The Problem With The Gender Question
One of the first questions people ask when they find out your expecting is: do you know if you're having a boy or girl? The question is innocent enough, people want to know if you're having a pretty little princess or a handsome little man. They want to know what color clothes to buy. They want to imagine the life they'll have.
No, Mina and I don't know the gender yet. We'll find out in a few weeks, sure, but in all honesty, that question makes me a little nervous. Not because I prefer any gender over another, but because it makes me realize the world we're bringing this little person into. Regardless of how much we want to protect our little baby from preconceived stereotypes and want them to find their interests, regardless of gender expectations, there will always be people who will instill expectations into their mind of how they should be because of their biological makeup.
I can already feel the judging eyes peering on our little one and side comments being made. It will never be the neutral, accepting world that we hope for.
And it makes me nervous.
It's easy to think that it's not a big deal. To write off my nervousness as millennial liberal gender neutral propaganda.
But, it is a big deal. It's a very big deal.
Our concept of masculinity is toxic.
Ever since I was a little boy I was taught to not look like a pussy. This concept has been instilled in me ever since I can remember, probably shortly after I stopped wearing diapers. I rarely cried as a kid, and when I did, what came after was a deep feeling of unbearable shame and negative self-esteem.
Boys aren't supposed to cry. Suck it up, princess.
These were comments I'd hear from my friends, my brothers, other men I respected. I was told that boys weren't supposed to feel negative emotion. I even remember feeling a positive emotion, like excitement or joy and would be met with harsh looks from my father or older brothers.
You're cheering like a girl. What are you, a cheerleader?
Boys need to be stoic, grounded and to never feel. That's what I was taught. I was conditioned to think that if I showed emotion that nobody would like me. Period. And isn't that one of the core human wants? To be liked? In my mind, if I was emotional then I wouldn't have friends. My family would be ashamed of me. Girls would avoid me.
I would be completely alone.
So I didn't feel. I taught myself how to avoid emotion and to become numb. I buried feelings deep inside and swallowed them when they would bubble up. Nothing ever showed.
The problem, as I'm dealing with now, is that I've completely missed out on experiencing my fullest life. I've missed out pain, sure, but I've also missed out on joy. I've missed out on connecting with people. I've missed out on living.
Also, it's done major damage to my mental health.
I've been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, and spend many hours a week in intense individual and group therapy. I do daily homework, and journal and spend time identifying the deepest parts of myself. All because I never learned how to properly process emotion.
At 27, I'm learning how to feel again. And at this age, it's really fucking hard. After decades of conditioning myself to not feel, I'm forced to retrain my brain and thought patterns, and identify feelings before I push them away. It's incredibly exhausting.
And how come? All because I was told that boys aren't supposed to feel.
And why is that? Because feeling is for girls.
We tell our boys not to feel because feeling is for lesser people. Feeling is for girls.
And from there, we're instilling this concept that boys are more than girls. Girls are the ones who cry and whine and bitch.
Then, our gender perceptions start forming. It seems innocent enough at first. Boys don't like girls because they're gross and have cooties. But then we start calling other boys pussies.
And then we grow up. We become teens, instilled with this misogynistic concept of worthiness.
Boys are worth more than girls.
We keep calling our friends pussies and bitches. Maybe even homos. And it makes sense, right? Because being gay is like being a girl. It's not like being a man. Being a man doesn't feel. They go and accomplish and are hard and stoic. They don't cry or ask for help when they're down. They don't fall in love.
So, we objectify girls. We brag to our friends about how we're able to take advantage of them. How we toy with their feelings for short-term pleasure.
In every corner of every pocket of society, this mentality is instilled. The corporate world. Entertainment. Universities. Pretty much any job you do. Stockbrokers call their male colleagues pussies. The men in the office make crude objectifying comments about the pretty receptionist.
We do this because we have the same core values instilled in us since we were a fetus in our mother's womb.
When their friend from University DM'ed them on Instagram saying OMG CONGRATS GIRL DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU'RE HAVING?!
A person. We're having a person. A whole person who we hope can step out of societies norms and identify the things they love. The colors they wear. The endeavors that set their heart on fire. A person that is allowed to cry, and laugh, and cheer and ask for help and stand up for what they believe in. That will not participate in the world's perception that boys are more than girls. A person that will not be guided by fear, but by love. True, unapologetic, complete love. A person who will not let any single person in this world tell them that they deserve anything less than that, regardless of their gender.
That's what we're having.