Your “Natural” is Quite Unnatural
Being ethnocentric seems to be a very natural thing in American culture. Once we see something that is a little different than what we are used to, or constantly told is “normal”, we deem it as unnatural, crazy, or weird. Never mind the fact that we pride ourselves in having such a diverse country, once you don’t do something the ol’ American way, you might as well be an alien.
The one thing that has stricken me as particularly interesting through the American view is the way that we see gender. Mind you, when I say “we” I’m referring to the white cis hetero male figure who seems to be the one speaking for all of us when they decide what is and is not “normal”. Growing up I knew nothing about trans* people or what that even meant. Once I did my research I wondered why this was (is) something so hidden from us that it took me looking up a term in order to figure out what it meant. This is a process that I had to go through after also having to look up the term “gay” and figuring out that is what I am. This is when I noticed that we live within an ethnocentric and binary system.
Creating binaries is literally physically and mentally restricting. Being taught that girls can only play with certain toys while boys must do the same is so limiting and boring. You can imagine my excitement when I found out that trans* people fight for their right to live an authentic life no matter what society tries to restrict them with. This happiness of mine was cut short when I realized that trans peoples lives are also cut short due to people who cannot accept the fact that not everyone feels the need to stay brainwashed and binary, and soon after this I got the urge to find out why being trans* was such a ‘no-no’ in our society and if it was something that was barely discovered.
Much to my surprise (not really), the European colonists were the ones responsible for making any trans* cultures seem so taboo, when in fact many Native societies have lived with multiple gender identities being a normal part of their lives. As explained by Leslie Feinberg,
“Today transgender is considered ‘anti-social’ behavior. But amongst the Klamath nations trans- gendered women were given special initiation ceremonies by their societies”
Because the European colonists were outraged with this “strange” behavior of Native societies not giving a f*** about peoples genders, they began to do what they do best; slaughtering the people who would not assimilate.
This also connects with Hijras and their strange connectivity with their society. On one hand they are viewed as powered people, but not necessarily respected by everyone. The fact of the matter is that multiple gender identities have been around longer than we can imagine because our ethnocentric brainwashed minds cannot wrap the idea that we don’t need to live in a binary system in order to survive around our minds. There are plenty of amazing cultures in existence today who appreciate the freedom of expressing who you are without the restriction of the Eurocentric view, such as the indigenous Hawaiian culture where some people identify as mahu (”in the middle”) when it comes to their gender identity.
My greatest hope is that one day the American culture is brave enough to accept that living binary lives is not the only way to live. Unlike the European colonists, and most of the American way of thinking, who decided that the only genders in existence are men and women (boy and girl), we need to expand our minds to the idea of people being able to express themselves as in between, neither, or better known in America: trans*