What does gender mean to you?

One of my students had his family paint pictures of what their gender means to each of them. The people who created the images include:

  1. My student, who presents as male
  2. His girlfriend
  3. His mother
  4. His mother’s girlfriend
  5. His 11 year old brother
  6. His teenage brother

The finished products range from the visceral to the beautiful. I wonder which painting you might guess each person made? Does it matter? What jumps out at you first in these paintings? What would your painting look like? What would your children’s paintings look like?

genderpainting2

genderpainting3

genderpainting1

genderpainting4

(Words that trail onto the side of the painting: I have taken the road less traveled.)

genderpainting5

genderpainting6

Gender – male or female or trans* or intersex or ze or zir or butch or femme or queer or so many of the other permutations of how we identify – it is integral to our understandings of ourselves, but it often goes entirely undiscussed. Young people and adults who feel no ambiguity or ambivalence surrounding their gender are lucky indeed. I have come to believe, however, that they are also relatively rare. Most of us are clear about our biological sex and gender, and they match up relatively well. This does not mean that we are free from gender issues and influence. The lessons that our culture teaches us are loud and clear: Men do this and not that, and here are the ways that they can express and even feel pain and suffering. Women, on the other hand, do these sets of things, and occasionally branch out to the masculine, to more or less approval.

We must start the conversation about biological sex, gender roles, and cultural messages.