I am mad about gender

“So, what if she’s living in my house, and using my bathroom, and she’s naked in my shower, then can I rape her?”   – 13-year-old boy in a junior high violence prevention class

I am mad about gender. Biological sex is fine. Penises and vaginas exist.  People with vaginas sometimes carry babies. People with penises sometimes shoot semen into people with vaginas and make babies.   That stuff is there.  It’s true. But the rest of it, about what it all means, about who we are, and how we should behave, that’s just people collectively making shit up.

“I don’t care if someone hurts my mom. I just came out of her hole.”  – 13-year-old boy

I am sick of this gender bullshit. Gender is the original divide. The original act of othering.  We believe that we cannot understand each other and it is true because we made it that way.  Within every culture in this world,  there are two cultures embedded – man culture and woman culture, boy culture and girl culture.

“Baby, be sure to play nice with her. She’s just a girl.”  –  a mom on the playground

I have carried and birthed “girl” and I have carried and birthed “boy”.  From the moments of their births,  each one is wrapped in a different packaging.  Each one is told what s/he can and cannot do.  I do it to them as well.  I do it to them and I hate myself for it.  I hate myself because I know this is wrong.

“The real issue is the security breach.  Was the president in danger. As for the other stuff, boys will be boys.”  – military official on NPR

I have a vision.  I have a vision of genderless world. In my new world, gender expression is just personal expression.  People with penises and people with vaginas can try on all different roles, styles, emotions, and relationships.  People can be mean, and hateful, and violent towards other people just because they hate those particular people.   I am not naive.  I understand that there will not be peace on earth.  I know that there will still be murder, and abuse, and yes, even rape.  But I also know that it will not be systematic, it will not be pervasive, and it will not be targeted at someone simply because of the genitals they were born with.

“I asked him why he beat me all those years. How could he treat me like that, like a dog?  He said, it was because he didn’t see me as separate from himself.” – survivor of  20 years of domestic violence

What would it be like?  Can we imagine it?  What would the world be like today if we had thousands of years of women and men inventing things, writing books, singing songs, leading nations, making discoveries, philosophizing, or nurturing children at about the same rate?   What would it be like if today all the governments and all the corporations were run about equally by men and women? What if there were equal numbers of male and female teachers, engineers, nurses, soldiers, writers, carpenters, dancers, computer programmers, and entrepreneurs? What kind of cool shit would we have that we’ve never even thought of?

Wow.  I can’t believe I got a 3 on the AP Calculus exam. It must have been a little math angel on my shoulder. I mean, I suck at math.  – me after getting mostly “A”s in math my entire life.

I am mad about gender because I don’t even know what that would be like.  I want to be able to look back on American history and know that half the presidents were men and half were women.  I want to have learned that, of the presidents who happened to have vaginas, some were good, some were bad, some were left, some were right, some were war mongers, some were capitalists, and some were peaceniks.

I am a Hilary supporter.  Why? Because it’s time for America to have a woman president, just so that we can have more women presidents. So that 200 years from now it might be possible to say, “Hilary was the first of  a dozen women presidents. She wasn’t the best and she wasn’t the worst.”  – what I told people when they asked me why I was a Hilary supporter

I am pained about gender because it is so very limiting.  I believe that human potential is limitless.  We are each born with all of ourselves to give. But the moment we are born, we are told that we can only access half of what it means to be human.  Only half.  We are half people, all of us.

My husband and I are walking down the street pushing the kids in our double stroller. We begin to cross a street.  A stopped car pulls forward and hits the stroller. The driver was not paying attention. My husband starts shouting and tells the driver to move back. He is angry and that spurs him into action.  I check to make sure the kids are ok.  I feel nothing.  I cannot get angry like that. I wish I could.  – recent memory

I am only half a person.  If I could be angry, if I could accept that I am good at math, if I could rough-house, and play video games, and know that I am supposed to be brave, if I could walk at night without fear of rape, if I could dress  in whatever felt best to me, what more could I do with my life?  I am working to access those things.  I worry it is too late for me.  I feel pain in my heart. I want to be whole.  I don’t care anymore who “she” is. I want to know who “me” is.


Author’s Note:  All of the quotes and italics are paraphrased rememberings of what was said or thought at the time.




  1. carolynffisher said,

    April 26, 2012 at 9:20 pm

    Reading your thoughts about anger and gender has made me think about the same topic. I get angry, and I experience it as powerful, and sometimes even empowering. I remember in my late teens figuring out how to direct negative energy away from myself, when previously it had been directed inwards, towards myself. Being angry was (is) a way to wrench myself out of a negative inward spiral.

    At the same time, I actually fully express it only in cathartic dreams. If I get really, truly, angry, I fear being infantilized (that emotional woman who can’t control herself), or of hurting someone, either through word or even violence. I also remember realizing for the first time, with a shock, that my anger had the power to hurt someone… so in a sense, my experience of being liberated by my anger was only initially made possible through my feeling powerless as a physically small/weak, young female with (naively) no feeling of responsibility for others.

    I’ve only really felt any sense that my anger could be legitimate when I’ve been fulfilling two social roles, both of which have been more accessible to me as I’ve gotten older: as an academic, when I’ve gotten a very well-grounded, well-researched understanding of injustice (but when that happens, who could I scream at? Grief feels more legitimate even then); and as a Mama Bear, physically protecting kids, especially my own (one of my most cathartic screams ever was at a driver who almost hit me and A while we were walking). Although, come to think of it, I derived some of the emotional energy to finish my dissertation through a combination of both…

    I guess what I’m trying to get at is that I feel like relative power is such an important determinant of how our energies get channeled into emotions. Not that this will be a huge revelation to you, but it’s so often in this time/place that everything is thought of as completely individual and volitional, especially stuff like emotion that is internal to a person.

    • April 27, 2012 at 6:37 am

      I completely agree. That’s what I was trying to get at with this piece. That a lot of the time I don’t even know what is natural for me and what is trained into our out of me in terms of emotional expression, likes/dislikes etc. I think anger does have both release/destructive force. But I don’t really know how to get to at all… frustrating.

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