I teach Middle School these days. One of the hallmarks of this age level is a bravado that overtly declares a certainty over the rightness of their ideas, combined with a secret insecurity about almost everything. One of the things they’re most interested in and confused by is sexuality. The idea of any sexual ambiguity seems to really disturb them.
They ask a lot of questions and I lay it out a little more bluntly than some would. I point out that if 10% of the population doesn’t fit into the neat little box, then that means in a class of 30, 3 people in the room are not going to fit in the box. Those stats challenge their thinking.
I want it to. They are already friends with someone who doesn’t fit in that box they’ve built. They might be the one who doesn’t fit in the box! While they’re stewing about the statistics I ask, “and SO WHAT?” What does it matter? You are what YOU are, and it doesn’t matter what anyone else is. Like your friends for who they are. Don’t worry about their sexuality. It just doesn’t matter.
They don’t like that. They desperately long for the world to be black and white. They want it to be clear and straight-forward. While they’re trying to sort out their black from their white, I throw in some more grey. What about those who aren’t either gender?
What happens to the people who have physical or genetic components of both sexes? According to the Ontario Human Rights Commission 4% of births are intersex (the term that replaces hermaphrodite). Hmm. In 2009-10 there were 381,382 births in Canada. That means there were 15,255 parents filling out a birth certificate form who could not put a definitive check mark in either the box that says male or the one that says female. Consider that in the Canadian population of approximately 34 million, 1.36 million people are in between M and F.
This begs a question: why don’t we have another option on the paperwork for over a million of our citizens? This doesn’t even touch upon the transgendered population. Oi vay. Our world is not black and white. Let’s accept the grey and put another box on the questionaires. I suggest “N.” You can decide for yourself whether it means neither or neutral.