T O P I C R E V I E W
Member # 102182
posted 01-21-2013 02:27 AM
So I have a bit of a problem with my older sister. Lately, she has been making a point of ranting as often as possible about how everyone needs to conform to the "gender norms." (Cisgender norms, as in men vs women type norms). She constantly refers to wearing pants as 'hideous' for women and despises feminine guys. To me, these rants are very invasive. Every time she brings up the subject, she refuses to let me speak and gets furious if I try to. She will go on for quite a while about it, without considering that many of her comments are psychologically painful to me, and won't give me a chance to voice such a concern. I have tried to explain to her that its not something we will ever see eye to eye on, but she insists that I am 'wrong.' I believe my sister thinks that because she is older (she is 26 and I am 17) she is automatically correct in all situations, and my opinion is, effectively, obsolete. My sister and I have very different worlds, even if we grew up and live in the same household. Genderqueer-ness (a word?), non-binary genders and all such related things are perfectly fine to me, what I see as normal. In fact, the idea of a constricting two-gender system is so odd to me that it feels unnatural, mind-boggling. My friend group is mostly LGBQT people, including bisexuals, pansexuals, crossdressers, genderqueer, and so on. Likewise, most of the media I consume (TV, internet, books, comics, video games, etc) is positive in that aspect. I myself am a pansexual female, although I don't consider myself wholly feminine in the 'normal' standards. I rather think of myself as fluidly moving between masculinity and femininity, with some days being entirely void of gender. I m 100% confident in this, and don't believe that there is anything wrong with identifying as I do. Mostly, I would like to know if there is anyway to confront her about the issue that will get to her. She claims she isn't stubborn, but she's built an iron wall on this issue and honestly I just want her respect that I differ with her on this issue. Not necessarily change her view, but get her to see mine as equally valid. I wouldn't mind articles or similar things to read that could help me articulate my thoughts on the issue to her. Also, I apologize if using genderqueer or any other term in this case wasn't appropriate; I wanted to include as much as I could in a few terms. Thank you for reading, -S. Kawzay
Member # 96015
posted 01-21-2013 12:46 PM
Hi S. Kawzay, and welcome to Scarleteen! =)
It sounds like part of the problem here is that your sister really doesn't give you space to speak on the subject at all, so even when you have points to make you don't have much of a chance to make them. I wish I knew a simple, surefire phrase or argument that would convince her that the gender system isn't purely binary (if there was, I would be using it on tons of people all the time), but if she won't even listen to you on the topic, then there's probably not an argument that's going to get through to her very well. I'm curious to know - does she talk over your opinions on all subjects, or are gender-related topics a particular sore spot where she rants more than on other occasions? If there are other topics or situations that you can discuss with her where she actually gives you space to talk, think about what those situations are like and what tools you use to make sure you get space to speak then. If there are any times when she respects your opinion, building off of those experiences may be your best bet. You know your sister far better than I do - if there's a good way to get through to her, it may be a technique based on the knowledge you have from living with her, not on the gender fluidity-related knowledge of folks like me. You could also try being the one to speak first for a change. Find a time when she's not in a rant, tell her you have something you'd like to say to her, and ask her to give you space to finish saying your whole piece before she responds. Then you can talk about how upsetting her rants are to you and that, even if she doesn't approve of your perspectives on gender, she doesn't get to regularly subject you to long, invasive, psychologically painful lectures. It's hurtful and disrespectful to you as her sibling. There are always going to be a LOT of people in the world who don't conform to the gender norms that are so important to your sister, and she doesn't have the right to take that general frustration at the world out on you.
Member # 101745
posted 01-21-2013 05:55 PM
Hi S. Kazway,
This can be tough, and I sympathize with you here! I feel like discussing gender issues with some people really does feel like talking to a wall. It's a lot harder to have discussions like this when they relate to things that are directly part of your life or the lives of people you care about. I am a trans person with a fairly fluid gender identity and my partner is genderqueer; I have had a lot of awkward conversations with people who don't seem to respect how either of us identify. It's often frustrating and hurtful. Some people who've said hurtful things were able to learn to be respectful and are still part of my life, and others are not. I think Cricket has some good ideas of how to approach this issue with your sister. There's really no way to know if you can change her mind, or what the best way might be; it might depend on *why* she feels these things. Is it a religious thing? An idea of men's and women's brains being "hard-wired" differently (which is a pervasive belief despite real data to back this up being hard to come by)? It's possible that she's really insecure in her own gender presentation and identity in some way and is dealing with that by lashing out at other people. Maybe she's uncomfortable with some part of your identity and is reacting very poorly. It's possible that knowing some of what's behind what she says will help you talk to her, but it might not. You say that these rants feel invasive and painful, and that your sister is making these comments a lot. I just want to say that even though I agree that it might be better in the long run if she didn't think those things, it doesn't have to be your job to change her mind, especially if hearing these rants is causing *you* harm. Sometimes when people are saying things I think are wrong or offensive, especially if those people are close to me in some way, I want to put a lot of energy into explaining to that person why they're wrong or how they're hurting me. And that can be very valuable work, but at the same time it can be completely emotionally exhausting. If you want to take a break from engaging with her at all and learn a few ways to say "hey Sister, I don't want to talk about this" and leaving the conversation, that would be just fine. Have you seen Genderfork? That's one of my favorite genderqueer/gender-variant resources.