My friend Grace phrased something in a very interesting way on Twitter a little while ago, and it got me thinking. It was a tweet that was just a sidenote, but it was an important one. Essentially, Grace said that the notion of “real manliness” (and by extension, “real” womanhood) is toxic. Toxic: (adj) acting as or having the effect of a poison; poisonous: a toxic drug.
The conception that there are lines to be draw as to what defines a man or a woman, other than mere sexual characteristics, is, in itself, poisonous. It is something that sucks the life from a person – not quickly, but slowly, incrementally, like carbon monoxide seeping into one’s house.
The ideas behind rigid gender roles, rigid conceptualizations of how men and women should behave and perform their genders are killing us – some of us quite literally. It bears repeating that gay teens – ie, teens who don’t necessarily fit into society’s prescribed gender roles – are four times more likely to kill themselves than the national average. The majority of trans* people will experience violence based solely on their status as a trans* person.
And those are just the large scale issues we can point to.
Sometimes, there isn’t any physical violence. Sometimes the violence is emotional. The father who yells at his son because his son would rather bake cookies than go out for football. The mother who expresses disappointment when her daughter would rather wear a pair of overalls and cut her hair short than spend time in front of the mirror making herself look “pretty.” The kids at school who tease boys for being friends with girls. The teachers who tell a little girl who wants to play soccer that soccer is a boys’ game and “wouldn’t you rather be a cheerleader?”
In little ways, every day, we instruct our children to conform, we tell them that “this is an acceptable version of yourself.” With our disappointment, with our ideas of “real” manliness or womanliness (the definition of which varies from person to person), we create a toxic environment in which people cannot be fully themselves, cannot be fully what they are called to be, because we insist on ‘This is how God made you,’ rather than first seeing who a person is becoming.
I'm done dealing with toxins.