Society had it all worked out in advance for me. All the time growing up, the message though implicit was loud and clear. Any of my future romantic endeavors would concern the male kind, because I’m female. This presented difficulties when I came to realize that I liked girls, and not boys.
I couldn’t fulfill my gender role as was set for me. I fell short of society’s expectation and this came at a price. I thought I was “different” on foot of this. I felt I couldn’t be who I was, who I am, who I’ve always been. But I didn’t know any better at the time.
I would come to learn that society was not taking account of me as a person, as an individual, but saw me as a gender, as a female. I would come to understand society as a dictator of gender roles. Decreeing commands and orders lending to this culture of conformity.
As a girl, I should have grown up to like boys. And boys should grow up to like girls. Little boys play with trucks. Little girls play with dolls. Boys have short hair. Girls wear dresses. And from the clothes we wear, to the jobs we do to the length of our hair, any departure from these societal “norms” for genders has always been met with resistance.
As a young girl, Hillary Clinton wrote to NASA asking them what she needed to do in order to become an astronaut. NASA wrote back and told her there would be no women astronauts.
There was once resistance to women voting. There was once resistance to men having long hair. Today there is resistance to the woman who wants to marry the woman she loves, and to the man who wants to marry the man he loves. Society has resisted same gender attraction. Society also resisted the idea of female astronauts.
It was summer 2012 when the world paid respect to the passing of Dr. Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, survived by her partner of 27 years, Ms. Tam O’Shaughnessy.
History tells us there has always been resistance to deviation from gender roles, so why would orientation be any different?
While we can see that change has always been resisted, we can also see that the resistance was never justified. It never made it right. It was never right that women were precluded from becoming astronauts because of gender, just like it’s not right now that couples are precluded from marriage because of gender. And of all the things history teaches us, it sure repeats itself.
Same gender attraction colors all of history. There was never an abnormality about it, only society chose to deem it abnormal. But that didn’t make it true. Society created and affixed the stigma.
Statute books may have recorded a prohibition and medical books may have recorded a “disorder,” but that never made the prohibition justified or the diagnosis accurate. They were discriminatory laws and erroneous assumptions fueled by misinformation, misunderstanding and indeed prejudice. They caused nothing but hardship and achieved nothing but the enforcement of gender roles. Same gender attraction is perfectly natural and perfectly normal. It always was. The truth prevailed.
Resistance had less to do with orientation and more to do with the role of a woman and the role of a man, per society.
“Golden Girl” Betty White, who celebrated her 91st birthday only this week, made a statement in support of marriage equality not so long ago. She said, “I don’t care who anybody sleeps with … I don’t know how people can get so anti-something. Mind your own business, take care of your affairs, and don’t worry about other people so much.”
Of course, the topic of orientation includes a sexual element. Orientation does not concern your whole life. It concerns your love life. And love lives include sex. Deviation from what’s “expected” of one’s gender has always met resistance, and the fact that it’s in a sexual capacity serves to exacerbate the situation, and accounts for aggravated resistance. It’s not just about long hair or occupations, it involves sex and sex is somewhat taboo. It’s not a general interest topic of discussion. It’s not like the weather. It’s not a topic one uses to pass the couple of minutes in an elevator or while waiting for the bus. People don’t bring it up and there’s a reason for that. Sexual activity is a private affair no matter what genders it involves. To be fair, such thoughts shouldn’t really be occupying the minds of any third party, never mind operate to fuel prejudice and discrimination.
Betty White spoke much sense when she said, “Mind your own business, take care of your affairs, and don’t worry about other people so much.”
Einstein suggested, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.” There are different genders. There are different orientations. Our world is beautifully diverse. Some of us are attracted to women. Some of us are attracted to men, some of us to both. Same gender attraction is not an exception to the rule, in fact, it forms part of it, because, that rule is that there’s diversity in orientation.
For me as a female, it was grow up and like boys or be “different.” For boys, it’s grow up and like girls or be “different.” There’s this choice of conformity or consequences. Yet, we have laws, and we have a Constitution, we have a statute book. We have all these conduct-governing mechanisms to both keep us in line and keep us from harm. There is no use to superfluous gender rules. And to be sure, these rules don’t come without sanction and punishment.
People, particularly youngsters, pay a price for not abiding by these rules. Charged and convicted of “difference,” there can be a debt to pay. That debt can be an expensive one, how do you even put a value on self-esteem and self-worth? These “rules,” they hamper, they hinder, they even harm. I mean, what do we think actually causes bullying?
“Who is the man and who is the woman in the relationship?” A question often asked of same gender couples. Some ask humorously. Some ask seriously. But it is perhaps the most illustrative example of gender role conformity at its worst. There was never anything wrong with same gender attraction. Same gender attraction is not a problem. Society’s expectation of gender roles is the problem.
We are not just genders, with roles to fill. We are individuals.
To John F. Kennedy, “Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.” Growth embraces equality, and a society that honors equality cannot enforce gender roles because equality and gender roles do not co-exist.