Let’s Talk About Our Identities

Greetings! Today, let’s talk about our identities…who are we? How do we define ourselves? On some level, this seems like such an easy question, but then again, we are complex beings that are hard to define at times. 

I wrote a poem called “I Am” that’s in my first poetry book. I have since written two other poems with the same title. Each poem is very different, but each poem is true. Writing down who we are can be a challenge if we try to look at all aspects of how we define ourselves. 

For example, are you an introvert, an extrovert, or somewhere in between? I am definitely in between. I like being at home, being quiet and writing. I like long hikes and cabins. Yet I also love public speaking and teaching. I truly enjoyed being at Mythicon in Austin, Texas last month with my son and thousands of other people. That was an amazing convention. 

Are you religious or spiritual? Do you define yourself by a particular religion or denomination within that religion? Are you a sports fan? Are you a reader? If so, what genre of books do you like? Are you a causal dresser most days or do you really enjoy dressing up? Do you prefer dress shoes or sneakers? Would you rather vacation in the mountains or on the beach? Do you enjoy playing board games or video games or both? How do you like to wear your hair? Do you share personal information with several people or with only close friends, or are you a very private person? What career feels right for you? What’s your favorite food? Your favorite dessert? 

We can’t be totally defined in just a couple of words. There’s a lot of details that define who we are. Part of how we define ourselves is by our gender. That’s what I want us to talk about today. So many people want to oversimplify this discussion, but gender is as complex as any other aspect of our personality. Gender is like any other personality trait in that only you can declare your gender. 

No one can define another person. It’s not possible. No one can re-define another person. That’s not possible either. I’ll give you two light-hearted examples that don’t exactly line up with gender identity at all, but it can lead us into that discussion. 

I am a writer. I have a certain writing style. When I was working under someone as a writer years ago, that person tried so hard to redefine my writing style. She told me, “Stop writing with heart. Think like a marketer.” I left that job. She was a wonderful person that I still have so much respect for. She does so much good in the world, but she couldn’t change me. I took marketing classes and listened to her for quite a long time. I tried to take her suggestions, but my strengths were writing the magazine articles and interviewing people. People would call me and tell me how much they were touched by an article. I won a couple of awards for my articles. I hated writing brochures, though. It wasn’t anything that lined up with my skills. I couldn’t change my writing voice to line up with what my boss wanted for the brochures. I didn’t even want to change. I didn’t want to learn. I didn’t want to write brochures. It’s not who I am. It will never be who I am. I can write grant proposals, magazine articles, books, poems, writing guides. I cannot write a marketing brochure that fits into the marketing mold. She could. My boss was amazing at it. Her talent was evident. 

Going back even further, most people are shocked to know that I was once in the Little Miss Meridian Mississippi contest. Yes, as a child, I had my hair done by a professional, sat still for makeup, wore a formal dress, and danced on stage. If you know me now, you know that none of those things will ever happen again. I was a very active child, and in Meridian at the time, young girls didn’t have many opportunities to join anything to get out their energy, so I was put in a dance class. This led to me being entered into the beauty pageant. Side note…one of the older contestants went on to be Miss America. Back to me, though…that didn’t match up with who I am. That’s no reflection on other contestants. One of my best friends loved it. She stayed in dance for many more years. She always dressed more formally than I did. It was part of what made her feel like herself. I’m thankful I was eventually given a spot on a t-ball team and could wear shorts and run. 

If we acknowledge how different we can be from each other and how complex we can be, why do we try so hard to over-simplify gender identity? So many people say…male or female…that’s it and you are stuck with whatever gender you were assigned at birth. Do you really want to discount what else defines us? Do you not see how much our identities are wired into our brains? Gender identity has more to do with how we are wired in our brains than what’s between our legs or what organs we have. 

Think back to your childhood. Think back to when you began to know who you were. Many people were forced into roles based on their biological sex assignment rather than their gender identity. In many societies, we are told what colors we can like, what jobs we can have, what our household duties are based on what gender we have been assigned. Most of us realize now how crazy this is. We now have women in the military, men as stay-at-home parents, all genders teaching in college, all genders working as surgeons, as nurses…the list goes on. 

We learned that how we defined gender roles didn’t make sense. We were keeping people from using their gifts and talents. 

Now we need to step back and realize that we also need to reconsider what we think about gender identities. Just as we oversimplified so many other things, we did the same in this area. We have discounted that gender identity comes from more than just a visible part of our anatomy. Gender identity comes from inside of us. It’s deeply rooted in who we are, in how we think, in how we define ourselves. Why does that bother so many people. 

It bothers so many people that now many states are making laws against anyone who doesn’t fit into their predefined definitions of gender. My state is trying to pass a law that says children can’t even express themselves by the gender they say they are. It will be a criminal offense for parents to take their child to a medical professional to ask for help for their child who is struggling with gender dysphoria. Being transgender has become a criminal act in many states. 

Many of you may have been in a situation where someone tried to make you be someone you are not. It was often over something that seemed somewhat insignificant…maybe someone tried to make you play or watch a sport you aren’t interested in. Maybe someone tried to force you into a major in college. Maybe you were forced to read books you secretly hated. 

Can you imagine how you would feel if someone tried to force you to think you were a different gender than you internally knew you were? It’s not even comparable to any of the things I listed. We are talking about living as someone you are not. It breaks your spirit because every day you wake up being told that you can’t be who you know you are. You wake up feeling like your body is defying you by have an outward appearance that doesn’t match your appearance your soul and your brain align with. You wake up to a world that won’t even let you tell people how you feel. If you do, they might reject you and make laws to keep you from being who you know you are. This brings on an indescribable depression and anxiety for many people. Parents who walk this journey with their children see the pain and try to find someone who can help heal that pain, but parents are often told they are wrong as well just because others don’t see what they see and don’t understand the journey. 

Here’s what many people think happen with “woke” or liberal parents. They have a son who picks out a pink shirt. Then that son picks out a flowery shirt and wants a one-piece bathing suit. Misinformed people assume these liberal parents run to a doctor and say, “My son would look great as a girl. Can we do surgery so he looks better in that swimsuit?” Or a family has a daughter that starts to play football. She’s pretty good. She also wears jeans every chance she gets and hates dresses. Misinformed people think that the family runs to a surgeon and says that her life would be easier if she was a boy. Let’s give her hormones. 

That is so far from what happens…so far from the truth. If you took time to listen, you would see that the journey to a doctor is a long one. It involves denial first, usually. We just think kids are going through a phase or are being stubborn. Then it moves to frustration often. Parents don’t have answers and have no idea what their child is facing and why this is happening. We still don’t talk with parents enough about children’s development. Then parents see the anxiety and hurt in the child and turn to counseling when it gets more than we know how to face. 

Counselors, thankfully, have now studied and researched the complexity of gender identity.  They know that the brain’s definition of identity can be very complex. Children nearing puberty often need time to work with their counselors and their doctors before having to face those raging hormones and body changes that are difficult for everyone. Hormone blockers are used to give counselors time to let these children grow and develop mentally and emotionally so they can understand their own identities. This buys time for nonbinary or transgender kids to work with a team to help them make decisions as they grow and understand more. 

We use hormone treatments to work with many other kids. This isn’t something new. Kids with growth deficiencies take hormones so they reach a taller height than they would without the hormones. Young children with extremely early and heavy periods can be treated with hormones to manage this. Young boys with a condition that causes them to grow really large breasts can get breast reduction surgery. This is nothing new. 

Why are we fighting against transgender kids who need time to work with doctors and counselors and need to use hormones to do so? 

Why are you fighting this so hard? 

Why are you unwilling to listen and try to understand the reality these kids face rather than make assumptions about liberal parents controlling their children? 

You are causing harm by your beliefs. Is that what you want? Do you really want to harm children because you don’t understand? 

Your beliefs will force children to live with extreme anxiety and depression…you will force children to be psychologically and emotionally harmed by telling them they are unworthy of living their life as they know they need to. 

Buying time gives youth the chance to really study who they are. They can explore and learn all of the options about what is available for them as they grow. They can thrive when they live authentically. 

This isn’t a fad…kids are struggling before they even tell anyone they are transgender. This isn’t liberal parents manipulating children. These are parents seeking healing for the hurt their children live with. These are parents from all backgrounds turning to the medical community to help them understand the words their children have spoken…the truth they are facing. This isn’t a quick or easy journey. 

Be a lifelong learner…be a listener…talk to professionals…talk to anyone who is transgender and willing to be open…read books by parents and by people who are nonbinary or transgender…care enough to be informed. 

Let’s be known by our love rather than defined by our misunderstandings…

This blog post is also available on my podcast. You can listen on the site of your choice:

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