Original post published at www.sarahtinsley.com
It's a pretty exciting week for those struggling to be accepted outside of gender norms. Based on recommendations made by the women and equalities committee, there's a whole load of reasons to be cheerful for the future. Hopefully, we can start to pare away people's gender-biased assumptions and place less importance on the need to conform.
Finally, being transgender will no longer be deemed a mental illness. That one seems to be a bit of a no-brainer, but it wasn't that long ago that you needed to prove you had mental problems before you could even be considered for gender reassignment. Reviews will also look at the need to specify 'gender' on a number of public documents - everything from passports to bank accounts will be questioned. I've always wondered why my bank manager needs to know who I like to sleep with or what's residing between my thighs in order to deem me worthy of putting a few quid into an account. Now they won't need to.
There'll also be major surveys into the needs of trans people, as well as working with universities to combat transphobic bullying. It's about time that this marginalised group of people got a bit of airtime. These measures are fantastic for the trans community, but also a huge step forward for everyone, who will no longer need to be defined by narrow gendered views.
It's always mystified me how much truck people put on genitalia. It's not like we let that many people see it on a daily basis, it isn't something that we wear with the same pride as a new outfit or haircut, and yet for many its used as a symbol of oppression and marginalisation.
And trans people aren't the only ones that are worried about their bits. Female genitalia in particular is often a cause for concern. A disturbing recent survey found that 400 under-18s in the US had labioplasty. In layman's terms, that means you go under the surgeon's knife because you think your vulva is ugly. Never mind what on earth their parents are thinking, the real head-scratcher is why so many girls angled a mirror up between their legs and were so horrified at what they saw that they felt the need to make themselves look normal. Oh the bloody irony. On one side of the globe we're fighting to protect young girls from being mutilated, while on the other side they're handing over thousands of dollars to voluntarily lose their nerve endings. What a weird world we do live in.
But then, the vulva doesn't get a lot of airtime. Look on the underside of any school desk or the wall in a loo and you'll find a lovely cock and balls (hair and spurting optional). The penis is reproduced ad nauseum in sculptures, buildings (the Gherkin? Just a giant phallus) and a plethora of paintings, whereas the humble vagina doesn't get much of a look-in. It's quite pretty, looks a bit like a flower, although you could be forgiven for thinking it's some sort of mythical beast. A Japanese artist made a 3-D print of hers and turned it into a canoe. If we didn't limit our representations of half of the world, perhaps that would also help us to stop making judgements about people based on their sexual organs. Just a thought.
The distrust of feminine sexuality is just the other side of the same coin. In our search for easy classification of each other, we've plumped for sexual organs as the easiest way to do that. But what a misnomer they are. Having a clitoris doesn't predispose you to being crap at Maths, just as much as having a penis doesn't limit your artistic expression. No wonder that some people find it that much harder to take the step to appreciating that your genitals might not indicate your gender at all.
So no, I don't care what's in your pants. Or what it looks like. We all come in glorious shapes and sizes, and I'm delighted that the government has decided to get on board and reach out to those who can't see themselves in the narrow tick-boxes we assign to life.
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