Day 6: How We Exercise Our Gender and Sexuality Daily- And Un/consciously Choose to Oppress Minorities

17 Feb

Today, I ran into an article on the Huffington Post, written by a writer “Amelia.” She is a regular blogger on HuffPost, and although it was my first time running into her article, I became a huge fan of her writing. I was deeply touched by her courage to make bold social comments by telling the readers very personal stories, and I saw nothing but courage and humanity.

The very article was titled, “When Your 7-Year-Old Son Announces, ‘I’m Gay.’” Some of you may feel uncomfortable, and others may find the degree of courage to tell such a story very touching. Or maybe you feel both ways, and I do hope that what you are feeling is nothing negative. She tells us that her son, after he learned the definition of word “gay,” figured out part of his identity. He tells his parents that he’s gay. Amelia’s (and her husband’s) reaction is something so respectable. She accepts him as he is and lets him know that she loves him no matter what multiple times. However, she also does not forget to warn him about how people in the society may not like that particular part of his identity. In the story, the level of unconditional love as a parent is almost heartbreaking, perhaps because she foresees the difficulties that he may face and has to tell him that people may not like him for who he is.

This article totally reminded me of a Korean television program that I watched recently. It’s a Korean version of Super Nanny, where a child specialist goes into a family of a child that has behavioral problems and advices on good parenting. The very episode that I watched was somewhat disturbing and confusing to me. The specific boy’s family consists of the parents, younger sister (around 3-4 years old maybe) and himself (who seemed to be about 6 years old). The father was away in the Middle East for his work, so he has been mostly absent throughout the boy’s life. The mother was not a very happy person, partly because of the stress coming from the pregnancy of the third child and having to exercise the role of both father and mother. The boy had several behavioral problems, many of them from such family circumstances. One of the problems that was raised was that he liked girly stuff. He likes to play with dolls and stuffed animals (unlike other boys who run around and play with robots and toy guns), fancies skirts (which he had a few), and not aggressive at all even when his younger sister picked up fights.

What bothered me was the child specialist’s evaluation. She said that the boy is at the developmental age when children figures out how boys and girls “should” act differently. She claimed that he “lacks healthy male role model [due to the absence of his father] hence missing out on the opportunity to develop his masculinity during the crucial period.” She then suggested that he learns Taekwondo where he can be surrounded with a bunch of boys and takes the master as his male role model. By showing many feminine characteristics – such as not being able to fight back against his younger sister over a toy, liking the color pink, and liking cleaning the house— the boy, only 6 years old or so, was stigmatized publicly as someone who is in trouble, who is not behaving right.

Yes, the main concern for the specialist and the parents was that he might become a misfit in the conformist society where standing-out is not OK. But by not accepting who he is, by telling him that what he is doing is something shameful and wrong, they are telling a 6-year-old that he must be concerned about how people would perceive him at such a young age, instead of being concerned about learning about and accepting himself. There is also an implicit message that he cannot be loved if he does not act like all the other boys in the society. Isn’t the love from parents supposed to be unconditional? Couldn’t they accept him as who he is and just watch him how he grow as a whole person, someone who loves him as he is?

These got me thinking a lot about how we perform our gender and sexuality. There are a lot of discussions regarding LGBTQ population and how we, the majority heterosexuals where girls dress like girls and boys dress like boys, should treat them. There are plenty of political, religious, social discourses that support or disagree with the idea of homosexuality and LGBTQ population. Is it nature (Is she “born this way”)? Is it nurture? Does one choose to wear something that’s not normal to that specific sex/gender? Can one be “ungay-ed”? Would God approve homosexuals and transvestites?

In the discussions, we often forget some simple truths. We are socially programmed to develop prejudices against something that is out of ordinary and minority, regarding gender role, sexuality, race/ethnicity, whatever. And when things are not quite fitting together, we impose ridicule, hatred and injustice against the minority and feel compelled to push the “abnormal” to become “normal,” because it’s OK to hate those who are not in line with the majority. Before we teach our children (OK, I don’t have any, but the younger generation) what kind of gender one should or should not perform, why can’t we teach them how to love themselves as they are, instead of trying to fit into the social expectations? And why can’t we teach them to love one another because they are different, not despite? After all, everyone is made differently, even minor things like the shape of one’s feet.

When I become a parent, the first thing that I will teach my child would be how to love herself as she is, and I will love her no matter what.

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