When I was a kid, one of my favorite toys was my Potato Heads. I had three: a Mr., a Mrs., and a baby named Spud. I spent hours switching around their pieces and making them look ridiculous, and then showing off my creations to my family. Quite often, I would put Mrs. Potato Heads hat on Mr. Potato Head. Sometimes I gave her his mustache.
So, the other day Hasbro decided they were going to drop the Mr. My first reaction was that this was nonsensical. Now, I’m not someone who thinks that we shouldn’t try to do better; we absolutely should. But this whole changing a brand and such kind of bothers me. I mean, I understand what you’re doing, but there are Mr.’s and Mrs.’s still in the world, you know. And me? I obviously did not give a crap about their gender at any point.
Which leads me to a bigger conversation.
Recently I was arguing with someone on Facebook about the LGBTQ community. About halfway though the argument, I realized that this person was WOEFULLY misinformed on the subject, and also not willing to learn new things about it, as it doesn’t “affect him.” And it doesn’t. He lives a mostly white, mostly Christian, mostly heteronormative country life. I think it would be a safe assumption to make that he has never really known a queer person. Met one, probably, but knowing one is different.
The first gay friend I had was Mike. He wasn’t out when we met, and I fell head over heels for him from day one. It was about a year or so later that he told me the truth, which crushed my naive little heart. I remember being mad at him…really mad. Not that he was gay, mind you, but that he had kept it a secret for so long. Gay didn’t bother me. My dad’s two best friends were gay. It was something I had been exposed to my entire life, and never seemed out of place. But when Mike came out, I started to see the challenges he faced, and the anger I had towards him I redirected towards the cause.
When I was 21, I met Qui, who was the first Trans person I have ever known. Of course, I didn’t know it at the time, and I’m not 100% sure he did either. He identified then as a lesbian, which was an idea I could wrap my head around. It wasn’t until he went to college that he decided to transition. Sadly, we have grown apart over the years, but I have watched his journey from afar and I support him totally. He is more himself now than he ever was, and that is very clear to anyone who has known him.
My husband also grew up in that white-bread country world, so when he came to the city, he had to unlearn some things right quick. I started with the gay thing-gay people made him nervous. When we broke down the reasons why, and really talked about the situation, he started to understand that it was only fear of the unknown that was keeping him from embracing this entire group of people. When we were about 8 months into our relationship, he moved in with my lesbian aunts. Literally everything he knew about gay couples was challenged, and he came out of the experience grateful for the open eyes and heart that he had acquired.
A few years later, he was working a new job when he found out there were two Trans men on staff. He befriended them without really knowing, so there was no turning back once the cat was out of the bag. He had questions and concerns, and we talked it though. Fortunately, both of these guys were very cool with him asking questions and such, and made it easy for him to embrace them. They didn’t have to, though. It’s not their responsibility to make it easier on you. It’s just that they were good people, who wanted their friend to know them better.
Some people think that sex, sexuality, and gender are the same thing. They are not. Sex is the organs you are born with. Gender is the type of person you feel yourself to be. Sexuality is who you are attracted to. Me, I identify as a cisgendered heterosexual female. I never had an issue with the sexuality part…but I have taken issue with gender.
Gender, in my opinion, is a construct. Growing up, I was much more interested in “boy” things than “girl” things, so I thought there was something wrong with me. I preferred pants to dresses. I liked Kevin’s toys better than my own. I’d rather climb a tree than paint my nails. The things the girls in my class liked and wanted sometimes seemed silly to me. Overall, I had a lot of trouble feeling like a “girl,” but I certainly wasn’t a “boy,” either.
As I aged, I began to realize to the confines of gender, and rail against them. I went to a high school that told me I was no less than any man. It taught me that your sex organs do not determine your ability, intelligence, strength or fortitude. Then I got to college and it was suddenly a man’s world and no…I’m not having that. It has always been equality first, in my book.
By this age, I knew I was unlike other girls, but couldn’t put my finger on it. I had read something about transgendered folks, and I was intrigued, so I read some more. Eventually I learned of gender fluidity. This is when a person feels that they have both genders inside them, and move between the two, or embrace the neither/both (though that’s more androgyny, I think.) This made instant sense to me.
Now, I don’t consider myself fluid, I consider myself female…but there are days I would be considered more of a “tomboy” than anything. It has nothing to do with my sex organs, and everything to do with the person I have been formed into after playing with Potato Heads so long ago. And no, their prefixes played no part in my gender identity.
I don’t ever remember being scared, you see. I never feared queer people, and I still have trouble understanding those that do. Because that’s all it is, you see: fear. If you “don’t like” them, or won’t support them, or dismiss their autonomy, you are living in fear of your own prejudices, and likely your own sexuality and gender. People like to say there’s more queer folks today, so it must be more prevalent now. No…people just aren’t always dying. People aren’t suffering an AIDS epidemic. People aren’t regularly being killed for who they love. Through the years, the cis community has killed off its queer people, and those that made it went into hiding. Now, we have protections and laws in place so that people of different genders and sexualities can openly express themselves. Of course, it still isn’t enough.
There are still people with deep-seated hatred in their hearts. And I maintain that this is nothing but fear, and internalized hatred for themselves. Several trans folks have already been murdered this year. And for what? Because they felt like a gender that didn’t match up with what they were born with? What skin is it off your teeth? Get over yourself and mind your own goddamn business.
Anyway, I think it’s stupid that they changed the Potato Heads names, but I also think it’s stupid that people are still out to villainize the LGBTQ community in 2021. I assure you…you know a queer person. They might not be out to you, but you know them…and they can hear you. They can see you. They know what you do.
So, do better.