This post is a continuation of Disrupting the Norm P1 – a post about last night’s class which created discomfort for some when we began talking about LGBT students and issues that they face in schools.
This is me – Cynthia. What do first see when you look at this picture of me?
I walked into one class and the professor said, “What’s your name?”
I replied, “Cynthia.”
The professor paused and looked at me with a puzzled expression.
I said, “I am Cynthia.”
I think she was expecting me to have a man’s name, even though I am a female, but my gender performance is more masculine.
When you look at a picture of Caitlyn Jenner, who do you see? Do you see Caitlyn or do you still see and refer to her as Bruce?
When you look at the person next to you, or in the mirror, who do you see?
Why is it that one of the first things we think about when we see someone is whether they are a boy or a girl? Why does it matter to you if I am a boy or a girl?
Gender is a social construction, and if you look at Judith Butler’s work, she suggests gender is a performance. An important distinction needs to be noted, gender does not influence one’s sexuality. Because one’s performance of gender can vary, someone might not fit into societies stereotypical image of who a woman looks like or who a man looks like. Likewise, stereotypes about people’s sexuality are also not accurate. A gay man be ‘flamboyant’, or he may be very masculine. A lesbian may be very feminine in appearance and actions, or she may be more masculine, more ‘butch’.
Just because a young girl may appear to dress as a “tom-boy” or more masculine in appearance, this does not indicate that they are transgender, or that they are a lesbian. For myself, I know that I dress the way I do because this is how I feel comfortable. Are there times when my appearance becomes more feminine, certainly, however I do not always feel comfortable in those situations.
I met another professor and I said, “Hi, I’m Cynthia.” I later found out that she began to question my gender. She told me that after a while, she thought to herself, “why does it matter what gender you are?” – Indeed, why does it matter?
This professor happens to be my course instructor. After class, I talked with her for a bit and we had a great conversation, where she shared the above information. We also talked about how I felt during class, whether I was able to talk within my small group, etc. I told her that the small group discussion was hard, as people are set in their beliefs. I also told her that in the large class discussion I did not say certain things that I wanted to bring up, partially because a few classmates were mad that we were talking about LGBT topics, as well as the fact that I questioned how much do I tell about myself? Do I need to “out” myself? Should I have to “out” myself in order to impact my classmates viewpoints, or for them to realize that what they are voicing may be hurtful?
The professor and I talked through these points, as well as others. I appreciate her showing me first that she cares about me, and second that she was willing to continue the discussion.
The ultimate question our class was left with at the end of the night was:
How will LGBT students be supported and defended without resorting to something that constructs them as outside the norm, or something that labels them as ‘others’?
Excuses from teachers of “I don’t know enough” or “my students aren’t LGBT,” can’t be seen as valid or acceptable responses anymore. Everyone knows someone or has heard about LGBT rights. As well, I believe that religion can no longer, nor has it ever been a valid excuse for the homophobic treatment by Catholics towards LGBT people. If we are taught to love one another and to treat others as we want to be treated, I believe that we should do so.
While progress has been made, there is so much further to go. We often talk about race and culture, and avoid topics such as LGBT rights, because it is easier to talk about culture. Culture is what society likes to talk about – look at the media. Why do we put up walls when talking about / to LGBT students, families, health, etc?