Why Blogger? 12 Reasons Why You Should Blog!

title giraffe

I started blogging for the main reason that I wanted a platform that forced me to write regularly, and gave me an avenue to research topics I found interesting in a format that forced me to be accurate and concise. So far at Itchy Quill we have looked at reading, travelling, gender roles in modern society, the history of symbols and the future, using this format.

Through my time in the blogosphere I have encountered other bloggers from many different backgrounds with many different motivations. My favourite blogs are a veritable mixed bag of randomness, from street poets to wannabe chefs, and travelling mums to deaf composers. There is a world of awesome out there to be explored, and so why not get a taste of it from the experiences of others? I’ve always believed reading is a gateway into adventure, giving you a unique insight into how someone else did something and this in turn gives you a grounding for your own escapades. Blogging is a microcosm of that, a peak into the unknown or a glance back at the adored. It’s a wink and a nod at life…

So, if you want to blog, but are not sure why, then let below be a list of some good reasons to try! If you already blog, but are stuck for ideas, then perhaps this list can help to inspire you. For the more advanced bloggers out there, where do you fit in?

Start your adventure today!

Take that first step... see where it takes you

Take that first step… see where it takes you

Helping People

I put this as number one because I want to start on a positive note; the helping of others. The ‘helping’ type of blogs are normally written by people who fall often into two categories; those who are trained in a certain area and want to help those who could benefit from their training, and those who have experienced something and want to share their experiences so as to help others in similar situations. A common example would be some of the wonderful work being done online to help mental health. There are countless blogs here, but that is just the start.

There are many blogs that talk about the ups and down of parenthood, of moving to a new country, or offer tips on certain kinds of work (such as ESL Teaching and Bartending). Sharing is caring, people! Go ahead, right now, write a  problem of yours into Google along with the word blog, and see the links that come up. Within a few seconds, you’ve connected with a stranger whose reality reflects yours. You may not agree with them, but sometimes even seeing ‘how not’ can remind us of ‘how to’. It’s the global conversation, happening every day.

See, blogging is a community. It builds bridges between people from all walks of life and reminds us that we are not alone. Whatever may be happening in your life right now, there is always going to be someone online who feels your pain and has shared their experience. Reaching out to others can be hugely beneficial, and connecting with other people so as to unite against such issues can be a wonderful start on the road to recovery.

“Dr Blogger here, how can I help you?”

You Can Share Ideas and Thoughts

The creative mindset is one that is heavily represented in social media, especially within the realms of Twitter and Pinterest. Many creatives will have links from their social media accounts to their blogs, which are places that give them the chance to showcase their talent for the world to see. Seeing the work of others can be hugely inspiring, as can having a forum to share your own.

Blogging naturally brings people with similar ideas and hobbies together, as the best audience for your blog will be people who share your passions. This can start a snowball effect on your work as it builds steam and energy from feedback and collaboration.

Find your posse

Find your posse…

It’s a Place To Make Snobservations

That’s right, you snotty little tyrant, you. If silently judging from afar just doesn’t quite give you the satisfaction it used to, perhaps unleashing your poisoned vitriol upon the internet will take your internal bitterness to a new level?

Of course, not all of us have such negative energy to spread around the world. Perhaps you long to divulge some peace and love, or you have some whimsical outlook on experiences you feel the internet could benefit from. Go for it!

“How does KFC run out of chickeeeeeeeeen!!!”

Dear Diary… Reflection

These could be two separate ideas, as to reflect is not necessarily to diary. Using your blog as a kind of online diary is a great way to keep it accessible. I have some good friends here in Taiwan who use their blog as a way of keeping folks back home in touch with what they have been up to. There’s no reason why this can’t be the case for those living closer to their nearest and dearest too.

The act of reflection, for some such an integral part of why they keep a diary in the first place, is also something that blogging offers. See, when posting situations or experiences onto the internet in this fashion, you are putting it into a domain where anyone can access it. Sometimes, the impartial view of a stranger can help to give you fresh perspective, or give you feedback on something that may link to their own life and the two of you can both gain a mutual benefit from your shared story.

Of course, don’t forget that as it’s online, people can read everything…

“Dear Diary, I’m still having that dream where I murder my friends”

Improve Your Writing

As a writer, what better practice is there to hone your craft than to write!? I mean, scribbling away odes and novellas is another way, of course, but blogging gives you regular practice that forces you to be strict on daily/weekly/monthly posts, and means you must edit and research it quickly. On top of this, just knowing that your work will be viewed by others means you will have to be more thorough and more appealing, giving you practice in the art of receiving criticism (or, sometimes, in receiving praise) and of marketing yourself through your words.

If you’re not a writer though, blogging can still help you improve your writing skills. I know many bloggers here in Taiwan who blog in English, even though their first language is Chinese, purely as a way of practising and feeling more confident using it.

Find out what your Words are Worth, understanding what the Dickens is so Austen-tacious about blogging. It really Shakes your Peares!

“Wordplay!”

Become an Expert

The word ‘expert’ gets thrown around a lot these days, especially on Twitter. Oh my, you can’t throw a digital stone without hitting a ‘Social Media Expert’ or ‘Marketing Guru’. It’s become rather laughable. The problem is, if you do have a skill, blogging about it is actually a wonderful thing to do! If you are one of the genuine few with something to offer, you should share it!

Fixing old bike engines? Pokemon collector? Butterfly circus? Whatever your poison, indulge your inner nerd and share your knowledge. You’ll be amazed how quickly you find a niche within a community and start to learn more and share more. Just by having a blog, you’ll be researching and learning, just for the benefit of your posts. This will translate to acquired knowledge and before you know it, you’ll be the paramount mind on contemporary dragon raising in the South of England! Boo yeah!

Find them a meaningful career, obviously!

Find them a meaningful career, obviously!

The Blogo-Social Network

Ok, so we’ve already talked rather at length about how community is the foundation of blogging, and vis a vie you will encounter a myriad range of different people and blogs. Truth be told, a lot of the people you encounter will be into similar fields as you, as one of the soul reasons they will stumble upon your blog is that they were looking for something like it.

Using these connections wisely can build a truly beneficial network over time. Many authors, graphic designers and artists use blogging for this very reason, so as to meet others in their industry and connect for the good of both their careers. Being part of a community means being part of something greater than the sum of what is yours and only yours. Use the internet for what it was meant for; the coming together of humanity!

In a good way... coming together 'in a good way' (not pictured)

In a good way… coming together ‘in a good way’ (not pictured)

To Make Money

Making money from your blog is not as easy as simply wanting it, but it shouldn’t take long for the truly dedicated to start to see money coming in from advertising. It is very, very hard to make a lot of money form your blog. Those that make steady revenue tend to be people who are furiously motivated and committed to their blog. That said, it is totally possible to make the big bucks from your blog. To see a list of ways to ‘monetize’ (their words, not mine) your blog, visit this link on about.com for five tips to stimulate cash flow.

Don't let it compromise your artistic integrity though...

Don’t let it compromise your artistic integrity though…

It’s Easy

Really, it is. There are tons of places you can go to find free hosting, and most blogging websites now offer free design and layout templates, with themes that can be customized to fit your blogs vibe. What’s stopping you? Giving it a try gives you the chance to cross something else off of your bucket list, and slowly work towards your ultimate goal of being an awesome you!

You could spend as little as 20 minutes a week posting up some thoughts, and then watch as your circle of influence grows steadily over time.

Check out this post on stylecaster.com to see their choice of The 10 Best Free Blog Sites.

“Me done maked ma bloog!”

To Learn New Skills

Since starting my blog I’ve had to sharpen up on writing skills, practice harvesting research in a swift fashion, find out where to find free photographs, teach myself how to edit my own photography on Photoshop, and also polished up on licensing law with regards to the internet! All skills that are totally transferable to other activities of mine! On top of this, I’ve had to take my twitter game to the next level (follow us here) and master certain other media packages to help showcase my work.

Just from reading the blogs of others I have learned a bit about living in different countries, which non-European authors are worth checking out, how to stay fit, and countless other skills and tit-bits of knowledge.

Who knows what you’ll learn, and how it might change you…

“The greatest wastes are unused talents and untried ideas”. – Unknown

Elvis Kung Fu anyone?

Elvis Kung Fu anyone?

It Builds Confidence

The internet can be a pretty nasty place at times, especially since trolls enjoy wandering from forum to forum, dropping racist, homophobic, sexist malevolence. At other times, people who are genuinely nice in the physical world can be right vipers when it comes to critical feedback and comments.

Responding to these, and developing the thick skin needed to tolerate it without lowering yourself to it, is a self-empowering and rather fulfilling part of blogging. Knowing that you can air your view, and then face down opposition to it in a mature way will help you feel much more at peace with yourself. Most of all, just taking the steps to put yourself out there, about whatever it is that you feel inspired to do so, is a genuinely fantastic experience.

Let that confidence flow…

“Take that, society”

It Might Change The World

Can blogging change the world? Of course it can! If you are someone writing about the impending doom of a zombie apocalypse, why not make the most of it and establish a blog on how to survive? You could go as far as offering tips on negotiating with zombies, finding an antidote in a crisis, and how to out run the undead. These are all fun to read now, but in the future they could very well change the world!

On a smaller note, know that sometimes your blog could be the inspiration someone needs to change their life, and that could be invaluable to a stranger in the trajectory of their personal success. Just look at this story of how two school girls changed their school life.

That’s the point. Blogging puts people around the world in touch with each other on such a potentially detailed and personal level that genuine bonds can be made, and why wouldn’t these change the world?

Who knows what may come from your words...

Who knows what may come from your words…?

The best part; comments! Feel free to comment below and let’s get a conversation going about blogging!

If you know of any great examples of different blogs that are worth checking out, please leave a link in the comments below too!

Special thanks to 1shots, artur84, David Castillo Dominici, holohololand, imagerymajestic, phasinphoto, Photokanok, siraphat, stockimages, vectorolie and winnond @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net for use of their photos in this blog.

© Itchy Quill and ItchyQuill.WordPress.com, 2015

Defining Gender for an Androgynous Future V; Fluidity

title

As most of you regular Itchers will know, recently on IQ we have taken a special interest in the role of gender in the modern world, and how stereotypes and ideas about gender expression are changing in our modern world.

In part 1 we looked at the expectations we place on each other to conform to pre-determined rules about engagement between the sexes, and how we are expected to uphold our gender roles through our behaviour and our activity.

In part 2 the focus was more about what the gender roles are, and how they define what we are ‘allowed’ to be in terms of gender conformity.

Part 3 took a closer look at how appearance has defined gender, and how this is changing now.

In part 4 we looked at the pitfalls of a world obsessed with labels, and how this can be detrimental to gender expression and realisation.

In this final part we will be looking at how some people can change aspects of themselves so as to realign with another gender and realise an existence that reflects how they feel inside. This state is known as gender dysphoria, and though it is becoming more well documented, there is still a lot of confusion around what it represents. A broader term to describe those who identify as the other, neither or both genders would be gender nonconforming, and those who identify as the latter two may also refer to themselves as genderqueer. For more information on the different terms and also more information about gender dysphoria, there is a wonderful explanation here on WebMD.com.

“Never mind male or female; there’s a skeleton living inside you…!”

What are your options?

Ok, so if you do believe that you are born in a different body to the gender you feel, what can you do about it? For a full blown life change, the steps are myriad and often expensive. You will need to start to find peace in yourself, and then share your realisation with your loved ones. After this, it is important to find a therapist to give you the mental support you will inevitably need to work through how this will change your life and to also give you help with the commonly associated distress, anxiety, dissatisfaction and/or restlessness, and then start to look into hormone replacement therapy. This is also a good time to consider changing your name and living as the gender you feel. Eventually you will reach a point where surgery is necessary, and from there you can change your legal gender status, finally making it 100% official that your full transition from a to b is complete.

Sounds easy, right? Of course not. And this list doesn’t reflect the various pitfalls and monsters lying in wake to disrupt your progress, such as ignorance, abuse, bullying, financial implications, societal stigmas, hardcore traditionalists and non-accepting loved ones. For more information, Transsexual Road Map has a much more detailed version of the list above.

Imagine going through all that just to get to a stage where you feel you can truly be yourself! I tip my hate to everyone who is doing, has done, or will do this. It must take a lot of strength.

“Dig deep and find the strength within”

Imagination Station

If you are someone who feels you were born in the wrong body, what would you do? Imagine you’re a little girl. You’re given toys to play with like brushes and dolls, and dressed all the time in pink. But you want to play with the boys, and their soldiers and toy cars. You tell your parents and they laugh, saying ‘no sweetie, girls play with dolls’.

When you start school, the other girls all want to sing songs and comb each others hair, but you want to play football and climb trees. You walk over to the circle where the boys are playing and they all stare. ‘Can I play?’ you ask. ‘No girls allowed’ they shout. Ok…

Now it’s high school and puberty has hit you. Your body is changing in lots of strange ways, but you’ve learned enough about the world to know that you are a boy, not a girl. You know that the only thing that stops you from being a boy is biology. You dress in ‘boys’ clothes, and think and act like one. Literally the only thing that makes you female is your anatomical design. What kind of problems do you anticipate facing? Obviously, there will be the non-acceptance from some strangers, and from the uneducated, naive or ignorant. You will probably by this point have built up quite a thick skin to the sniggers and comments due to the fact you are happier being true to your gender identity than being friends with everyone you ever meet. You wouldn’t want to be friends with someone who didn’t get it anyway. You couldn’t be…

“Later, hater”

The Reality of Normality

A story about this appeared in BuzzFeed news recently, in an article titled Teen Sues School District In Potentially Key Federal Case For Transgender Restroom Rights.

It’s a story about a transgender boy named Gavin Grimm, 16, a resident of Gloucester County, Virginia, in the United States.

The problem he had is essentially this: “Put simply, Grimm was banned from the boys room — where he had been using the restroom without incident for seven weeks with his high school’s permission before fervent religious groups and fearful parents found out.” (BuzzFeed).

According to the article:

‘Last fall, the Gloucester County School Board held two rounds of meetings — packed with students and parents — over a proposal aimed at solely Grimm. While he sat in the room, public testimony called Grimm a “freak” and compared him to a dog, while some speakers debated his anatomy as a transgender boy. … the board passed a policy to prohibit transgender students from using restrooms that don’t correspond to their “biological genders.” ‘ (BuzzFeed)

The result was:

‘“The people of my community had a discussion about where I could use the bathroom — and my genitals and anatomy — that was mortifying and dehumanizing in a way I can’t begin to describe,” ‘ (BuzzFeed)

Now this case is still open, citing certain legislation that has already been used by the Obama administration to make it legally permissible for transgender students to use the facilities that align with their gender identity and not their anatomy.

The argument from Gavin’s attorney, as well as citing the above legislation, is that he has Gender Dysphoria (the incongruence between a person’s sexual anatomy and gender identity) and that a common treatment for that is to live as your gender identity defines before further surgical treatment. The school had been fine about it before. What changed?

Potentially, if this case goes in Gavin’s favour, it would be another huge step for transgender individuals in society. I thoroughly suggest reading the article in full for more information.

Exactly...

Exactly…

The Power of Choice

Do we honestly believe that we should be able to tell someone who they are? A huge part of what makes us individuals is our ability to rationalise our own existence, and analyse the elements of our character that define our identity. If someone thinks they were born in the wrong body, who are we to say otherwise?

Suneela Mubayi identifies as a male-to-female transgender. In a rather powerful article called I claim the right to choose my ultimate gender she wrote for ourbodiesourselves.org, she states:

“I claim the right to choose my ultimate gender beyond my traits, looks, qualities, and features, even if it is different from the sexual organs I possess. And whether that’s feminine or hermaphrodite or my desired blend of masculine and feminine is my choice.”

That’s the whole point; choice. She has chosen to empower herself. Even her name was originally used by a boy in class to tease her, but she took it as her name to take back control of it and disarm the bullies.

For some, being true to yourself can be a lonely experience

For some, being true to yourself can be a lonely experience

Further Choices

We have already spoken in previous instalments about the recent transition of Caitlyn Jenner. However, she is not the only high profile person to make such a change to their life.

A personal hero of mine, Martine Rothblatt, describes herself as a ‘transhumanist’. She lived her life as a man until 1994, aged 40, when she came out as transgender. She is a huge advocate of transgender rights, and one of the wealthiest CEOs in America.

In an interview for TED.com she claims that she ‘always felt her soul was female’ but she didn’t want to show it for fear that she ‘would be laughed at’. As a result, she spent 40 years of her life feeling unable to truly tap into a fundamental element of who she was. In her book The Apartheid of Sex, Rothblatt claims that ‘there are seven billion people in the world, so there are seven unique ways to express your gender’. She is also a stout believer that gender is not defined by your genitals. The book covers how we are forced into categories of male or female, restricting us from the choice of gender expression that should be a given. She says ‘separate male or female genders is a constructed fiction, the reality is a gender fluidity that crosses the entire continuum from male to female’.

See the interview for yourself here.

Is gender a journey not a destination?

Is gender a journey not a destination?

The Backlash

Inevitably, some will find the whole process of gender transition difficult to accept. In rare cases, this can lead to poisonous vitriol on a level far surpassing the language of decency and humanity. The transgender movement has been labelled as sick, wrong, against god and a disease or mental illness by some. What I find interesting is if it is a disease, then people need treatment, not bullying. If it’s a mental condition, people need treatment, not bullying. If it is against God, I’m sure God is more worried about the “2% of priests being paedophiles’ claimed in this BBC article.

If something is ‘wrong’ in the sense that it is a negative action with negative impact, it is normally because it is based on the fact that it harms others. But does being transgender actually affect anyone but the person involved? I’ve said it before, but if we all just forgot about Caitlyn Jenner and let her get on with her life, would it affect us?

Unfortunately, there are some who don’t see it this way. Ian Tuttle wrote an article for The National Review with the rather antagonistic sub-title Do those who voluntarily undergo unnecessary amputations deserve praise and support, like Caitlyn Jenner?

The article goes on to compare Jenner’s desire to transform her anatomy from male to female as being comparable to sufferers of Body Integrity Identity Disorder (BIID) wanting to amputate limbs or become deaf, blind, or dumb. His argument is that if it becomes socially acceptable to align the physical body with the mental identity in such a way, how can you say one is OK and the other is not.

To debate that Jenner was undergoing an amputation is to imply that her standard of living would decrease from such an act in a way similar to losing an arm or a vital sense is ludicrous (unless, of course, you are talking about the affects that being a woman versus being a man may have on salary or job opportunities – but we’ll save that for another post). Gender identity is something that defines us on so many ingrained levels that to deny someone the chance to be what they have always felt is surely a constriction of liberty? If a skinny kid wants to be a body builder, do you go and tell him he can’t be? If a man is born with a crooked nose, is he not allowed the plastic surgery to change it? I mean, does Mr Tuttle believe women shouldn’t be allowed to have their armpits lasered as it messes with their anatomy?

The line, again, comes back to what we said before. If someone wants to do something and it doesn’t affect anyone else, nor put them themselves in serious danger, then what is the big deal? With any such existential question, there will always be the opposite side, capable of creating abstract examples to try and circumvent this idea of liberty and lead us back towards a debate about ‘nature’ and ‘normality’. For every one that they can create, we can create more. The best answer? Ask yourself, as a human, ‘do I want other humans to be miserable?’ If you don’t, then how can you help people feel comfortable enough in themselves to enjoy life? If a celebrity you’ll never meet wants to adjust their anatomy, is it affecting you? Even if that inspires your own child to do the same, is that the end of the world? Wouldn’t you be happier that your child found a way of expressing who they truly were, instead of following a societal doctrine on gender, and forcing themselves to conform to a fiction perpetuated by each generation?

“I just wanna be meeeeeeee”

Reactions of a More Positive Nature

Scruffy yet loveable funny man Russell Brand talked recently about the world’s reaction to Caitlyn Jenner’s transformation on his YouTube Channel. His daily news segment titled ‘The Trews’ claimed, in episode 334, that the overwhelming response to Jenner’s transformation is a reflection of society’s desire for a new goddess. Religion, he argues, is full of androgynous deities. The very nature of gender is fluid, for humanity is united as one by a shared consciousness, and gender is just an expression within that. We all encompass different elements of both male and female traits, and yet by living in a largely patriarchal society we are forced to champion traits deemed masculine such as individualism and ambition, and we often forget qualities that are perceived as feminine, such as compassion and community. Whether you agree or disagree, he makes some interesting points. Is our male dominated society one of the reasons why transgenderism is so vehemently rejected by some? Ideologically, could we benefit as a society en masse from embracing a little more femininity anyway?

Watch the video here.

“Weeeeeeeeeee”

The Trickle Down

So, how can we measure whether this is becoming more of a trend, and if it is changing society at large? Well, let’s welcome back those plucky young things, the generation Z’ers, and their predecessors, the Gen Y’ers. In the article 10 Magazines Agree: Gender Is Hazy For Millenials on doingwhatsgood.us, it is claimed:

“Powerhouse brands such as Bic and Honda are finding that this group isn’t very receptive to tried-and-true male and female societal roles, and even color palettes, long the way to differentiate baby girls from boys in their early years and shape their future aesthetic preferences. And Gen Z, the 5-17-year-olds coming up right behind them, are simpatico; they find gender-specific products a turnoff. ”

We see the two largest generations in the history of planet earth are already moving towards this gender fluidity, escaping the shackles of conformity and gender targeted marketing. If we are already refusing to recognise gendered products, it is another level of the gender construct that is being peeled away. The article goes on to claim that it’s not even a conscious decision, but just a product of the environment.

“A Northwestern University professor attributed the desire to be able to choose gender identity at will to the Internet, specifically playing computer games against competitors worldwide whose gender one doesn’t necessarily know, according to USA Today. And living so much of their lives virtually—gaming, communicating and even shopping—helps explain why nearly two-thirds of Millennials and Gen Zs believe gender lines are blurred, according to a study by the Intelligence Group reported in USA Today.”

Not sure if you believe this? Check out this article about thirteen unnecessarily gendered products, and see for yourself if you feel gender roles forced upon you are not a little bit disconcerting. For example, male sunscreen? Female pens? Any Brits reading this will be familiar with Yorkie Bars – they’re not for girls!

“Whadoyamean not for girls?”

The key point though is that as we move forward, the wheel is already turning. Like it or not, we are heading towards a much more gender fluid and androgynous future. The same article on doingwhatsgood puts it like this:

“Millennials and Gen Z parents are allowing their children to explore their gender identities and not limiting them to traditional stereotypes.”

It’s happening, one day at a time. Each generation more adept at seeing through gender stereotypes than the last. What will it mean for us as humanity? Who knows. The slow march towards AI and the potential end of biological humanity, moving instead into robotic, engineered life feels like one possible outcome that would also render gender virtually obsolete. Is that our destiny? I think gender is one way to aid personality and identity, and your personal expression of whatever you see in you is part of the make-up of who we are. Denying it is pointless, and so any cultural environment that allows for this expression should be celebrated.

What are your thoughts?

Special thanks to chokphoto, Chris Sharp, David Castillo Dominici, imagerymajestic, nongpimmy, pat138241, stockimages and vectorolie @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net for use of their photos in this blog.

© Itchy Quill and ItchyQuill.WordPress.com, 2015

Defining Gender for an Androgynous Future IV; Labels

title

By now you must be asking yourself ‘why we are doing this?’ After all, it seems odd that someone who comes from a culture that clearly identifies the differences between the two classical interpretations of gender would want to highlight them so blatantly. Surely, the author would be biased into either a) perpetuating the stereotype or b) rebelling against it fully. Your author here would like to state that, regardless of what may be written, there is scope for everyone to eclipse their own tags, titles and labels and subvert the foundations of societal categorisation that in itself helps to create insurmountable boundaries and divisions within our communities.

They might sometimes be pretty, but they're still in the way

They might sometimes be pretty, but they’re still in the way

The Problem With Labels

Labels are so common that their function has become redundant. I am not saying that labels don’t serve a purpose, or rather, that they weren’t intended to serve a purpose, but I think that by overusing them, we may have undermined their initial usefulness.

People in the beginnings of humanity were reliant on being able to communicate with others about danger, and so certain threats would get their own name. The problem is, over time you need to give a label to everything (if you’re using this idea). OK, so I’m speculating here. But still, bear with me. If you’re going to label some things, then you need to label others.

So, labels began and then we as societies couldn’t stop ourselves! These labels and names became fundamental to our world view, morphing and changing with our expanding and waning influences on regions and populace, until we as humanity reached a point where cultural expression explodes with the advent of the internet. See, this is where the problem for labels arrives. Now there are different people seeing things differently, their labels contradicting one another, and we are left with a problem of how these labels are going to move forward with us.

Stuart Miles

A World Without Labels

Imagine a world where you substitute the name of something for ‘thing’.

“James, can you pass me the thing?”

“Which thing?”

“The thing by the thing. There, by the thing. No, THE OTHER THING!”

It would be horrific. I’m not here to ask you to start a word revolution that leads to many deaths at the hands of the frustration of tedium. No. In fact, I’m not even here to try to change the labels themselves, either. What I think is much more important is to assess the damage of preconceptions about content and value based on a label. We as humans are prone to prejudice. We are hard wired to save our brains time by filling in the blanks in the world around us by using experience and prior knowledge. It’s a survival tool. The article Research states that prejudice comes from a basic human need and way of thinking on psychologicalscience.org says, referencing a paper by Arne Roets and Alain Van Hiel of Ghent University:

‘[Roets] argues that this way of thinking is linked to people’s need to categorize the world, often unconsciously. “When we meet someone, we immediately see that person as being male or female, young or old, black or white, without really being aware of this categorization,” he says. “Social categories are useful to reduce complexity, but the problem is that we also assign some properties to these categories. This can lead to prejudice and stereotyping.” ‘

Boom. We categorise to save ourselves time, but the damage from this short-cutting can be socially impactive and lead to prejudice.

and this judge dreads stereotypes!

and this judge dreads prejudice!

Traditions

Take marriage for example. For hundreds, nay thousands of years, there has been a celebration of the link between two lovers of the opposite sex; an institution so fundamental to how we see love that it cannot be shaken. What little girl or boy hasn’t grown up thinking, at least briefly, about the person of their dreams, and how they would treasure the chance to make a promise to that person and unite with them in a bubble of eternal devotion?

That is how it stood for many years. Nobody questioned it’s meaning because there was little cause, and yet here we are in 2015 (guys, it’s the future), and this expression of love seems to be developing exclusivity. Some would have you believe that marriage is only available to partners of opposite sex. Mindy can marry John, but Mindy can’t marry Melissa (or John marry Joseph, for that matter). Seem fair? A quick Google will bring you the definition of marriage for yourself:

“The legally or formally recognized union of a man and a woman (or, in some jurisdictions, two people of the same sex) as partners in a relationship”, from OxfordDictionaries.com

Thus far, we have a definition that clearly states the allowance in some cultures of marriage between same sex adults. Already, the label has shifted. In a world that should be pushing an agenda of love and togetherness, not hate and segregation, wouldn’t the ultimate celebration of love be something you’d want to advertise, and wouldn’t you try to get as many people as possible to do it?

Love is love, regardless of gender

Love is love, regardless of gender

The Opponents of Change

Unfortunately, there will always be opposition. A married couple in Australia has vowed to divorce if same-sex marriage is allowed. See it for yourself here. This is their choice, and ultimately I think the ability to express who you are, so long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else, should be encouraged. Nay, it should be a given! They claim that “Marriage is sacred and what is truly marriage will only ever be what it has always been” (a direct quote from the article). I think that defending your culture and your local identity is important. It’s that kind of stuff that ties us together in communities. But to exclude some for their choices, or not allow them to indulge in something you hold as sacred, is a shame. They have their opinion, and are they hurting anyone? This couple are defending their traditions, but at what cost? Their right to choose to divorce over their opinions is as important to liberty as same-sex marriage is to lovers of the same sex.

I hate this idea of sacred tradition; as if somehow tradition cannot adapt with the future and absorb changes in society. I think some traditions are important in expressing ones culture and therefore ones identity, but there are plenty that also restrict that right. To say that genders are ‘traditional’, and therefore shouldn’t be tampered with, is nonsense. It used to be traditional in America for a wealthy family to own a slave. Are you saying that such a tradition shouldn’t have been tampered with? Comparatively, both restrict freedoms and the ability to express one’s identity. I am of course not claiming that gender repression though constriction of identity should be compared to the disgusting practice of slavery, but please forgive my transgression as an attempt to give clarity to those claiming gender revolution or rediscovery is a bad thing. It’s not, it’s a good thing. Challenge normality, embrace diversity!

“In my day we had no choice. You do!”

Expression

So, if labels are redundant, and the world is now building towards a new and fresh definition of what such fundamental concepts as gender actually are, how can we examine where to begin with this new process of the deconstruction of gender identity?

Our sex, as mentioned in part 1 of this series, is something that we are born with. Gender is how we express ourselves, and how we choose to align within the paradigms of gender identity. It is who we are, not what we are. If someone wants to change their appearance, or align with the opposite (or any alternative) gender, why should it be a problem for us? By confusing the two, we are forcing some to abide by a false sense of self, and crushing their individuality. The article Seperating Sex and Gender on ourbodiesourselves.org puts it like this: “In this binary way of thinking, our genitals, not our internal sense of self, are the deciding factor.”

Where do we get our preconceptions from? It is widely accepted in Western culture that boys like blue and girls like pink. Research has been done that actually contradicts this, however. It would appear that much of our understanding of such fundamental differences in gender as this are based on biased upbringings and environmental opposites. And as Anna Fausto-Sterling writes on footnote1.com:

“instead of viewing gender as something inherent and fixed, we should understand it as a developmental process involving the ongoing interaction of genes, hormones, social cues, cultural norms, and other factors” (from Where does gender come from?)

In the fifth and final instalment we will look at how some people are looking to change their sex, as well as their gender identity, through various methods, and what this means for the future of gender.

Special thanks to cescassawin, imagermajestic, stockimages, Stuart Miles and suphakit73 @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net for use of their photos in this blog.

© Itchy Quill and ItchyQuill.WordPress.com, 2015

Defining Gender for an Androgynous Future III; Uniform

title gender 3

In the last instalment, we discussed how the changing face of a society can help to alter how it is interpreted by the younger generation. There is a strong case that environment, especially one of concrete norms and ideals, can influence the younger generations to either do as they are told, or rebel entirely. If they are rebelling, they need the freedom to express themselves within that environment, or they will carve out that freedom for themselves.

How does that work in action? If we enforce a rule upon a teenager, are we asking them to conform for our benefit, or for theirs? The common misconception in my school days was that we had to follow the orders of social constructs, indoctrinated within these roles and expectations, purely to follow suit and prepare us for a ‘normal’ life. ‘Don’t be a freak’ was the catchphrase, and conformity did promise a life much freer from bullying and stigma. A friend of mine wore bright purple flares to a youth club meeting when we were 12 and faced a night of verbal barrage. Insults such as ‘gay’ and ‘girl’ were levied upon him, and yet as an adult I must ask; is calling someone gay really an insult? Equally, is calling someone a woman an insult either? My friend was not wrestling with a gender crisis, but was in fact more of a fashionista than many at the time realised. This was the nineties, bear in mind. Things were, different…

Yes... 'the 90s'

Yes… ‘the 90s’

So, where can we look for an environment today that will help to push us towards a more gender enlightened future? To be honest, the polarising of opinion on such a subject is far from surprising. The fact it can be tied into political, social, judicial, religious and cultural objections and praise is also interesting. If you are feeling ‘misgendered’, it must be your choice what gender you are and not anyone else’s? My generation were told they can be anything they want to be… except the opposite gender. Alas, it always has to about more than that.

Schools are notoriously the home of strict dress codes (with gender reinforcing uniforms), arguably one of the first encounters many of us may have with tight controls on our expression of our gender. When I was at school the boys wore shirts and ties with trousers, while the girls wore skirts (no trousers were allowed until my fourth year at secondary school), with blouses, or female cut shirts, and no ties. In summer, the girls would mock us for overheating in our lengthy trousers and constricting ties while they pranced about in their skirts in the warm breeze. Was this fair? As we were not allowed to wear shorts, should all the boys have donned skirts and been done with it? Hardly. As stated before, to do such an act would have been to invite untold ridicule and isolation. Only the bravest and most headstrong of teenagers are capable of such subversion. But why is that? Everybody enjoys dressing up from time to time.

Let's face it, kids like to dress up

Let’s face it, kids love to dress up

But what if the children themselves did start to accept themselves as what they are, and not what they are told to be? In The New York Times article Can a Boy Wear a Skirt to School, Jan Hofman reports:

“In September, a freshman girl at Rincon High School in Tucson who identifies as male was nominated for homecoming prince. Last May, a gay male student at a Los Angeles high school was crowned prom queen.”

So if the younger generation are already embracing the fluidity of gender, and the freedom to be neutral, unisex and carry a multi-faceted gender expression, who is perpetuating the aforementioned status quo?

“Adults… “become the gender police through dress codes” said “Diane Ehrensaft, an Oakland psychologist who writes about gender” when interviewed for the same New York Times article as above.

That’s right. This level of conformity, rightly or wrongly, is definitely being continued, at least in part, by the structures of identity inherited from our parents, and their parents, and theirs, all the way back to our cavemen selves. It does make me chuckle.But every generation puts its own twist on the gender identity.

When I see old photos of FDR in a dress, I am reminded of how fragile the modern idea of gender expression actually is. As Daniel Fromson writes in the article FDR Grew Up in a Dress: It Wasn’t Always Blue for Boys and Pink for Girls, appearing on theAtlantic.com:

“[FDR’s] unexpected childhood look is a reminder that our cultural norms about gender-specific clothing for children are a surprisingly recent historical development.”

Somehow, between various generations, we have managed to actually lose sight of this gender control to such an extent that we have gone full circle. Wearing a dress was normal for boys in the time of FDR’s childhood, and yet now for a boy to wear a dress is deemed to be inappropriate. Anyone else getting confused? You should be. The twisted logic of such demands of conformity are forcing individuals, with personal cares, affections and tastes, to fit into a uniform of gender, donning a costume so as to be able to pass though the journey of life and tick the boxes expected of us. By demonstrating the fragility of such a construct through the reappropriation of such a practice already, surely the validity of such measures can be seen to be pointless?

We may as well surrender

We may as well surrender

The buzz word at the moment seems to be ‘fluidity’. It is impossible to escape the headlines about Caitlyn Jenner, and rightly so (more on that next week). Yet I worry that the media, in it’s unending quest to perpetuate conventions it deems integral to supporting the current, restrictive status quo, will often portray these cases with an element of ridicule. Their propensity for tongue in cheek, for mockery, shines through the journalism, and fails to fully tackle the nature of what is being expressed. The ridiculous nature of celebrity news notwithstanding, there will be little room for such a tentative issue — in need of serious academic debate and an open dialogue in society — to get the attention it deserves. It is a golden opportunity for a mainstream debate about the nature of gender identity, and yet I know that such a discussion is still a few years away. Still, it’s nice to see the world is at least talking about it, even if some of the comments on sites such as Twitter are derogatory or satirical.

To help us with the transition, the twitter account @she_not_he was set up by of The Washington Post. She wanted to politely remind people of the ‘misgendering’ that was happening at Caitlyn Jenner’s expense. Though, expectedly, it got a lot of stick from the Twittersphere, and many ignored it or retaliated with ‘whatevers’ or even silence, there were a few who took the comments on board, and offered promises of change. As Caitlin herself writes:

“…there were those few precious apologizers, the ones who said sorry, that they’d “get it right” next time. In some ways, their heartfelt responses to a dumb Twitter bot aren’t just surprising or gratifying. They’re kind of, sort of, revolutionary.”

“Come on Dave, say something indigo for heaven’s sake!”

And that is exactly the point. Such a dialogue, though messy and obtuse and even a little hard to even take seriously in a domain like Twitter, was still able to shift the mentality of a few. That few, hopefully, can walk away with lessons learned, the world a better place. With that happening, it shouldn’t be long (one hopes) before a critical mass is reached and the exponential growth of the kind of gender reclassification, the induction of fluidity and neutrality against the obstinate nature of traditionalists.

Ultimately, does it really matter? We should be free to be what we want to be. If nobody actually mentioned Caitlyn Jenner again, would any of our loves change? No, they wouldn’t. She could go on doing her thing, and we could go on doing ours. And that is the crux of all of this; why should someone else’s decisions about their life, their personality and their identity, matter to anyone else? If they are not harming anyone by expressing themself, then surely they are free to do as they please? You can choose to be offended by someone’s choices, that is your right as an individual. But forcing your rhetoric and beliefs upon them is not, as they are not forcing theirs upon you. Let each other be free to be what you want to be, and watch the world prosper from the celebration of individualism and of the self.

Next week we will be exploring further the idea of the uniform of gender, but with a greater focus on labels and the associated stigmas.

Special thanks to  @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net for use of their photos in this blog.

© Itchy Quill and ItchyQuill.WordPress.com, 2015