Sunday, January 25, 2009

So many mountain tops...

I heard a great interview on The State We're In this morning. The theme was "the right to refuse," and they did 3 stories focusing on various interpretations of that theme. The one I was able to hear all of (and was most interested in) was about Norrie May-Welby, who refuses to be classified as a specific gender.

Norrie's story is not entirely unusual... she was initially born as a boy and always felt more female; however, after the sex change operation, Norrie decided not to take hormones and therefore never developed breasts or fully eliminated certain traditionally male features, such as chest hair.

Now, Norrie considers herself about 60% female and 40% male, and prefers to be called she but does not truly identify with being completely female or male... and thus prefers to embrace the right to refuse classification.

It was an excellent interview because Norrie is incredibly articulate, self-reflective, and humorous. And so it was nice to hear from someone who struggles with and eschews gender-role stereotyping and is able to communicate the thought and feeling process behind it all so well.

I believe we have much more to learn and understand with regard to the differences and subtleties of sex, gender, orientation, and all the things connected to such elements of our identities. Gender-role expectations are powerful things, as is the socialization process based on cultural perceptions of who we are as male and female, how we choose to conduct ourselves, and who we love or are attracted to.

Perhaps one day we will embrace all the possibilities that exist within the human experience in terms of gender and sexuality (and, ultimately, identity)... if not openly, then at least without fear and hostility. Stories like this at least keep the dialogue going, and help to remind us to continually challenge our preconceptions, assumptions, and values so that we may ultimately treat everyone with the same level of compassion, dignity, and gentleness.

No comments: