Queer Corner: Don’t Panic

Queer Corner: Don't Panic

Kate Pochini

Gossip magazines are annoying. I don’t read them (yes, I do), but I do (tell people that I) read blogs that make fun of them. And in my blog perusal, I found a gossip magazine article about Shiloh Jolie-Pitt. If you’ve never heard of Shiloh Jolie-Pitt, she’s the four-year-old genetic lottery winner/ daughter of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie who likes to dress in boys’ clothing and wear her hair short. If you’ve never seen her, you should probably Google image search her right now.

Done? Isn’t she the coolest kid in school? Don’t you kind of want to be her? The kid wears fedoras and toy swords!

There’s only one place I wear those things: in my dreams (where I’m a pirate by day, jazz bassist by night).

Now we, as bright, open-minded fu­ture leaders of the world can all agree that little Shiloh is pretty awesome, but the tab­loids aren’t as keen on her style as we are. The headline I’m reading right now states vindictively that Angelina is turning her daughter into a boy. And there are plenty more where that came from, all along similar lines.

Now what is so offensive about a girl dressing and acting like a boy? Why is it such an outrage for a little kid to express herself? Well, self-expression is great, but when the self that you’re expressing falls out­side of society’s gender norms, people start to get upset.

I would like to stop talking about celeb­rities now, and I really would like to stop Google image searching pictures of the Jolie-Pitt family, so I’m going to get to the heart of the issue. There is a gender binary. We made it up so things would be less com­plicated. But sometimes, people don’t fit the binary, and this makes other people uncom­fortable. Why? Because we like to put things into boxes, and when things don’t fit into boxes, the world starts to get big and scary and complicated again. You can’t just look at someone and say “yes, he’s a guy; he must like sports and action movies, and I’m sure he wants to have sex with every girl in this room.” Even scarier though, is the idea that you can’t just look at your own birth certifi­cate, or look down your own pants, to fully understand who you are.

I read somewhere that homophobia is fueled less by a fear of homosexuality and more because gay and bi people tend to blur the gender lines. If you think back on your middle school days, who was the kid that was always bullied for being gay? It was usu­ally someone who didn’t fit the gender ste­reotypes – a boy who didn’t play sports or a tomboyish girl. They might not have even been gay. People get so scared by the idea that something can exist without strictly ad­hering to a category that they lash out at it.

Even within the queer community, we feel a pressure to conform to the binary. We tend to push our gender-binary-conforming celebrity queers to the visibility forefront. Why? Because we want to be more acces­sible to the straight community. We want to show that we don’t all fit gay stereotypes. Although the intentions may be harmless, it gives the impression that adhering to the bi­nary is “normal” and everything else is not. I know I feel the need to wear feminine cloth­ing and keep my hair long, even if I don’t always want to. It sounds silly, and that’s because it is silly. Our society is slowly but surely becoming more open to the idea of fluidity when it comes to sexuality. People aren’t always gay or straight or bi, and we can grasp that pretty well. We can also grasp the idea of transmen and transwomen be­cause that still fits the gender binary.

We created the gender binary, so there is no reason why we can’t turn it into a gender spectrum. Isn’t it unfair to gender queer in­dividuals to be referred to as “alternate gen­ders” or “not fitting the binary”? Wouldn’t it be better if we could all just fit the spectrum?

So let’s stop ragging on a four-year-old because she has a stellar collection of blazers and might express an interest in being a boy. All I wanted to be when I was four was a cat. No joke. A cat. Maybe the kid will grow up to be a gay lady, or maybe a transman. Maybe she’ll be straight (gasp). Or maybe, just maybe, in 20 years we won’t be so hung up on gender, and we’ll see people for what they are: just people.