see the people with whom you have shared finals weeks and campus traditions and horrible cafeteria food succeed. Taking those steps across the carpet toward the president of the university to receive your diploma in the not-quite-summer- yet heat is an end to previous adventures and late nights and walks to CVS at 3 am, but also a beginning to something new and different. New friends, new town, new job, new responsibilities. College, despite its ups and downs, has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I do not know if I will ever meet more amazing people than I did in my four years at a small women’s college in Virginia.
Looking over what I know about the government, most of it was learned my senior year of high school in our required United States Government class at my little private school in Virginia where the first day the teacher gave us a test which determined where we were on the conservative to liberal scale. The next day while handing them back, he looked at me and said to the class, “Well. I’ve never had someone out-liberal me.” For some reason that moment has stuck in my mind. So did the moment in fifth grade when as a class we visited St. John’s Church in Richmond where Patrick Henry made his famous “Give me liberty or give me death” speech, and the person who was giving us the tour said, “When you vote, you are giving your consent to be governed.” And I haven’t forgotten. Voting is so important. Some state laws, though, are making it harder for certain groups to vote with voter ID laws.
Gender is such a broad and vastly undefinable subject. It is hard to clarify the terms under the umbrella of trans* or to explain the binary. I spend so much of my time writing and thinking about gender, but I know some of the words I put together do not adequately encompass what I am trying to say or to explain. The language we use when describing gender is insufficient. Without new terms and definitions, we are limited by what we have. I try my best to create an open discussion and to provide adequate definitions. Here, though, is a list of trans* resources.
Recently, there has been a lot of controversy surrounding the announcement of a product launch for LEGO for a line of toys targeted specifically at girls called LEGO Friends. Traditionally, LEGO has made few steps into gender-based marketing and when it has, those products have been short-lived. I wanted to look more thoroughly over the products and see how they line up with the current binary displayed in children’s toys.
Over the past week, I have come across a few blog posts from people who have either noticed positive interactions for gender non-conforming children or who have helped to break down the gender binary for children in the classroom to prevent bullying. Children learn so early on how gender affects the world, how it creates a line to follow in every interaction, in every choice. Society dictates from the moment of birth how children should be dressed, what they should play with, how they should react and think, all based on its sex at birth, and children learn within those boundaries. The only way to allow children to escape the binary is to walk ourselves outside the constraints society sets or to educate them about gender outside of the rules reinforced in their everyday lives.