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by Paridhi Acharya

A couple of years ago I cut my hair short. When I am implying short, I mean very short. One day I was taking garbage out from my apartment; two young kids who were playing on the street came running towards me. One of them asked me, “Are you a boy?” I just smiled at her and asked her what she thought. She reassured me that even though she felt I was a girl, she was keen to know why on earth a grown up girl would want to have her hair so short. I really didn’t know how to answer or if I wanted to respond. But I did think about the way she raised this question.

We live in a world which is so deeply dichotomised into binary genders that it indeed becomes important for most of us to identify with either of the genders. A child gets born and instead of asking if both the mother and child are healthy, we are eager to know if it is a boy or a girl. It becomes so important for us to allocate toilets, clothes, toys, occupations, hobbies, activities, dreams, emotions and even hair cuts for women and men. Things are either lady-like or things that men do.

A few years ago, I finished my digital story on a transgender woman. She was kind enough to allow me to make a digital story on her journey. Sitting with her and listening to her journey shifted my own ideas about gender identities.

It is definitely not our genitals that define our desires, aspirations and identities. In recent times I have met a lot of women with penises and also a few men with vaginas. They identify themselves as transgender people. However, I don’t think gender fluidity applies only for transmen and transwomen, I believe everyone in their lives is always shifting and changing in the spectrum of gender. I definitely don’t think that a person’s gender or their genitals should dictate a person’s desires to do or not to do anything.

I wish I could tell those kids that I was neither a man nor a woman or I was both. We don’t need to be a boy or a girl to be a person to live in this world. We don’t need to choose and can be what and who we want to be.

Everyone can dance, cry, laugh and show anger. Everyone can aspire to be an astronaut, engineer or makeup artist. And most importantly everyone can make love to the person they love irrespective of their gender. Despite so much variety and differences among people, we as society and institutions of our societies such as educational institutes, legal, medical or political structures are adamant about keeping the binary and looking at the world from the binary perspective.

I have encountered enough women who call themselves women, yet don’t confine themselves to the roles or the characters that society likes to box a woman. I also have met enough men who don’t fit into the box of manhood that society has created for them. Bodies with uterus that don’t want to deliver babies, bodies with vaginas who are confident to lead a life without getting married or want to get married with a body that also has vagina. Bodies with penis who don’t think vaginal penetrative sex is the only way in life and to procreate is the only way to lead the life.  

There are seven billion people in this world. Yet, we are determined to put these many people into two boxes of groups that we don’t allow people to experience the lives they want to experience. It is high time that we understand that likes, dislikes, interests, tasks, emotions and feelings are not subject to our sexual organs but rather subject to our lived experiences. We don’t need boxes to categorise, but if we really need then there needs to be seven billion boxes.

I wish I could tell those kids that I was neither a man nor a woman or I was both. We don’t need to be a boy or a girl to be a person to live in this world. We don’t need to choose and can be what and who we want to be.

The things that we choose to do, like or aspire can be anything that feels right for us and shouldn’t be determined by our parents, relatives, teachers, society or what we are born with in between our legs.  I hope someday we will reach there. Till then I guess for those kids I was just a weird person who didn’t know why she wanted to have her hair so short.  



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