The Injustice of the Binary
Start writing a post

As you may have noticed from my picture, I am wearing a dress. I am a woman after all, a transgender woman. You might recognize that word — transgender. It been used more and more commonly nowadays. I'm sure by now we've all heard of Caitlyn Jenner, who announced her identity as a trans woman in April of this year, followed by a flurry of media coverage. Well, I came out well before Ms. Jenner. Where's my CNN interview?

But I should be grateful, because now I get the chance to write about an injustice I've seen in our own schools. It's an injustice so ingrained, so pervasive, that it affects nearly every single student that grows up in the school environment. It is the gender binary, the unspoken code that dictates so much of our lives. It is time we took a look at what it is, what damage it can do and, finally, what we can do to help.

Like many others, I have experienced the gender binary firsthand for most of my life. It was just a few years ago that I escaped one of the most traumatic institutions ever created by humankind — middle school! In middle school I felt like I was a girl, but I had been told I was a boy all my life, so I played the part of a boy ... or at least I made an attempt.

You see, there are certain rules to being a boy, a code you have to follow, and in middle school this code was strictly upheld. You have to like sports, or at least pretend to, and you must make it very clear that you are attracted to girls, but only in a sexual way — too much platonic friendship with girls and you'll be breaking the code. Certain things like cooking, fashion, certain colors and — heaven forbid — crying are strictly forbidden by the code. The list goes on, but the code is well known by anyone who has been in school before so I'll leave it at that.

Now that I have come out and am living more honestly as a girl, I am so much happier. However, I have learned that there is a code for how girls should be, that is upheld even more rigidly than the boy code in schools. In the girl code one's physical appearance is key, and girls typically are held to high and specific standards on how to dress and appear in public. A girl's sexuality is demonized, and in many subjects girls seem to be considered minor players. According to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, women make up only about 27 percent of historical figures studied in the average history class.

Of course, rules for gender haven't always been like this. They used to be significantly worse. In America alone, women have had to fight for myriad different rights. In 1848, women meeting in Seneca Falls, New York, dedicated themselves to showing that women deserved the right to vote. In 1903, the Women's Trade Union League fought to show that women were capable of working, paying jobs. And in 2009 the Fair Pay Restoration act helped establish that women are deserving of the same pay as a man.

We can see that expectation for what “women” and “men” should be changes all the time. Humanity constantly tears down the gender norms of the previous generation only to establish gender codes of their own. The cycle can seem inescapable, especially to the young people in schools where self-expression is so heavily policed.

This gender binary is damaging to boys and girls, but they aren't the only ones affected. Indeed, the injustice of the gender binary falls heaviest on the individuals who do not conform to its rules. Transgender and non-binary individuals like myself, people who identify with a gender they aren't supposed to, or who do not identify with any specific gender at all, suffer greatly in a gender binary environment.

White trans women like myself alone face a 1 in 12 chance of being murdered in this country. Trans women of color have a 1 and 8 chance. And as appalling as that is, it is even worse to consider that so much of this violence occurs in schools.

Larry King was in seventh grade at Green Middle School in 2008. The tragedy is that he would never make it to the eighth grade. Because Larry expressed himself through makeup, dresses and other taboos of his assigned gender code, he paid the ultimate price. A fellow student shot Larry twice in the head. Larry was kept on life support until he died a day later. He was 15 years old.

This gender binary takes away students' rights to self-expression and identity, and even our right to life. These are rights guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights issued by the United Nations, the U.S. Constitution and many other founding documents that identify them as some of the most fundamental human rights.

There is a lucid message here: The enforced gender binary is a grave injustice. And injustice is best compared to a creeping cancer. It can go unnoticed, living under society's skin until it claims its victims. And like cancer that comes from the very cells that make up our body, injustice comes from the very people who make up our community. It is our responsibility to fight the injustice we create.

But there is always hope. Because the opportunity for justice is always our choice. We can tear down these gender codes and not judge our fellow humans by what they wear, how they act or what they enjoy. The great Martin Luther King Jr. implored us to judge by the content of one's character, and that is what we must do.

This is just the first step, but it is the quintessential step. For when we can know injustice, we can fight injustice. That is why speaking out is so important! The actions we take to speak out are the primary tools of justice and peace. When we can collectively speak out and listen, we can not only fight injustice, we can defeat it!

-A speech written by myself in December of 2015, presented at a competition with The Florida Free Speech Forum. It won first place.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
Health and Wellness

5 Simple Ways To Give Yourself Grace, Especially When Life Gets Hard

Grace begins with a simple awareness of who we are and who we are becoming.

1845
Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

If there's one thing I'm absolutely terrible at, it's giving myself grace. I'm easily my own worst critic in almost everything that I do. I'm a raging perfectionist, and I have unrealistic expectations for myself at times. I can remember simple errors I made years ago, and I still hold on to them. The biggest thing I'm trying to work on is giving myself grace. I've realized that when I don't give myself grace, I miss out on being human. Even more so, I've realized that in order to give grace to others, I need to learn how to give grace to myself, too. So often, we let perfection dominate our lives without even realizing it. I've decided to change that in my own life, and I hope you'll consider doing that, too. Grace begins with a simple awareness of who we are and who we're becoming. As you read through these five affirmations and ways to give yourself grace, I hope you'll take them in. Read them. Write them down. Think about them. Most of all, I hope you'll use them to encourage yourself and realize that you are never alone and you always have the power to change your story.

Keep Reading... Show less
Entertainment

Breaking Down The Beginning, Middle, And End of Netflix's Newest 'To All The Boys' Movie

Noah Centineo and Lana Condor are back with the third and final installment of the "To All The Boys I've Loved Before" series

303943
Netflix

Were all teenagers and twenty-somethings bingeing the latest "To All The Boys: Always and Forever" last night with all of their friends on their basement TV? Nope? Just me? Oh, how I doubt that.

I have been excited for this movie ever since I saw the NYC skyline in the trailer that was released earlier this year. I'm a sucker for any movie or TV show that takes place in the Big Apple.

Keep Reading... Show less
Lifestyle

4 Ways To Own Your Story, Because Every Bit Of It Is Worth Celebrating

I hope that you don't let your current chapter stop you from pursuing the rest of your story.

190567
Photo by Manny Moreno on Unsplash

Every single one of us has a story.

I don't say that to be cliché. I don't say that to give you a false sense of encouragement. I say that to be honest. I say that to be real.

Keep Reading... Show less
Politics and Activism

How Young Feminists Can Understand And Subvert The Internalized Male Gaze

Women's self-commodification, applied through oppression and permission, is an elusive yet sexist characteristic of a laissez-faire society, where women solely exist to be consumed. (P.S. justice for Megan Fox)

92735
Paramount Pictures

Within various theories of social science and visual media, academics present the male gaze as a nebulous idea during their headache-inducing meta-discussions. However, the internalized male gaze is a reality, which is present to most people who identify as women. As we mature, we experience realizations of the perpetual male gaze.

Keep Reading... Show less
Lifestyle

It's Important To Remind Yourself To Be Open-Minded And Embrace All Life Has To Offer

Why should you be open-minded when it is so easy to be close-minded?

286102

Open-mindedness. It is something we all need a reminder of some days. Whether it's in regards to politics, religion, everyday life, or rarities in life, it is crucial to be open-minded. I want to encourage everyone to look at something with an unbiased and unfazed point of view. I oftentimes struggle with this myself.

Keep Reading... Show less
Swoon

14 Last Minute Valentine's Day Gifts Your S.O. Will Love

If they love you, they're not going to care if you didn't get them some expensive diamond necklace or Rolex watch; they just want you.

172244

Let me preface this by saying I am not a bad girlfriend.

I am simply a forgetful one.

Keep Reading... Show less
Student Life

10 Helpful Tips For College Students Taking Online Courses This Semester

Here are several ways to easily pass an online course.

114736
Photo by Vlada Karpovich on Pexels

With spring semester starting, many college students are looking to take courses for the semester. With the pandemic still ongoing, many students are likely looking for the option to take online courses.

Online courses at one time may have seemed like a last minute option for many students, but with the pandemic, they have become more necessary. Online courses can be very different from taking an on-campus course. You may be wondering what the best way to successfully complete an online course is. So, here are 10 helpful tips for any student who is planning on taking online courses this semester!

Keep Reading... Show less
Lifestyle

Take A Look At The Extravagant Lane Woods Jewelry Collection For Valentine's Gift Ideas

So if you are currently looking to purchase jewelry for yourself or as a romantic gift for your S.O., you should definitely look at the marvelous and ornately designed Lane Woods Jewelry collection

335093

Just like diamonds are a girl's best friend, so are pearls, rubies, gold, emeralds, and any type of luxurious jewelry you can get your hands on! A woman is incomplete without a piece of jewelry on her and it is a gorgeous accessory required for all occasions. So if you are currently looking to purchase jewelry for yourself or as a romantic gift for your S.O., you should definitely look at the marvelous and ornately designed Lane Woods Jewelry collection.

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments