JJ Vincent asked a 52-year-old about gender, identity, self-expression, and what defines a man.
Stewart, age 52, is from Kansas City. I met him a few years ago through a friend. There’s very little he can’t do. He can build it, mend it, fix it, create it, drive it, ride it, you call it. He’s as comfortable in the bike shop as he is in dance class. I was not expecting to get this interview, but I’m very glad that I did.
Q: The dictionary is being rewritten. How would you define gender?
A: Having either male or female characteristics.
Q: How would you identify your own gender?
Q: What do you think makes someone a man?
A: Simply stated, the sex that a person was born makes them a man or a woman. In a more abstract sense, being a man can mean to me having strength of character.
Q: There’s a lot of current discussion about children being raised without gender. If you had care of a very young child, how would you approached gendered issues (toys, clothing, activities)?
A: To start with, I have never had children, so my views are not representative of the greater population and probably should not be used in a study. I would conform to social standards to a limited extent so that the child would not be ridiculed by others because of my influence. Choices of toys I would leave up to the child. Children’s clothes aren’t all that important to me. They should choose for themselves when they are old enough. Younger than that, I don’t think I would dress them in clothes that are distinctly gender specific.
Q: Most forms and surveys have boxes on them for M or F. Would you change this if you could and if so, how what would you put instead?
A: No, I would not change it.
Q: Do you think topics of gender identity and expression should be discussed in schools? Why/why not?
A: No, the majority of schools are state institutions. I’m not comfortable with the government educating kids on these type of topics.
Q: A question about relationships. If a person identifies themselves outside of the traditional M/F, should this be an early topic of conversation? Should it be a topic at all?
A: It would have to be discussed in order to not be deceptive. How early this discussion occurs would depend on how much that identity would effect the relationship. If this disclosure might effect how the other party feels, it should be revealed before there is so much emotional investment that a person would be hurt.
Q: Let’s go back to to the idea of “strength of character”. How would define “strength of character”, or how would you describe a man who has “strength of character”.
A: He follows through on commitments even when it becomes difficult or uncomfortable. He accepts challenges in life as they are presented to him. He doesn’t waver from his code of ethics. These characteristics are not unique to males. These are values that I measure myself against as a man, but I expect that a woman of character would behave the same.
Q: On the topic of influence, besides an adult caregiver, who or what do you think is the biggest on a boy’s character development?
A: The other children that they associate with.
Q: Last question. You have the chance to display/show your gender identity. Anything goes, no questions asked. What do you wear?
A: Formal wear, a suit or tuxedo would make a clear identity, not that I typically wear that sort of thing.
Photo courtesy of author, used with permission of subject
Previous “10 Questions About Gender” Interviews:
Not Better, Not Worse, Just Different: 10 Questions About Gender
Suit, Tie, and Tolerance: 10 Questions About Gender
Stripes, Queer, or Houndstooth: 10 Questions About Gender
Check M, F, or Other: 10 Questions About Gender