JJ Vincent asked a 36-year-old about gender, identity, self-expression, and what defines a man.
I met Ethan years ago at Disneyland. We’ve been roommates (for a weekend), hair twins (different weekend), and shared many Sundays at the Magic Kingdom. He now lives much too far away. He stepped in when I needed some help on this, on a Monday morning, at an hour when mere mortals are still asleep.
Q: The dictionary is being rewritten. How would you define gender?
A: A label comprised of a combination of physical and psychological characteristics having to do with sexual identity.
Q: How would you identify your own gender?
Q: What do you think makes someone a man?
A: Them identifying as male.
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: I would most likely allow them to chose their own toys, regardless of the gendering of those toys, however, I would let them know verbally and through example that just because “everyone else” thinks that they should play with certain items/in certain play patterns, this doesn’t mean that they have to. That being said, if my daughter goes through a princess phases, I would deal with it and allow her to do so…I would just be sure to let her know that princess and ninja are not mutually exclusive concepts.
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: M/F/O for “Other” or just allow people to select both or none? O is probably the best option, because it allows everyone to check a box.
Q: Do you think topics of gender identity and expression should be discussed in schools? Why/why not?
A: Sure! Its a huge portion of self-identity and how people fit into society. That being said, if it is being discussed in a public school, it needs to be an inclusive discussion. Non-cis-gendered people pay taxes too, after all. Plus, it’s the right thing to do. Also, the more complicated thing to do, at least at the beginning.
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: Depends on the relationship. If we are talking about acquaintances, it should be a topic early only in as much as it involves which pronouns should be used when referring to each other. If it is a deeper friendship, it should be a conversation broached in order to more fully understand where someone is coming from and where they are going to. Romantically, it should be even more in depth in order to ensure that everyone has as complete a picture as possible so that the relationship can develop into something that is as fully satisfying to all parties as possible.
Q: What or who do you think are the biggest influences on a boy/young man’s gender development?
A: The media, followed by religion (which is just a different kind of mass media).
Q: What effect do you think that current male stereotypes in the media have on men in general?
A: Mostly bad. There has been some movement towards more inclusive role models, but it really is just the tip of the iceberg. I think it is telling that the major push towards gender equality on a binary male/female level in the media is the rise of body image disorders among boys and men. The way the media works, instead of raising all people to a higher level, it panders to the lowest common denominator.
Q: Last question. You have the chance to display/show your gender identity. Anything goes, no questions asked. What do you wear?
A: T-shirt, shorts, sneakers. Mostly because I am lazy and am happy to accept the free-ride that the media and society has handed me because I am in possession of a penis.
Photo courtesy of author, provided by/used with permission of subject.
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