Buzz the Bee from Honey Nut Cheerios: America’s first Genderqueer or Transgender Breakfast Mascot
Disclaimer: Sorry if this comes across as Cis-splaining. I’m merely trying to point something out about a mascot, and then sharing my personal experience. Not saying my personal experience makes me as qualified as a LBGTQ person to speak, in fact quite the opposite.
Over the past 3 years, gender identity has become an area of great contention in American politics. From North Carolina’s economy gouging “transgender bathroom law” HB2 to an entire major political party using a vulnerable group as political cannon fodder, it’s clear that a great deal of Americans and US representatives simply lack basic understanding of Transgenderism, non-binary genders, and gender fluidity.
As a completely Cis straight woman (who just so happens to know objectively she is a genetic XX female, as her mother had to get amniocentesis when pregnant at the ripe age of 39), I had trouble understanding these issues as well. Growing up with an older brother and only little boys in my neighborhood, I was basically the biggest tomboy you ever met: I adored played video games, snowball fights, and water gun fights; and boy oh boy, I HATED pink and Barbie and all things girly. I proudly would announce to people how much I implicitly associated anything traditionally feminine as icky. Then puberty hit me hard at 12, and I shot up a full foot in height, among other things. I now appear to be a feminine woman, albeit one who still thinks boys get to have the better toys and shuns makeup.
The only reason I can understand transgender issues and not just think they’re misguided tomboys and tomgirls, like I was, was through stumbling upon an excellent LBGT author, Julie Anne Peters, and reading, among many other novels, Luna. In this book, the main character sees her sibling through a transition from brother to sister and all the ensuing family drama that came along. Julie Anne Peters’ books really helped me deeply empathize with the struggles of LBGT people in a society that doesn’t understand them. I really wished all people could just have better access to education and storytelling about these topics.
We all think transgender or non-binary is a topic that came into the public conscientiousness in the past few years, but in reality, there was a hidden mascot all along since 1979, when General Mills introduced a popular, delicious tasting cereal-Honey Nut Cheerios, along with its iconic mascot Buzz the Bee. Now Buzz really does not make anyone think about gender, but a little bit of critical thinking will show that he (or whatever pronoun Buzz is comfortable with, be it “she” or “ze”, I might just use “it” as it isn’t human or a mammal) is gender non-conforming. Buzz is a worker bee: evident by its stinger, its propensity for gathering nectar and pollen, its iconic passion for honey, and its hard-working nature. All worker bees are female. Bees with the aforementioned characteristics can become a laying working bee and lay unfertilized eggs that hatch into drone, or male, offspring. A genetic drone cannot have the above characteristics. Therefore Buzz was most certainly born a female. Now the most important part of gender identity is self-identification, wherein a person describes how they view themselves. We don’t have this option here as Buzz chooses to avoid talking about such personal topics. The second best option is seeing how the individual chooses to present themselves in society. It is abundantly clear that Buzz presents no indication that it identifies with being female, the sex that it was born in, in any fashion. In every single iteration of the character, Buzz is voiced by a male voice actor. Buzz has very boy-ish characteristics, from dress, diction, and action. We know from some of the cartoons that there are other worker bees that present themselves as obviously female (this jpg file even describes this picture as “two boys 1 girl”), while Buzz is consistent in not doing so. And upon interviewing multiple real human people on this topic, every person had the general impression that Buzz was male. It’s possible that Buzz is transgender but hasn’t transitioned, giving that the stinger is still present. Another possibility is that Buzz is simply non-binary/gender non-conforming, and doesn’t adhere to very strict rules about gender at all. What is very clear is that Buzz is not a Cis female like I am. And that’s perfectly okay!
You see the most beautiful thing about Buzz being a genderqueer mascot is it engages in a subtle activism: normalization. You see, the wonderful thing about celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres was that she normalized being a lesbian not by talking about it 24/7, but demonstrating to America that non-straight people are literally the same as every one else: they love, they laugh, they cry. Buzz subtly normalizes its gender non-conformity to Americans of all walks of life by making one not even think about gender at all. Many social activists theorize that the ideal state of gender politics may be when gender is no longer a big deal to anyone. It’s good to know that Buzz the Bee has pioneered this decades before anyone else.