Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin

I admit, I like it when things fit into nice, neat categories. The satisfaction I get when I can categorize and label things according to how I perceive or interpret them is immense. Well, sometimes, not everything can be sorted out and categorized all nice and neat.

From page one as Riley started to write the initial therapeutic blog post as assigned by Riley's therapist, I wanted to figure it out. I wanted to know what gender Riley was assigned at birth. I felt guilty about trying to use a label, but I wanted to be able to categorize Riley as male or female, cisgender or transgender, homosexual or heterosexual. I get all of those things, they make sense to me - they are categories. I had heard the term gender fluid before but I hadn't really thought about it, at least not in a concrete way - more theoretically. I really appreciate how Garvin described Riley's gender fluidity (AND that this is not how every gender fluid individual experiences it) as a dial from female on one extreme to male on the other. That makes sense to me.

The fact that as Riley meets people both at school and at the LGBTQ support group assumptions are made and genders assigned based on looks and or a few actions without consideration for how an individual might identify their own gender is oddly comforting to me. As I said before, I admit I try to label people I meet. I try not to, but I know I do. So, to see Riley trying as well helps my guilt factor for wanting to label Riley, but also reiterates how deep the gender normative labels run in our society. We can do better, we need to do better. Gender is only a part of who a person is, it doesn't really encompass the depth and breadth of who and/or what an individual is.

I will definitely be recommending this book to my students, AND their parents! There is a lot in here for both age groups to draw on and learn from.

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