How many times have you been asked, “Who are you?” The idea of self can be defined in two ways: by how others see you and how you see you. For most of us, both definitions should be similar, but there are some people who struggle with the definitions being different.
A friend and I were talking about Bruce Jenner and his recent push toward transitioning to a female as well as gender identification and societal norms. There are still people who see Jenner as a macho man Olympian, but he has seen himself as female for years now.
My philosophy has been that you are who you see yourself as. You are who you intend to be, and you strive for who you want to be. This has always been easy for me, an average white female, but I’ve seen the struggle of people whom society deems “not normal.”
One of my friends lives in Texas and is going through a gender transition from female to male. The culture that surrounds her is conservative: her mother and sister wrote her off, and she was forced to move out. She stayed quiet for so long about her feelings because of the way her community and family would react and received negativity when she opened up about who she is.
We may say our society is open, we may say our colleges strive to provide a supportive environment for people of different backgrounds, but, in reality, we still have a long way to go. During my friend’s and my discussion about Bruce Jenner, I brought up how long Jenner had kept his feelings secret and why it takes so long for people of the LGBTQ community to bring up conversations to their friends, family and society. His only answer was that it shouldn’t.
It’s true. In this day and age, it shouldn’t be a big deal. We’ve seen tragedies and heartbreaks, and we’ve made leaps in social justice, but this community still suffers from oppression. Our generation is supposed to be the one that changes norms and revolutionizes justice, yet I still see plenty of opposition to the LGBTQ community. If we want our society to be the accepting culture we say it is, we have to start working at providing a supportive environment for everyone. The male vs. female separation that society is so used to has created a harsh environment for people who don’t feel comfortable identifying with either.
UR has made progress with gender neutral bathrooms, but incoming freshmen must choose single-sex living or co-ed living, and this leaves some with uncomfortable options if they are to come here. Not just this, but, in general, society forces people who identify “differently” to choose their definition from a specified list. People should not have to be constrained by norms or feel uncomfortable being themselves. You should not be ashamed of who you are, even if it is different from who others see you as. Whoever you are, do not let other people define you, and be true to who you are.
Hammelman is a member of the class of 2018.