#transgender #myth #Caitlyn Jenner #cultural norms
Beside us is a photograph of a person who is named Caitlyn Jenner.
Below is a photograph of a person called Bruce Jenner in his Olympian glory in 1976. Is the first a depiction of the ideal of feminity and the second, the masculine ideal?
In case you had any doubt, this is the same human being. Popular opinion says men are from Mars and women are from Venus. Male and female are polar opposites and that, only with great good luck, will they ever come together to complement each other.
The yin yang symbol represents that ideal of complementary unity.
But is it true that we are so opposite in nature?
According to Carl Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist, every human being has both an animus and an anima inhabiting the psyche. With men, the masculine side [animus] rules the roost and with women the feminine side [anima] holds sway–at least most of the time. In our society, if one side is not clearly in command, the person will likely question where he or she fits in and might be even ostracized.
But what is a man and what is a woman? What traits qualify as masculine or feminine? Or do only physical attributes count—sex organs and physical build? Some people say the brains are differently “wired” but is that true and in what way?
People say that men tend to be stronger, more aggressive and physically active. Some claim men are less emotionally intelligent and sensitive than women. But they are better at math and science with more rational thought processes.
Conversely, they will say that women are more sensitive to people’s needs and to the emotional context of the situation. Perhaps they may not be as good at rational thinking, but they shine at creative expression and nurturing their families.
Do you believe all this? Does any of it make sense at all? Take a look at the photographs below.
This seems absurd. So what can we believe? It’s far easier to say that men and women always have and always will be poles apart and leave it at that. Perhaps that thinking has been used to justify painful break-ups of relationships. It’s easier to think these ideas are set in stone so we don’t have to do the hard work of mending the divide by examining our thinking. The energy we invest to defend these ideas could be used to consider them honestly. Then change might be possible.
Consider this–aside from physical differences, aren’t all the above characteristics imposed
socially and culturally?
If we lived in a different kind of society, would we feel the need to shove people into categories? Must only women want to wear a dress and apply make-up? Must only women want to feed the children and tidy the house? Must only men carry the spear and want to hunt and gather? Just one glance at these photographs tells us that we actually behave otherwise. We already know these beliefs are not true but we continue to tell ourselves these stories.
Once upon a time, it was unfeminine to want to work outside the home and to desire something more than keeping house. But even that statement is only somewhat true. Many times in history, such as in wartime, women have stepped up and assumed so-called masculine roles. That may suggests that these assigned roles are arbitrary.
What about the boy/man who hates sports and is only happy gallery hopping or antique shopping. His greatest hope is to be an interior designer or a nurse.
Fortunately much progress has been made over the last fifty years in changing our thinking about what activities and appearances are appropriate for men or women. When I started to practice law in 1973, there were few female lawyers and there was much hostility toward them especially from the male lawyers–oddly enough not so much from the clients. Today it’s commonplace to find a male nurse and a female doctor working together.
But back to Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner. Caitlyn says that every day of her life, she’s felt a huge mistake was made—that she was a female placed in a male body. That suggests that being male or female has a special feel to it and so, the question remains– what creates that feeling? Is it genuinely from within, a part of one’s soul or is it imposed from outside?
I worry about Caitlyn. Look at these photographs of her.
Does she feel she cannot be a real woman unless she is wearing a bustier and make-up? Does Caitlyn need to appear this way in order to feel like a woman? If so, is she falling into the old trap that women once rallied against–that they must look a certain way in order to be feminine? And, do all women feel they must present this appearance? Regardless, I think she should dress exactly as she wishes and I hope she is comfortable with the changes.
But what a price! The transgender people, who feel so strongly, first suffer years of psychic pain and, to relieve it, have to undergo long and very painful procedures.
And so, I wonder. Maybe it’s society that needs to change its thinking about what is male and femalen or even abandon such concepts. The photographs above of different men and women suggest our beliefs are not so rigidly held. We really do know that all sorts of activities and appearances can and do apply to both men and women. Maybe the divide is not that great and really only superficial. Personally, I think the differences between men and women are minimal and the greatest distinctions lie in the personality type.
If our thinking changed, would Bruce/Caitlyn have lived for so long in such pain, believing that somehow he/she did not fit the right mould? Would this human being have had to undertake such a dramatic and painful path?
I don’t pretend to understand all the feelings that Caitlyn Jenner has experienced either as Bruce or Caitlyn. I am sure they are painful, difficult and complex but should they have even happened?
I don’t think so. If we accepted people as people with all their wonderfully various qualities and foibles, we would not pigeon-hole them into categories. Perhaps she would not have suffered so much.
Perhaps we should apologize. What do you think?
I was delighted when I posted the Vanity Fair cover on Facebook. I simply asked people for their reaction to it. Hundreds of responses were posted.
Please let me know what you think in the comment box below. Talk as much as you like. The space is infinite. And while you are here, why not sign up for the blog?
This post may challenge your thinking and make you delve into questions which have no set answers. If you’re looking for new ideas and new perspectives, you might like to read the novels of The Osgoode Trilogy and The Trilogy of Remembrance which you’ll see below.
The characters, one an artist, Alexander Wainwright, in The Trilogy of Remembrance and, Harry Jenkins, a lawyer in The Osgoode Trilogy will have you questioning your beliefs or at least examining them.
You can purchase all or any of them at any online bookstore.
Mary E. Martin is the author of two trilogies: The Osgoode Trilogy, inspired by her many years of law practice; and The Trilogy of Remembrance, set in the glitter and shadows of the art world. Both Trilogies will elevate the reader from the rush and hectic world of today and spin them into realms of yet unimagined intrigue. Be inspired by the newly released and final installment of The Trilogy of Remembrance, Night Crossing. Presently, The Drawing Lesson is a Wattpad Featured novel which you can read in its entirety right here Wattpad.com
Seeing as you are here, why not watch this 2 minute video about The Drawing Lesson, the first in The Trilogy of Remembrance?[contact-form-7 404 "Not Found"]