Monday, 17 October 2011

Born a girl and happy that way. The empowerment of women - Part 2

Boy, girl, female, and male, woman and man- every single one of us is assigned a gender at birth.
Within seconds of a baby being born, the doctor or midwife announces ‘It’s a boy’ or ‘it’s a girl’, and your gender identity is technically set for the rest of your life.  
Metaphorically, from that moment on until you die, you will be put either in the blue group or the pink group. The gender you have been assigned will to a large extent, determine your academic path, your career, your business and personal interactions and relationships and even society’s expectation of you.
And for most of us this is a non-issue, as we never have a need to question our gender identity.  We are conditioned from infancy, as we lay in our blue or pink world, to assimilate and socialise in to our gender.  
As women, our social feminisation is deep-rooted and instinctive.  According to Scientific America, sex differences in empathy emerge in infancy and persist throughout development, though the gap between adult women and men is larger than between girls and boys.  Gender socialisation is the more focused form of socialisation; it is how children of different sexes are socialised into their gender roles.

So, we grow from girl babies, to little girls, to young women to women , without giving our gender identity a thought.

Yet there are thousands of babies, who are born biologically male or biologically female, but as they grow up, it slowly becomes apparent that the birth announcement ‘it’s a boy’ should have been ‘it’s a girl’ or vice versa.   
Gender identity disorder or gender dysphoria, is a conflict between a person's actual physical gender and the gender that person identifies himself or herself as. It is not known what causes transgenderism or whether it is physical or biological mental, emotional or social.  But for a lot of them, it is a lifetime of frustration, isolation, and heartache.  Today female hormones and gender reassignment surgery are more accessible and readily available for Trans women.  And so every year thousands of Male to Female (MTF) Trans women relinquish their masculinity and undergo extreme surgery to remove their male parts in order to complete the physical transition to womanhood.
It is understandable, that for the duration of the transition, for these ladies it is about achieving the female physical appearance, so that they can take their place as a woman in society.  We live, after all, in a society where the physical appearance is crucial to acceptance.
Over the years, the transgender political movement has taken huge steps forward and have fought long and hard to ensure human and civil liberties for Trans people. It is only right that their human rights to health care, employment and housing are not only recognised but respected and enforced. No one should have to live in fear for their lives and be subjected to harassment and persecution, simply because of who they are.  If we all accept that while ‘the world is not comprehensible, but it is embraceable: through the embracing of one of its beings’ (source: Martin Buber), we can make the world a much nicer place for every one of us.
Having lived through the process of a MTF transition, I appreciate what a Herculean effort it takes to transition from a male energy to a feminine one. I witnessed and empathised with the overwhelming need to be true to oneself; the constant struggle and fight for the basic right to exist and live.  I admire and respect their courage, resilience, and determination and the strong belief in oneself that they possess.
I am also intrigued with the similarities and disparities between women and Trans women and  the political and social variances, particularly in the context of the empowerment of women.
In a previous blog I talked about the Feminine Power Course that I attended which is about harnessing the creative energies of life and bringing balance to the feminine and masculine aspects of life.  So it is interesting to see that there is a sub-group of Trans women who have lived all their lives as a white, middle class male, typically got married and had children and usually worked in a very male dominated industry. Around middle age, they decide they want to go through a Male to Female transition. Yet pre, post and during transition they continue to operate within the male paradigm utilising their male traits and characteristics, (possibly because they have already successfully proven themselves as men and feel most comfortable there).
 Although it also perpetuates the dogma that business is based on the male energy since the male business model is the only one that is in existence, it seems to me that there is much we can learn from these women!

Born a girl, Became a woman 
Life for a woman, a female, is not easy even when you are born a girl. It is after all, only in the last 50 or 60 years since women, en masse for the first time actually began to awaken with an impulse to actualise their potentials beyond being wives and mothers. 

While we have come a long way in the last 100 years and the glass ceilings are showing definite cracks, we are still living in a 5000 year old patriarchal society, and still a long way from achieving  gender equality socially, economically and politically.  The success of the empowerment of women, professionally, politically, socially and personally relies heavily on women supporting women.
It follows that the empowerment of women movement has to be inclusive of all women - irrespective of how we became women, through birth or transition and regardless of sexual orientation, economics, age, nationality, culture or religion.
We are all, after all, women.

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