Note: This discussion document is written to be suitable for young people as well as the more mature, indeed I hope that it will help some who face various issues as they are growing up. However, it does touch on certain themes that some countries & religious persuasions may feel to be inappropriate. If that includes you, then please be forewarned but I really hope that you choose to read on, this world needs more compassion & understanding.
Why can’t we just see people as people?
Identity but with no boxes
So someone asks me:
Who am I? Well I’m AnnMarie Jones.
Yes, but who are you?
Well … the most truthful answer is “I’m me” but I guess you mean what boxes do I fit in.
Now I’d like to just reply “The me box” but that’s kind of circular and I think you may be expecting at least some of the following:
My Gender, My Race, My Political persuasion, My Sexual Orientation, My Job Title, etc, etc.
Yep okay, to me (and that’s what’s important) I’m an Earthling Woman, nothing special but happy to be that & a Mum too.
But just out of indulgence, I’ll tick some more boxes (& in no particular order):
Caucasian, British, Atheist, Demi-sexual with Gyno-romantic tilt, Trans-female, Photographer & Small-holder, Public School educated, have left-wing & right-wing views but believe the political system is broken; enough boxes now, or should I go on?
My point is, no number of boxes can define you; so why do it? We box ourselves, we box others; we like to know which group we fit in, but how useful is that? Can we not simply see ourselves & others as unique, wonderful individuals – perhaps we could learn to embrace our differences, value the unique specialness of each other. Consider for a moment, how many of mankind’s issues are self-inflicted because we create boxes that include some whilst unfairly excluding others – wars, violence, terrorism, hate-crimes, probably not all avoidable but many conflicts could be averted if we didn’t box people, exclude or victimise them but instead valued the wealth of colourful differences within human culture.
I accept that it’s true that we can group folk, sometimes it is useful to do so but, let’s not get carried away with it and let’s certainly avoid the bigotry & -isms that some bring with these arbitrary boxes. And so that brings me to a very real grouping, the split by gender and my desire to support equal rights for all genders – I’d like to talk feminism & my take on it…
Feminism, a brand with many different flavours
I consider myself a feminist, I mean women are great, aren’t we ladies? But there’s good and bad in all groups, we don’t have to be misandrists to be feminists – guys can be great too. We should also remember that there are those who feel that they do not fit into a binary gender system, we should not exclude these people in our striving for gender equality (& please forgive me for briefly discussing the binary situation).
It is difficult to argue that there are no differences between men & women. Beyond the obvious physical reproductive differences, there are a whole cornucopia of subtle nuances that tweak our persona. Whilst femininity is partly a social construct, there are biologically created traits too; empathy and sensitivity being two traits that are frequently thought of as being more inherently present in women than in men. As we strive for equality amongst the genders, women should not feel the need to take on more masculine characteristics; that would be to deny the very essence of the female kind. We should not have a ‘if we can’t beat them, then we’ll join them attitude’ – it is the balance that feminine women can bring to a male dominated world, that will benefit all of us.
In this male lead world, men still dominate both the money driven societies’ banking / stock systems and the religious driven societies’ Priests & Imams; perhaps, in these organisations, an injection of feminine compassion & gentleness could help us all move forward to a fairer, more peaceful world. So Ladies, let’s not misplace what it is to be female whilst competing with the men of this world.
As an aside, I believe that we should all try to be comfortable in our own skins – to not be ashamed of who we were born as. I know that inside I’m still as soft & gooey as I’ve always been; empathy & sensitivity are not weaknesses, they are strong positive traits – this world tries to harden our hearts, as years of slings & arrows batter our persona but, we should try to not loose our gentler natures.
And so finally to some LGBTQ+ matters that I wish to consider.
If ever there was a grouping, a box, that was not made in heaven – it is this one. Let me explain my thinking. Granted we all would like to see an end to discrimination & hate crimes and as I’ve said above, equality for all genders but, this grouping has several major issues:
1a. Diversity. It is now so diverse that, as with many large groups, often only the loudest voices are heard. We agree on the major goal but the individual needs & challenges within the group are extremely divergent (see point 2 also). Some will say that there is strength in numbers but I say that we should see the individuals not box us all together. I know that many of the messages sent out by the key groups at parades / festivals / lobbying, do not speak for me and I am not alone in this.
1b. Confusion. The huge diversity can confuse the lay-person. Gay rights, is about respecting the sexuality of others. Transgender rights are about gender & gender expression. These are two very different things that are often confused, we don’t want to add to the confusion. Then we have people who are non-binary of gender, asexual people who feel no sexual attraction, and the list goes on – perhaps the consolidation of groups into LGBTQ+ has lost & diluted the message of each. Should we start to focus on individuals again? What might an alternative solution be?
2. Inter-faction rivalries. What is worse, is that not everyone within the community is supporting or understanding of the others. TERF is an acronym that comes to the forefront of many minds when approaching this topic, feminists who exclude trans-women. I find the TERF thing pretty strange, I mean there’s plenty of cis guys who are great feminists, so why do these women try to exclude trans people. But things don’t have to be this radically challenging to damage, it’s often the low level stuff that gnaws at one – for example, I’ve been judged by some Lesbians on how well I’m doing as a trans woman by the frequency with which I wear a dress or the like. I mean WTF people; take a look at the pictures in this article, they are all of me – do I magically become a different gender because I wear trousers or camo – really! There are many tensions like this within the LGBTQ+ community and I just wonder if it’s still fit for purpose?
Perhaps it would help if readers knew a little more of my personal story too:
I’ve always been female, it just took me a while to realise it. In fact, some of my friends had it figured well before me, roflmao – what a fail that was 🙂 Antony is over-sensitive or Antony socialises more with the girls in his class or Antony shows great understanding towards upset pupils – that’s how my primary school reports sounded – if only the teachers had known that I’m AnnMarie not Antony.
As a Trans-woman in the UK, I’ve probably been luckier than most. My country doesn’t persecute me for being who & what I am. I haven’t been physically assaulted (unlike many in the UK even). My Mum accepted my being female wonderfully & wondered why she hadn’t realised sooner. And I know a great group of people who just accept me for who I am. But it hasn’t all been plain sailing:
Being educated at a series of Boy’s Boarding Schools was both hard & enlightening – nobody thought or felt in a manner that was remotely similar to me. I knew I was different but couldn’t explain how, this I was bullied for, without end or remorse. Sticking up for others who were bullied, that just made matters much worse – never stopped me though. And some of the views expressed about girls, they’d curl your toes if I repeated them.
I had a Dad who never could bring himself to accept me as his daughter. Always saying that I just needed some major misfortunes in my life, to toughen me up and make a real man of me. In the end I had to cut off contact with him, it was all too damaging.
And I have an ex, god bless her, who worried more about what my being female said about her, than about understanding me. She finally decided, after many years, that she’s Lesbian & that I’m not ‘Trans’ enough for her; she left to follow an alternative lifestyle. I wish her well but was hurt greatly by the way in which she chose to do things – we needed more of that feminine empathy here, lol.
So in summary:
Maybe we could focus more on individuals in our life, maybe not see boxes & stereotypes. Maybe we could learn to applaud each of our special positive differences, the things that make us unique and simply us. Maybe we could make human society a better place for all.
An extra gallery of me, no narcissism here 😉 :
Also available on Medium