“I am not my gender”

I acknowledge that gender differences pervade our society. Men have more facial hair then women. Women wear more makeup than men. It is a fact that, as a generalization, women will act a certain way, and men act another certain way. Where this becomes problematic is when an eight-year-old boy thinks there is something wrong with himself because how he behaves and feels does not line up with his family’s expectation of how an eight-year-old boy should behave and feel.

My family is about as heteronormative as they come. More than 24 close family members, and all are following the dream of marrying the opposite sex, having children, and settling down. As the youngest in the family, I have always felt pressure to eventually conform to this lifestyle. My father dropping comments of “When you bring your wife home” or “I can’t wait for grandkids” really didn’t give me a choice in the matter. I was expected to marry a woman and have children.

For my family, this story has a happy ending. I am a straight male and plan on following through with a normal lifestyle. For me, however, the story has a different ending. My family will never see the real me. The me that refuses to fall into the gender norms of this world. Do I have the need to put on makeup right now? No. But if I ever wanted to, shouldn’t I be able to without worrying about how others will see me? It seems ironic to me that most people see gender as a “natural” category that every person falls into. What seems entirely artificial to me is the idea that someone wants to do something for themselves or for others, yet they do not because of how they will be perceived by society.

I’ll say this: gender has influenced my life in too many ways, forcing me to take up certain hobbies or interests, shying away from friends because of how I might be perceived having a close relationship with a female friend. I’m tired of it. It’s always been an uphill battle to juggle others’ perceptions while staying true to myself. Yes, I am male. But I am not my gender. I am so much more than someone who loves football and sings bass. I am so much more than someone whose best friend is a woman yet not my girlfriend. I am the sum of all my interests, behaviors, and attitudes, none of which fall neatly into a single category. I am who I am.