This morning, a friend on Facebook posted this link to a blog called Hyperbole and a Half. The entry is titled, "Things That Can Make You Feel Like an Idiot Almost Instantly" -- funny stuff, basically a list of things that make you feel uncomfortably self-conscious in public.
Third on the list is "People of Indeterminate Gender." It's short, you should read it. The blogger is female and heterosexual (I make that assumption because there's a pic of her with her boyfriend on the FAQ page) and I think, judging from a quick random look at previous posts, liberal-minded. She writes very funny stuff and the illustrations are pretty hilarious, too. A lot of it is humor about social anxiety, about awkwardness. I get the feeling she's, well, nice.
Anyway, I'm not going to attempt any analysis this morning. I just wanted to share it with y'all because I figured you might find it as interesting as I did that "People of Indeterminate Gender" made this list. I found it even more interesting that it was the most commented on.
Clearly this is something people worry about:
"The woman/man/person of indeterminate gender looks exactly like most of the people that come into the doctor's office that I work in every single day. So many women with facial hair. Do they not realize that there IS a solution out there?"
"I've been in a situation where I encountered a person of indeterminate gender. Actually, I see it when I go to the local art center. It's a small person, and it always wears loose shirts but I think there might be some boobs hiding in there. But it has a beard and mustache. But then it has a kind of high voice. WHAT IS IT?!?!?"
"Indeterminate gender makes me crazy. We had an androg working at our Wal-Mart and I got to where I avoid his/her line just so I wouldn't have to make the awkward eye contact and the totally awkward eye-roaming as I tried to guess . . . ."
"Androg"? That's a new one.
But then it gets good:
"Re: the indeterminate gender thing? Is it really that hard for y'all to just treat someone as a human being *first*? Are you that uncreative and mired in the ideas of gender roles that you can't figure out how to just be decent and communicate to someone as a person, rather than as a man or a woman? Does it ever occur to you that male and female might be a false binary in the first place, and some people are quite comfortable somewhere in the middle?
I don't look at *all* indeterminate these days, and am quite clearly female, but I was born intersexed, and was raised male. So I spent a lot of my life somewhere in the middle. While I understand people don't want to feel like they're being prejudiced or stigmatizing, if being around people in the middle seriously makes you uncomfortable, then guess what you're doing...? You need to think about that, and address the questions above. Things can't genuinely improve if they're just swept under the rug to satisfy your ego about being all tolerant and accepting.
Anyways, no harm, rant over, and I love this site. :D"
In response, the blogger shares this sweet, nostalgic and insightful story about her own flirtation with indeterminate gender.
Further down, someone indentifying as genderqueer puts in 2 cents. The blogger chimes back in a few times to explain herself. And most of this dialogue is conducted in a spirit of generosity, open-mindedness, and humor.
Sure, there are always a few mean-spirited idiots in the crowd:
"The point is this: If there is a Person of Indeterminate Gender (PIG? no, that's bad) who choses to be such, they have every right be. However, I have a right to mock them. When they decide to make an effort one way or the other, the laughter will cease."
I know when we read stuff like this we have reactions of various levels of anger and pain and frustration, but the big picture is encouraging to me, and it stirs my utopian fantasies about the potential of the internet. This blog post and the comments it generated make up a little conversation among people who might never encounter each other anywhere else. Some people express their anxiety about something they don't know much about. Others share personal stories which shed light on the subject. Some are unmoved. Some are provoked to apologize. And, most importantly, a handful of people learn things about queer lives that they will take with them into every encounter they have with a "Person of Indeterminate Gender" for the rest of their lives.
Good stuff, right?