(As a farewell to the gay pride month, this post is the second part of a two part series on awareness of the LGBT community. The first post in this series was on gender dysphoria. This post is to bring awareness to the fact that a lot of psychological uneasiness faced by the LBGT community is due to the attitudes of the non-LGBT community. The only way in which you can help is by truly introspecting.)
“Don’t cry. Boys don’t cry.”
“Hahahah! Beaten by a GIRL! What a wuss!”
“Are you a GIRL? Then why are you crying?”
“Pink? Ewwww! That’s what girls wear!”
“Gosh what a tomboy!”
“Why don’t you dress like a girl? Walk like a girl?”
“Girls don’t behave like this. Sit properly.”
“Oh look at him. He’s playing with girls!”
“Look look! Look at how he walks! SO girly.”
“You’re effeminate. SO GAY!”
All these statements above must be familiar. Some of us are even guilty of using them occasionally or at times. These statements are used extremely commonly and are heard in practically every household. Why do we say these things? We say it because it is said! If I ask you to go back read each of these statements, and really think about what they mean, rather, what they signify, what would be your answer?
What results did your introspection have? That these statements stand for nothing but the code of conduct to be followed by girls and boys and later, men and women. Your parents said these things to you, you will say this to your children and so on and so forth. And that is how it should be. But why? Because it is said. Because it is done. Because that IS how girls and boys should act. Says who? The Society. Did a tiny voice inside you however, say “But why?”
Years and years of indoctrination by The Society leads us to believe that gender roles and characteristics of girls and boys and men and women can really be rigidly categorized. You are a man if you are so and so. You are not a woman if you are so and so.
Have you wondered what these categories do to those who are confused about their gender identity? To those who are experiencing intense distress about the same? What we see in our experience, is that they are looked at through the same gender- tinted lenses and are expected to conform. Their parents believe that it is just a phase and it will pass and they are taken to mental health professionals with an aim to “convert” their minds or “brainwash” them into behaving “normally”. Yes. “Normally”. You might feel “Haash! That can’t be so bad, I’m sure their parents can be educated!”. Got a little optimistic and happy about how easy and smooth this is, didn’t you? Sorry to burst your bubble, but those were the easy kind of parents. Easier on their children, easier to educate.
The difficult ones treat this or even LGBT identification as a sin, an abomination that is unnatural and has to be punished. Strictly. Children are thrown out of their houses, are maltreated and misunderstood and are left with no support from any area. What happens to those individuals then? They experience extreme amounts of dysphoria and harbor resentment towards their families. They may get into maladaptive ways of dealing with their stress. Drugs. Alcohol. Suicide.
Some go on to develop their own gender identities, and go through sex change surgeries. But that is a very small percentage. Scarred, misunderstood and forced to fight tooth and nail for their basic identities. For who they are. They are the lucky ones. Why lucky? Because they aren’t stifled. They aren’t forced to live their entire lives as someone they are not.
Imagine being hounded and hunted for who you are. Imagine having to live a large part of your life misunderstood. Imagine having to change the core of your being just to please those around you.
What can you do if you see someone struggling with this? You can be open and accepting and adopt a non- judgmental stance. You can try being supportive. It looks very easy on paper, I know. It is difficult to practice. Let’s take baby steps then, shall we? Let’s try being open and accepting and non- judgmental towards ourselves first. To understand why we do what we do and “forgive” ourselves if we don’t conform.
Gender is omnipresent. It doesn’t strike you since it’s always in the background of your existence. What we need to do is just notice it and then see if it is based on choice or dictates.
Do me a favor. Do yourself a favor. Think about your day to day activities. Take a piece of paper and write down everything about one day, one entire, average day that you spend. Write down what you think, how you think, if you emote, how you emote, how you dress, what chores you do, what chores do you leave for your partner to do, how do you behave at home or at work, how much time do you spend in grooming yourself, how you form opinions about whatever event happens, how do you sit, how do you talk, what do you talk about, how do you laugh. And then, for every answer, ask yourself a BIG WHY.
Post contributed by: Ashwini Date