Originally posted on the Kinesis blog on March 7, 2017.
You and only you are solely responsible for your ability to empathize with other human beings, especially when some of those human beings are part of your own nation or ethnic group. Granted, there are instances in which, as a raced person, your ability to empathize with mainstream concerns may be interrupted.
That being said… If nobody else has extended this insight to you, I hope it helps. The difference between sex and gender is very simple. Sex = organs at birth. Male & female (there are points between, as we all know). Gender is how you behave according to your society’s rules. Girl, boy. Gender is often informed by genitalia but isn’t necessarily. Gender is how one performs in public. They aren’t the same thing. A trans boy, for example, was born female and represents himself as how our society says a boy looks, talks and acts, and considers himself a boy. This is why calling girls and women females doesn’t really work, either. Additionally, there are many versions, beyond standards and socially dictated norms, of boy and girl, man and woman. Every woman does not perform femininity or womanhood the same. That in and of itself, complicates norms among transgender women as well, and has created the necessity for some individuals to force open the narrative of what it looks and sounds like to be a “woman,” in our society, coupled with defiance of accepted standards of beauty.
Renown scholar Judith Butler discusses the performance of gender, in this video clip. Interestingly enough, what we would consider to be norms in the performance of gender, are almost entirely eurocentric, hence my usage of a white feminist to illustrate this point. What we can learn from her work in unpacking gender, clues us into the context under which gender has been created in this society and therefore indoctrinated into our minds as non-white people. It is a fact that part of the colonization efforts, worldwide in all of the darker continents, was not only to reorient indigenous peoples away from their own spiritual systems and deities, but to entirely overhaul their understandings and practices concerning modes of dress, hair styles, sex, the proper sexual positions, marriage, family structure and gender binaries. Such was the work of priests and missionaries across the globe. This was the case in Africa, Asia, the Pacific Islands, Australia and the Americas. What we understand gender as now, is not always what we understood, and is not what some understand who continue to carry on their ancient, autochthonal traditions.
If that is a lot to take in or understand, for the sake of empathizing with your fellow human, you may want to resist saying things like, folks are “confused” or commenting in any way that basically means that you’re saying, “I don’t want to think that deeply.” That seems to be the common response. It helps no one. It is counterproductive to reject people simply because you don’t want to think a little more, or to continue creating your own mental alternate reality where these people do not exist or are simply crazed.