Saturday, November 19, 2011

Snips, Spice, Sugar, Snails - Gender Identification

The most important thing about you is your gender.

Really.  Want to know how I know?  It's the first thing anyone asked when they found out you were born.  Unless there were complications, it's the first thing the doctor told your parents.  It's the first label you got in this world.  It's why you were no longer an "it."

The doctor told your parents which gender you were and it will be a part of your life forever.  You will be checking that gender box on forms for the rest of your life.  Hundreds, maybe thousands, of forms.  Declaring your gender.  It's kind of a big deal.

Is it really the most important thing about you?  I don't know.  But it is a big deal.

I'm a science girl.  For me, the question of whether someone is male or female is usually pretty simple.  If they have a penis, they're a boy.  If not, they're a girl.  Seems pretty simple, huh?

And there was a time when I believed it was that simple.  But that was a long time ago.

Even speaking scientifically, it's not always that simple.  There are cases when a person has mixed gentalia.  Sometimes external male genitals and internal female genitals.  Along with other situations, this can get complicated.  And I'm not going to lie, when I was pregnant I worried about this.  (Because when you are pregnant you worry about everything!)  I worried that when my baby was born there would be some question as to gender and I would be faced with incredibly difficult decisions that could affect this small person forever.  It wasn't a big worry, it's not common, but it was a possibility that crossed my mind.

I have no idea what I would do in that situation other than pray a lot.  I would do a lot of soul searching to try to do what was best for that child.  I don't believe people are ever put in the wrong bodies.  (But I understand why others disagree with me on this.)

Fortunately, I have been blessed.  All of my children have been definitely male or female at birth.  I have also been blessed that each of them feels comfortable with their gender and accepts it as correct for them, as far as I know.  And I have always felt comfortable being female.

But there is so much more to gender identification.  There are parental preferences.  There are social prejudices.  There are nurturing styles.  There are abuse situations.  There are hormones in our food.  And there are so many societal expectations and definitions of what it means to be male or female.

It's not just about your body and science.  It's not just about what parts you have.  Part of gender identification is external; part of it is internal.

There is so much more to talk about.

This post is part of an on-going series discussing gender issues.  To start at the beginning, go here.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

My Scary Super Power

We all have things we're good at.  Things we do better than others.  Sometimes, lots better.  We think of them as gifts, talents, abilities.  And I have those, too.

But I think, every now and then, we discover something about ourselves that is so powerful that it scares us.  It's just something we do.  We didn't understand what it really meant.  And then something happens which brings it front and center. 

When this happened to me I freaked out.  I panicked.  I swore to never use my power again.

I have the power of persuasion.  And it scares me.

I used to think it was cool to win an argument or get my way.  I used to like using words to convince my friends to do what I wanted instead of what they wanted.  I used to like using logic to disprove what everyone knew was true -- to the point that everyone was questioning what they believed before.

It's not cool.  It's dangerous.

So many people don't want to make decisions.  They don't want to think for themselves.  They don't want to choose.  And I have often had people try to put me in the position of making the decision for them (which I am actually not doing even if I tell them what to do; they are still choosing to do what I said).

Before I understood this I answered requests for advice.  What do you think I should do?  And I would tell them.  I figured everyone else was like me and would seek lots of advice, do their own research, and follow their heart.  I was wrong.  People would ask.  I would answer.  They would do.

I remember the first time someone said they did something because, "Robin said I should."  WHAT?  No, I didn't.  I just tried to give you more information.  Just my opinion.  Not a directive.

I don't want that kind of responsibility.

But, like King Midas and X-Men, sometimes it's tough to not use this power.  I don't even know I'm influencing someone and then hear later that I changed their mind.

I can argue either side of most questions.  I am quite analytical.  I am logical.  I am good with words.  And I am a student of human behavior, so after a few sentences back and forth I can tell whether this person is arguing with their heart or mind and which area they feel strongest about and which attack will work.  It's kind of like a sport I am naturally good at.  It just happens.

I have learned to be very cautious when answering a request for advice.  If I sense that this person wants me to make their decision for them, I try to give arguments on both sides.  I'm good at seeing options.  And usually people asking for advice aren't seeing options.  I try to give several options without weighing any of them more heavily than the other so they don't think I'm telling them to do this or that.

Why won't I decide for them?  Why won't I tell them what to do?  Especially all those people who are obviously screwing up their lives that I can easily see the answers to?  Because I did in the past and it was bad.

There is always information I don't have.  They don't grow if they aren't self-determining.  And because I believe to my core that each of us should choose for ourselves whenever possible.

And that is something I would like to persuade you of.  That you should choose for yourself.  I believe it with all my heart.  Because that is what this power is truly for.  To testify of truth in a way that allows others the chance to choose it for themselves.  Because we are all more capable, more powerful, than we know.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Fact Check: A True Friend is Always There for You

Poppycock!  Seriously, I'm calling a big baloney on this one.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that this is a girl truism.  We women think this is true.  We tell other women it's true.  We all want to have that kind of friend.  We all feel pressure to be that kind of friend.

Well, let me tell you right now, I don't believe this kind of friend exists.  I don't believe this person exists.  And if she does, she is very unhealthy emotionally.

Let's talk about a real friend.  Let's call her Jane.  Jane is a great friend.  She loves you and supports you.  She listens to you when you are struggling.  She calls you on it when you are avoiding things out of fear.  She loves you even after you yell at her when you're having a bad day.  She is a great friend.

But Jane has crises in her life, too.  Jane sometimes leaves town.  Jane sometimes gets sick.  Jane sometimes gets angry with you and doesn't want to talk to you.  Jane sometimes has emotional breakdowns and has nothing left for you.

When you've had a fight with your husband and think your world is ending, Jane may be dealing with the loss of her dear mother.  She just can't comfort you right now.

Sometimes Jane just isn't there for you.

Why?  If Jane is a true friend, why won't she put everything in her life aside to make you feel better?

Because she is a person, too.  And she's not in charge of making you happy -- you are.  She is in charge of making herself happy and taking care of her emotional needs.

That's why we all need a support system.  Not just a best friend.

As part of self-care, it's your responsibility to build a support system for yourself.  No one is going to do it for you.  People aren't just going to fall into your life and become important to you and supportive of you without any effort on your part.  You have to reach out.  You have to open up.  You have to risk rejection and find those people.  And it will probably take many of them to get you through this life.  Because life is tough and we need others.

No one should be the ONLY person in the world who understands you and can help you through.  That's just not a kind position to put someone in.  It's unrealistic and it's selfish.  Even if it's your spouse.

Reach out.  Make friends.  Find support.  Let your friends be real people. 

And if you're Jane, quit trying to be everyone's saving grace and just be Jane.  A good friend who helps and supports when it's healthy to do so.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Snips, Spice, Sugar, Snails - An Introduction

Gender.  What does that mean to you?  Does it inspire questions or debate in your mind?  How often do you find yourself thinking about it or discussing it?  How often do you reference it?  How much does it affect your life and how you interact with those around you?

I've been pondering gender a lot lately.  And I have some thoughts.  Some things to say.  Some practices to question.  Maybe some pots to stir.

But I have too many thoughts for one post.  So I have decided to do a series of posts on the subject of gender.

I am not a fan of stirring controversy.  Really, I usually like to keep my political and religious beliefs to myself.  I do not feel a need to convince others to believe what I believe.

But I imagine that my beliefs may color some of what I say.  So I guess I better get some of them out in the open.

I believe we existed before we came to this earth.  I believe that gender was part of who we were then.  I don't believe we came to earth as a girl or boy because God assigned that to us; I believe we came as whatever we were before.  If you are a girl on earth, I believe you were a girl before earth.

I also believe there are some really big questions about gender and gender-related issues that I don't know the answers to.  Things I have thought about, studied, and prayed about that I am still unsure of.  There are things I haven't taken a position on.

There are generalities.  And there are exceptions.  There are assumptions.  And there are truths.

There is love.  And hate.  And fear.  And confusion.

And I want to talk about some of these.

This post is part of an on-going series on gender issues.  If you would like to continue this thread, go here.