Archive for April 2011

Why I Choose Silence

Thursday, April 14, 2011 § 3

Today, rather than tomorrow, due to a all-school Pride Assembly on Friday (ironic, right?), my high-school participated in GLSEN’s annual Day of Silence. day of silence

While informing my Global Studies teacher of my decision to participate a few days ago, he remarked that, on the Day of Silence, he liked to have participating students prepare a statement to be read on their behalf. He believed that through these statements, other students would be able to better understand both the Day itself, as well as connect to their classmates.

Mine was as follows:

Today, I choose silence. Today, I am silent for myself, and for all other lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning students. Today, I am silent in order to call attention to anti-LGBT name-calling, intolerance, and harassment at Glenbrook North. Today, I am silent for the 9 out of every 10 LGBT students harassed at their school in the past year, the 2/3rds that felt unsafe, and the 1/3rd who have missed school in the past month due to safety concerns. Today, through silence, I speak.

The effect that the reading of these statements had on my class was palpable. A connection was established that most definitely would’ve been avoided, had my teacher not given me this voice. He let me, and my fellow classmates, share our stories. For that, I’m very grateful.

Unfortunately, not every participating student will have a teacher as cool as mine. But still, I invite you to compose your own statement for why you choose silence. Have it read to your class. Point to it when someone gives you a blank stare after you point to your t-shirt. Share it on facebook or twitter – or simply drop it in the comments section. Happy (early) Day of Silence, everyone!

Update: My classmates’ articulate reflections on their Day of Silence can be found here, here, here and here.

Jean Shorts and Gender Norms

Monday, April 11, 2011 § 4

Over spring break, I went shopping. Among other things, I bought a pair of jean shorts, which I’ve posted below.

IMG_9724

Maybe a week later, I was wearing them around my house, and walked into the family room where my dad was sitting on the couch.

“You bought those?”, he asked me, a little incredulous.

“Yep, why?” I responded.

“It’s not a big deal or anything, they just look a little girly, rolled up like that”, he replied.

I laughed it off. How often do parents get fashion, anyway?

But it didn’t leave my mind. I wasn’t really bothered by the comment, but the sentiment behind it. The thought that I shouldn’t be wearing the shorts, not because they’re ugly, but because they looked like something a girl might wear.

Behind that thought is the heteronormative assertion that men should act like men, and women, women.

Behind that thought is the misogynistic assumption that no man should want to act like a women, because women are somehow lesser than men. It’s just like the common insult spat out at many less-athletic boys throughout childhood, “you throw like a girl!” 

Often, it’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals that receive the brunt of this heteronormative critique, whether it’s gay men acting femme, lesbian women acting butch, or a trans* individual eschewing gender norms, or rejecting their birth sex completely.

This post is not meant as a critique of my dad, but rather, of our culture as whole. This post is to raise some important questions:

Why, in Western culture, do we so often vilify those who don’t express their gender in ways that we find acceptable based on gender norms? Why do we mock them, beat them, rape them, kill them?

Something, or more realistically, a lot of things, hammered into my dad’s, and most other people’s as well, the notion that there’re two distinct genders – male and female, and that the two should not mix. Maybe its picture books read as a kid, countless other forms of media, or a constant refrain of “act like a man” or “act like a woman”, respectively. Maybe it’s something else completely. Which leads to the most important question:

How do we change this?

In my case, next time someone critiques my dress or demeanor as “girly” or “feminine” I’m going to respond with a simple:

So what? 

I welcome your thoughts.
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