Staff Editorial: Breaking the boundaries

     Sleeping on the bus becomes a ritual.  The typical Hudson student will trudge up the steps, groggily find a seat and slump onto it.  He or she will take the earphones out of his or her pocket, hook it up to a mobile device, put on some tunes and...fall asleep.
     Yet for Sasha Fleischman, 18, sleeping was an issue.  On the long bus ride home from school Maybeck High School, in Oakland, Calif. On Nov. 4, 2013, Sasha had dozed off while reading a book.  Another second later the skirt Sasha was wearing burst into flames, producing second and third degree burns on Sasha’s legs and leading to weeks of serious operations.  While Sasha had been sleeping, one of the boys nearby had flicked on a lighter and held it to the fabric.

     This attack wasn’t because Sasha was black, or white, or any other thing to do with race.  The attack was because Sasha is agender, a term used for people who don’t feel the need to conform to a specific gender.  A term also passed around is genderqueer — people who question what their gender is.  Sasha began to question what gender was at 16 years old by investigating what others knew about their gender; Sasha asked friends and family, and the usual answer was given as a more of intuition than a fact.
     “At first I just assumed that I was this heterosexual man, because I didn’t have any reason to assume otherwise,” says Sasha in a “New York Times” article about the event.  “But I started thinking, well, am I a guy?  And so I started identifying as genderqueer.”
     The terms “sex” and “gender” are often used interchangeably, but contrary to popular belief, there are very distinct differences between the two. A person’s sex is determined by biology. Biological sex is determined by factors present at birth, such as hormones, chromosomes, etc. and is divided into three distinct groups: male, female and intersex. Gender, however, is defined completely differently, and therefore cannot be used interchangeably with sex. Gender is a term that is associated with cultural and societal norms that are associated with being male or female.
     According to boundless.com, “Scholars generally regard gender as a social construct — meaning that it does not exist naturally, but is instead a concept that is created by culture and societal norms.”
     There are, for example, many genders that one can identify with.  Don’t want to have a gender at all?  There’s the agender category.  In between?  Genderqueer, androgynous and neutrois are other terms that fit that gender.  And then there is transgender.  Transgender is a gender in which the person feels more comfortable as the opposite sex, and doesn’t feel as though they conform to their current gender.
     The transgender culture has come to the forefront within the past decade. More recently, transgender culture has been brought into the limelight through celebrities, including actress Laverne Cox and Olympic champion Bruce Jenner. Bruce Jenner recently participated in an interview with Diane Sawyer to clarify rumors concerning his transition into a woman.
     He explained, “My brain is much more female than it is male. But that’s what my soul is.”
     Jenner revealed that he knew he wanted to become a female from a very young age. Throughout the filming of “Keeping Up with the Kardashians,” he felt that he was withholding a major secret that could make a difference in viewers’ lives.

     On the other hand, Emmy award winner Laverne Cox has been much more open with her journey.
     Cox explained, “When I was perceived as a black man I became a threat to public safety. When I was dressed as myself, it was my safety that was threatened.”
     Cox has used her adversity and unique experience as a positive platform to encourage and aid others who are unsure how to embrace their transition.
Another important facet to highlight in regards to gender is cross dressing. Cross dressing is commonly and mistakenly paired with the transgender culture.
     As Jenner stated on the interview with Diane Sawyer, “Cross dressing and transgender are not the same thing.”
     Cross dressing is the act of wearing clothes that are often designated to the opposite sex. Cross dressing has become part of the mainstream media in subtle ways. For example, critically acclaimed musician Janelle Monae is well known for sporting traditional men’s wear, such as three piece suits, saddle oxfords and bow ties. Jaden Smith, son of Will and Jada Pinket Smith, is also known for experimenting with the opposite sex’s fashion. He was once heavily criticized for wearing a dress. Many argued that he was an embarrassment to his family.

     The teen responded to the criticism by arguing, “My dresses aren’t girl clothes, they’re just clothes.”
     At the root of it all cross dressing should be viewed as simply a form of expression. Where’s the crime in a woman finding a man’s blazer trendy or edgy? Who cares if a male decides to sport a skirt and a blouse? Dressing in the opposite gender’s attire does not define one as more masculine or feminine in any shape or form.
     As one becomes informed with definitions and events, there forms the hope that generalization of transgender and cross dressing stops; the hope that as individuals and society as a whole, we can become more accepting and embracing; the hope that one can walk out of the house in a dress or a suit no matter the gender; and the hope that kids lives will not be spared because of ‘society’s perception of them. As Jenner said in the closing of his interview, “Have an open mind and an open heart.”

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2015-05-19 08:19:08

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