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Charleston's Thoughts on Gender (Pt2)


As I mentioned last week, here are a few more thoughts I had relating to my experience and understanding of gender.


When I was a child I was raised in an environment that taught strict rules about gender and sexuality. My mother handmade many of my clothes, which were all full dresses or skirts. At 4 or 5 years of age I wasn’t allowed to express my desire to wear clothing that was less traditional, so instead I would sneak into my dad’s closet, try things on, and then wear his clothes around the house. When I was very young this was regarded as cute and funny- they told other people about it and took pictures. As I got older and attempted to wear those clothes more frequently, my parents became concerned, and told me I was no longer allowed to wear anything from dad’s closet. I still remember how upset I felt in that moment, and how I couldn't explain to them why I was so sad about that decision.


Now I understand that while all clothing in reality is gender neutral, at the time I was attempting to express my malalignment with my assigned gender I the only way I understood how to. By breaking the gender roles that I had been taught.


I want to make it clear that while I did have that experience as a youngster, a person can absolutely be a trans person without those types of childhood moments. Many of us have to unlearn years of programming by society in order to fully embrace who we are, and many do not get a chance to do so until much later in life. Our notions of gender are so backwards and so ingrained in us that even when people are trying to understand themselves or others, there’s still so much conditioning around gender that must be unpacked and uprooted.


Gender and sexuality are both spectrums and we don’t always use the best language to convey that. Too often men and women are thought of as the only options, and as two opposites, even though the truth is that all humans carry 99% similar DNA. This means even the person who seems the most opposite to you is still 99% the same material that you are! A recent TED talk by Physicist and entrepreneur Riccardo Sabatini showed that if your genetic code was written large enough for us to see, it would be about 262,000 pages, or about 175 large books. Out of all those pages, only about 500 of them would be unique to you- The rest are sort of a copy and paste function from nature.


So we know that we are much more similar than we are different; There’s absolutely no reason for bigotry of any kind, as at our core we are so much the same. And yet within those 500 pages is room for many wild and beautiful variations, all of which deserve respect and celebration!


I’d love to invite you to reflect on your own experience of your gender. Have you always felt comfortable within the category you have been assigned? Have there been moments when others expected something different than what you had to offer? How did you feel if so? Does this inform the way you approach others now? There could be much interesting self reflection around this topic!


Here is the link where you can watch his full TED Talk if you’d like to dive deeper into the fascinating world of genetic sequencing! Thanks for reading!


--Charleston Andrews