The Pre-Package

By Danielle Leard

    Sexuality and gender are more present now than ever. Through most of 2015, I explored my gender. It took several months of thought, reflection, and research until I was able to decidedly say that I am a cisgender female. Of course, if this was the case, why did I not feel comfortable in my own skin?
I had considered the possibility that maybe I was a demigirl or genderfluid, but nothing really fit the bill. Only recently have I figured out what was getting to me, and why I didn’t feel comfortable with the label of my gender.

It’s all about association.

  After sitting on this issue for months, everything finally made sense. It wasn’t the term ‘girl’ that was unsettling to me--it was what is associated with it. Traditionally, girls are associated with items and values like skirts, the color pink, housework, fragility, and lots of themes similar to these. We owe these stereotypes to major influences in our cultures and societies like the Bible, as well as history’s emphasis on these values. Surprisingly and unfortunately, they have stood the test of time. That is why today, in 2016, I’m still obligated to shave my body hair regularly and am not the first pick to help fix a leaky sink. Stereotypes and values I have little or no reason to match have been thrust upon me just by simply being born, and sadly, gender is not the only area in which people are victimized regarding this issue. Race, sexuality, and social class, just to name a generalized few, are major influences as to what identity people view us as, regardless of whether we asked for this association. Nearly all of us don’t. At birth, we all receive an unwanted package, pre-made just for our generalities. If a female African-American baby is born, for instance, and grows up to discover she’s bisexual, she already has three unwanted associations. That’s not even considering that she may not like to wear makeup or is into a STEM field.

   The association itself isn’t that bad, really. It’s how we act upon those associations. If I see a guy acting traditionally feminine, then I may assume he’s gay. That, however, does not mean--under any circumstance—that I have to point this out. This plays out in more serious circumstances like employers not hiring those part of the LGBTQ+ spectrum just because of their religious beliefs. We often act on our associations without considering the consequences a lot of the time, and this is where cultural observations (the unfortunate realities) come in, like privilege.

   For the most part, there isn’t some hierarchy we can blame for this issue of association. Yes, stereotypes and false values are sustained by corporations and legislators, but there’s more to it than that. We all, whether we intend it or not, perpetuate these stereotypes—in casual, everyday circumstances, even. We can’t help it. Certain feelings, items, and people trigger associations in our brains. For instance: if I think of the word ‘man’, I automatically associate it with some form of masculinity. Men have to be strong, men don’t cry, men are the head of the household, men make the higher income, etc. In order to stop this train of thought, I and everyone else have to make a daily effort to watch our words and our actions.

The reason I felt so uncomfortable calling myself a girl has nothing to do with the actual gender. It’s because of the association; the unwanted pre-package. Though, if I play my cards right, maybe I can help shatter the glass ceiling on multiple levels. I don’t have to shave, wear makeup, be a housewife, or have no muscle build. I can if I want to. I can if that’s who I am. Though this problem will never be absolutely solved, I believe we can all make an effort to make that pre-package a little smaller if we think about the consequences before we act on our associations.

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