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Illma Gore Op-Ed: The Dangers of Enforcing Gender Norms On Children

June 12th 2017

Adobe Project 1324


Illma Gore is a gender fluid artist who is merging tech, our physical selves, and art.

When I was 5 years old, I loved a bit of plastic. Stuck to my hand, it went everywhere that I went. At first, this wasn’t a big deal to my mom. It wasn’t dangerous plastic, there was nothing I could swallow accidentally, and the paint wasn't poisonous. That lump of plastic quickly became my favorite toy. Until my mother threw it out while I napped. She told me, “Little girls shouldn’t play with plastic like that.” It was odd, and her friends had started to joke about it. It just so happened that the little piece of plastic I loved was shaped like Buzz Lightyear. And Buzz Lightyear was for boys.

This was a very simple start to the confusion that would follow me through the years and keep me wondering what was for boys and what was for girls. There were so many rules surrounding clothing, attitude, sex education and dating, but so few of them made sense to me. I constantly worked to accept myself and my body within the confines of a society that I never seemed to get right. And just like that, in bad metaphorical fashion, my feelings, my body and my gender identity felt just as disposable as that bit of plastic.

I believe you can judge the importance of most social issues by the actions that surround them. I have never seen someone lose their life over a philosophical argument.


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The year 2016 saw an all-time high in reported killings of trans people in the United States, and 2017 has already seen 11 deaths. Victims ranged in age from 59 to just 16. Most were trans women of color, and many were misgendered and misnamed by local media. That doesn’t include the countless trans people who have taken their own lives because a reason worth living for is almost always a reason worth dying for.

A person is more than just a violent statistic you hear on the news. They deserve to be gendered correctly or recognized with an identity. We are people. At least 1.4 million people. Recognizing a third gender as a “non-binary” option doesn’t put an end to the violence we see in today’s world, but it would give many their humanity.

Your own gender is not a matter of politics, it is a fundamental right. And dresses, heels, makeup, pants, skateboards and action figures did not assign themselves to boys or girls. These were objects constructed by our society. The words “he, she, him, her, woman and man” were similarly constructed to categorize the human experience in a way that made sense at the time. This is why, as ever-evolving humans, we can continue constructing new genders and applying them how we want as our world advances. It is not just about scientifically examining what gender looks like. It's also asking whether it makes sense to label the existence of the non-nonbinary physical, cultural and mental phenomena of gender in 2017.

In looking up the definition of the word “masculine” in the dictionary, the words “brave, bold, vigorous, strong, man” appear. The opposite, of course, reads, “feminine, soft, shy, weak, woman.” As a strong, bold, weak, masculine woman, I find these words conflicting. But there is a word whose definition is indisputable to me, and that is “human.”


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So, it turns out being an adult is mostly googling how to do stuff. I don’t identify as male or female. I don’t feel like I am either gender, and as I went down a rabbit hole of Google self discovery (existential crisis), words that were not introduced at school or at home the term "non-binary" stood out to me. Suddenly, my identity was explained, and I had some insight into how I felt. It just clicked. Being able to identify as non-binary made me feel like I existed - like I wasn't some genderless freak of nature. My reality had a label, and I wasn’t the only person in the world that felt this way. It might be silly to think a word can be so impactful to one's own understanding, but words are how we filter the world around us and "non-binary" fit mine.

I am valid. I exist. Oh, and I bought my own Buzz Lightyear.

To learn more about how Adobe Project 1324 empowers their artists to fight social norms, visit here.


Disclaimer: The viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions and viewpoints of ATTN: or Adobe Project 1324.