What is it that makes a snowman a man? Is it the corncob pipe? Perhaps it is the button nose or the top hat? It is something we almost never think about. Humans have been making snowmen for thousands of years, but what gives this man made out of snow his gender? Why do we assign him male pronouns? After all, he does not have any genitalia. Of course there is always some smart ass out there that will add genitals to their snow creation, usually in some sad attempt at humor. But why do we call the snowman male without precondition?
“We assume the gender of every person who walks by us based on how they are presenting.”
We assign gender pronouns to all kinds of objects such as cars, boats, and guns. We do this without question; we anthropomorphize all sorts of things while assigning gender without requiring genitals. We assume the gender of every person who walks by us based on how they are presenting. We accept characters in books, films, and movies as the gender assigned by the writer without having the need to see what is physically “under the hood” in order to validate them. We often don’t even stop to think about it. We simply just accept the gender and pronouns that are presented to us.
As a society we determine almost everything based on the assumption of one’s genitalia. We unfairly pay people differently based on those assumptions. Our kids are educated in schools and told to line up according to them. We create different expectations for others based on parts that we are really not sure they actually have. We accept this without question until we find out or suspect the parts we assumed a person has does not match their “so-called” presentation. Once that happens, all bets are off.
So why do we care so much about genitals when it comes to transgender and gender non-conforming people? It is all kind of ridiculous if you think about it. Yes, it may seem like some people actually think with their genitals, but the reality is many people are just obsessed with thinking about genitals, and they don’t even realize it. But that was not always the case. As kids we never worried about why Frosty the Snowman was a he, otherwise we would have been watching Frosty the Gender Neutral Snowperson (has a nice ring to it though). We were able to just accept his gender as it was presented to us.
“Though we are able to accept a story where a snowman has a male soul, when it comes to a real person we are unable to understand the concept.”
So many people believe humans have a soul; a part of who they are that is separate from the body. We say that is who they really are, but for some reason who they are is not valid if that soul has a gender that doesn’t align with the body we are supposed to be separate from. Though we are able to accept a story where a snowman has a male soul, when it comes to a real person we are unable to understand the concept. This is one of the many instances where we contradict ourselves when it comes to gender. We have no problem with respecting the gender of objects that really have no say in the matter, but with people we cannot extend the same understanding. The reason is our obsession with genitalia.
So as we celebrate the holidays, I simply ask is it really that hard to accept someone for who they say they are? Should you not see a relative or never speak to them again because they don’t fit your binary mold of gender conformity? Is it that hard to show a person the same resect you give to a boat, a cartoon or even a pile of snowballs with eyes made out of coal? It really isn’t. And if there is someone in your life who you are not speaking with because they were honest with you about who they truly are, perhaps it is time to do something about it. In the end we are all people, and everyone deserves love, compassion, and respect. I can’t think of a better time to show it than the holidays.