5 Things You Should Know About Gender Fluidity

5 Things You Should Know About Gender Fluidity

Everything you were afraid to ask but could have Googled a long time ago.
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I had a somewhat aggravating conversation with a coworker recently about gender fluidity. It wasn't just that I disagreed with their point of view. I understand that not everyone can comprehend the concept of not identifying with the gender that they were given at birth (re:cisgender). But what annoyed me about this conversation was that he didn't even try to understand gender non-conformity. He went as far as citing some of his gay friends who didn't understand gender fluidity. Because obviously any LGBT member can speak for the whole.

Okay, moving away from my shade, I want to take the time to explain gender fluidity as I know it to be. While I am a cisgender woman, I attempt to explain it to others as well as myself. While only .5% of the national population aged 18-64 identifies as transgender (and this number may be skewed due to surveying issues), this is still a significant portion of the American population (try in the millions). While a minority, their rights still matter. And often enough, people help people better when they understand them. So here are some clarifications about gender fluidity for those of you out there with some questions.

1. It's not always about their genitalia.


Yes, it is a legitimate desire of many transgender folks to want MTF (male-to-female) or FTM (female-to-male) surgery including removing breasts and genitalia. Trans folks also seek hormone treatment and puberty suppression at a younger age. And that's fine. It helps people who often feel like they're in the wrong skin finally feel like they're in the body they belong in. But not everyone wants to go through the full transition. For gender nonconforming people, it can be as simple as the underwear they wear or the way they style their hair.

P.S. Also remember that a person's genitalia is none of your business unless they make it your business.

2. Gender identity and expression are two different things.

You know those times when you're feeling like a tomboy and just want to wear flannel and sweats? Or you want to wear a bright color with your suit but you're afraid that people will call you gay for it? Those are minor elements of gender expression. While people can identify as male/men, female/woman and anything in between, how they express is a bit different. One of my friends who doesn't identify with either binary gender feels like they can wear a breast binder or a sports bra and low-cut tank top and still be themselves.

The idea that there are only two genders is conflicting for nonconforming people. Another friend born male appreciates expressing himself in both fashions because just toting masculine characteristics feels constricting for him. While the vast majority feels comfortable in their body and cisgender expression and identity, some people don't. AND THAT'S FINE.

P.P.S. Also remember that a person's gender identity and expression is none of your business unless they make it your business.

3. There is a long history of gender fluidity globally.

From the hijras of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, to the two-spirit culture of transgender Native Americans, there are accounts of gender fluidity spanning well back in human history. And while it's not always easy to understand why certain identities exist, there is no denying that trans folks do in fact exist in human bodies. They are even revered as a spiritual council, such as with the hijras and two-spirit people. There is also the modern visibility of trans folks including Christine Jorgensen and Jan Morris in the 20th century as well as Laverne Cox today.

And remember, these are trans folk. We aren't talking drag queens dressing up in women's clothes and performing. We are talking about people specifically not identifying with their birth gender because it just didn't fit who they are. And while there are no unified lists or classifications for those not cisgender, people have conducted thorough research and acknowledgment of their own identities as well as others. Think intersex, trans, queer, gender nonconforming, third gender and many others. It's a spectrum, not a binary.

P.P.P.S. Also remember that a person's pronouns (e.g. he/she/they) are none of your business unless they make it your business. That's their history and it's their right to share it.

4. There is also a recent history of increasing violence against gender fluid people.

Just read this Guardian article about transgender deaths. Read it. That's only in the last couple of years that they're counting specifically homicides counted as hate crimes against the trans community. According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), trans people are much more likely to experience violence based on their gender identity. In fact, transgender folks are 28% more likely to experience violence than cisgender folks. NCAVP also incorporated race into their report, saying that trans people of color are a disproportionate majority of trans folks murdered (87%). Intersectional identity plays a part as always. Thank you intersectional feminism.

P.P.P.P.S. Also remember that these are real people being murdered with preferred gender pronouns you may not agree with. They're still people.

5. Really, it's really none of your business unless it's your gender identity and expression. Really.

What seriously bothered me about my coworker's stance on gender identity was that he wouldn't accept that it was not his business. He was caught up in what genitalia they would have and how he couldn't accept a different gender than what he considered right. But there are many things differentiating a person's anatomy from who they are as a person.

Living Anthropologically explained in an article that, "[The phrases related to the social construct of gender] simply indicate that many observed behavioral characteristics and life experiences are heavily influenced by social expectations, norms, and roles." Our idea of gender is much more than a sum of body parts and clothing. It's how we feel, how we express ourselves, and how our culture interprets our gender. So for the love of all of those cuddly trans, queer, intersex and everything in between folks, just accept how they identify even if it doesn't make sense and move on.

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​An Open Letter To The People Who Don’t Tip Their Servers

This one's for you.
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Dear Person Who Has No Idea How Much The 0 In The “Tip:" Line Matters,

I want to by asking you a simple question: Why?

Is it because you can't afford it? Is it because you are blind to the fact that the tip you leave is how the waiter/waitress serving you is making their living? Is it because you're just lazy and you “don't feel like it"?

Is it because you think that, while taking care of not only your table but at least three to five others, they took too long bringing you that side of ranch dressing? Or is it just because you're unaware that as a server these people make $2.85 an hour plus TIPS?

The average waiter/waitress is only supposed to be paid $2.13 an hour plus tips according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

That then leaves the waiter/waitress with a paycheck with the numbers **$0.00** and the words “Not a real paycheck." stamped on it. Therefore these men and women completely rely on the tips they make during the week to pay their bills.

So, with that being said, I have a few words for those of you who are ignorant enough to leave without leaving a few dollars in the “tip:" line.

Imagine if you go to work, the night starts off slow, then almost like a bomb went off the entire workplace is chaotic and you can't seem to find a minute to stop and breathe, let alone think about what to do next.

Imagine that you are helping a total of six different groups of people at one time, with each group containing two to 10 people.

Imagine that you are working your ass off to make sure that these customers have the best experience possible. Then you cash them out, you hand them a pen and a receipt, say “Thank you so much! It was a pleasure serving you, have a great day!"

Imagine you walk away to attempt to start one of the 17 other things you need to complete, watch as the group you just thanked leaves, and maybe even wave goodbye.

Imagine you are cleaning up the mess that they have so kindly left behind, you look down at the receipt and realize there's a sad face on the tip line of a $24.83 bill.

Imagine how devastated you feel knowing that you helped these people as much as you could just to have them throw water on the fire you need to complete the night.

Now, realize that whenever you decide not to tip your waitress, this is nine out of 10 times what they go through. I cannot stress enough how important it is for people to realize that this is someone's profession — whether they are a college student, a single mother working their second job of the day, a new dad who needs to pay off the loan he needed to take out to get a safer car for his child, your friend, your mom, your dad, your sister, your brother, you.

If you cannot afford to tip, do not come out to eat. If you cannot afford the three alcoholic drinks you gulped down, plus your food and a tip do not come out to eat.

If you cannot afford the $10 wings that become half-off on Tuesdays plus that water you asked for, do not come out to eat.

If you cannot see that the person in front of you is working their best to accommodate you, while trying to do the same for the other five tables around you, do not come out to eat. If you cannot realize that the man or woman in front of you is a real person, with their own personal lives and problems and that maybe these problems have led them to be the reason they are standing in front of you, then do not come out to eat.

As a server myself, it kills me to see the people around me being deprived of the money that they were supposed to earn. It kills me to see the three dollars you left on a $40 bill. It kills me that you cannot stand to put yourself in our shoes — as if you're better than us. I wonder if you realize that you single-handedly ruined part of our nights.

I wonder if maybe one day you will be in our shoes, and I hope to God no one treats you how you have treated us. But if they do, then maybe you'll realize how we felt when you left no tip after we gave you our time.

Cover Image Credit: Hailea Shallock

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Dear Senator Walsh, I Can't Wait For The Day That A Nurse Saves Your Life

And I hope you know that when it is your time, you will receive the best care. You will receive respect and a smile. You will receive empathy and compassion because that's what we do and that is why we are the most trusted profession.

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Dear Senator Walsh,

I can't even fathom how many letters you've read like this in the past 72 hours. You've insulted one of the largest, strongest and most emotion-filled professions.. you're bound to get a lot of feedback. And as nurses, we're taught that when something makes us mad, to let that anger fuel us to make a difference and that's what we're doing.

I am not even a nurse. I'm just a nursing student. I have been around and I've seen my fair share of sore legs and clinical days where you don't even use the bathroom, but I am still not even a nurse yet. Three years in, though, and I feel as if I've given my entire life and heart to this profession. My heart absolutely breaks for the men and women who are real nurses as they had to wake up the next morning after hearing your comments, put on their scrubs and prepare for a 12-hour day (during which I promise you, they didn't play one card game).

I have spent the last three years of my life surrounded by nurses. I'm around them more than I'm around my own family, seriously. I have watched nurses pass more medications than you probably know exist. They know the side effects, dosages and complications like the back of their hand. I have watched them weep at the bedside of dying patients and cry as they deliver new lives into this world. I have watched them hang IV's, give bed baths, and spoon-feed patients who can't do it themselves. I've watched them find mistakes of doctors and literally save patient's lives. I have watched them run, and teach, and smile, and hug and care... oh boy, have I seen the compassion that exudes from every nurse that I've encountered. I've watched them during their long shifts. I've seen them forfeit their own breaks and lunches. I've seen them break and wonder what it's all for... but I've also seen them around their patients and remember why they do what they do. You know what I've never once seen them do? Play cards.

The best thing about our profession, Senator, is that we are forgiving. The internet might be blown up with pictures mocking your comments, but at the end of the day, we still would treat you with the same respect that we would give to anyone. That's what makes our profession so amazing. We would drop anything, for anyone, anytime, no matter what.

You did insult us. It does hurt to hear those comments because from the first day of nursing school we are reminded how the world has zero idea what we do every day. We get insulted and disrespected and little recognition for everything we do sometimes. But you know what? We still do it.

When it's your time, Senator, I promise that the nurse taking care of you will remember your comments. They'll remember the way they felt the day you publicly said that nurses "probably do get breaks. They probably play cards for a considerable amount of the day." The jokes will stop and it'll eventually die down, but we will still remember.

And I hope you know that when it is your time, you will receive the best care. You will receive respect and a smile. You will receive empathy and compassion because that's what we do and that is why we are the most trusted profession.

Please just remember that we cannot properly take care of people if we aren't even taken care of ourselves.

I sincerely pray that someday you learn all that nurses do and please know that during our breaks, we are chugging coffee, eating some sort of lunch, and re-tying our shoes... not playing cards.

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