Albert Einstein College of Medicine â€‹Translator: Pavel TchĂŠrnof Reviewer: Denise RQ So, I'm not gay. (Laughter) Thank you. I'm not. But I find myself saying that a lot. You could go so far as to say that I'm professionally not gay, which is weird, because my life revolves around a comedy show called "It's Pronounced Metrosexual", where I go onstage, and I talk about identity and snap judgments on sexuality. But the funniest thing about all of this is that none of it really has anything to do with sexuality. The reason why I started doing that show, and the reason why people always assume I'm gay has nothing to do with sexuality. It's all about gender. Gender and sexuality are often lumped together but they're two different things. It's like apples and sexy oranges. (Laughter) Not the same thing. They're certainly related, but they're independent concepts. It's important to realize that one does not dictate the other. Today I'm going to be talking about gender and not sexuality. Gender is something we all learn about as kids, but we learn a very limited concept of a concept that's truly unlimited. What we learn as kids is just incomplete. It's pieces of the puzzle, but it's not the full scene. Now, in case you didn't grow up in the States or missed it growing up, I'm going to give you a quick rundown on gender as it's taught here, maybe you'll relate. Take all people and divide them into two. Boys line up on the left, girls line up on the right. Boys, let's start with you. Boys are aggressive, impetuous, good at math, love the color blue. They get dirty, roughhouse, play sports, but not house. Trucks, and soldiers, and Legos are their toys, but they break them all. Because boys will be boys. Boys can grow up and be whatever they want. The world is their oyster, and whether or not they realize, it's their privilege to capitalize on this prize, it's limited just to guys. It's there for them: the Y chromosome prize. Boys have no limit. The bar is as high as it can go. There is not extent to their privilege, unless they want to be a nurse, because that's kind of gay. (Laughter) Right? Girls, on the other hand, are docile, passive, natural caretakers, love the color pink, born to be good bakers. Girls hate bugs, love hugs, and are better at vacuuming rugs. Science. (Laughter) Dolls, and purses, and make-up make their days, while boys play with video games, girls would rather play with hairspray. Girls grow up to be moms and leave the other jobs to dads. Unless they want to be a teacher, a nurse, a receptionist, or a clerk. Now, what I just described, certainly applies to a few of you. Yeah, there are people for which these descriptions end up being true. The problem here is options. And if you're counting, we have only two. Two options to describe every person in this room; each and every one of you. Two options to describe every person in this world-- seven billion individual identities simplified into two. Now, as you can probably guess, gender isn't really that simple. It's true. In fact, there are as many versions of gender as there are number of you. What I'm going to talk about tonight is a lot to wrap your mind around. But don't worry. I'm here to break it down. (Beatboxing) Nah, I'm just kidding. I'm not. (Laughter) I'm not, that's not. That's not happening. Not at all. Not even a little bit. The easiest way to understand gender is to break it into three distinct pieces: one, gender identity, which is who you in your head know yourself to be. More on this in a bit. Two, gender expression, the ways you present gender through your actions, dress, and demeanor. And three, biological sex, the physical characteristics you were born with. This will all get clearer. Let's start with biological sex, the physical traits you're born with and develop that in many people's eyes equals gender. We understand biological sex to be made up of a bunch of different things: chromosomes, hormones, hip to shoulder ratio, breast size, voice pitch, just to name a few. But we always think of one thing: reproductive organs a.k.a. penises and vaginas. (Laughter) Right? We equate gender to penises and vaginas. But here's the thing: gender is not universal, gender is not crosscultural. And gender changes over time. You know what is universal? Penises and vaginas. (Laughter) You know what is cross-cultural? Penises and vaginas. And you know what doesn't change over time? Pe... -- actually, evolution. (Laughter) But for the last 2,000 years, penises and vaginas. You know what you're expecting me to yell onstage? Penises and vagi-- sorry. I'm having a moment. (Laughter) Back to reality. What I'm trying to say is that while biological sex is something that exists in a uniform and predictable way, something that can be measured around the world by scientists without much debate. You can't say the same thing about gender. Gender is relative. Gender is cultural. And gender, the way we express and understand it, changes over time. But we still connect biological sex to gender. If someone is born with a penis and testicles, he's a male. He's a he, and we raise him to be a him. If someone
is born with a vagina, she's a female. She's a she, and we raise her to be a her. And when we're not sure, when someone is born intersex, with ambiguous genitalia, we guess. We guess if he is a he, or she is a she. And based on that guess, we raise him to be a him, or her to be a her. Which, as you can probably guess, can be problematic. And it's not just problematic to assign gender based on sex, on people who are born intersex. I'll get to that in a minute. First, I want to talk about gender identity. I'm going to say this again, because it's something that needs to be said: gender isn't the parts that make up your body, it's what's in your head. To understand the difference between gender identity and biological sex, we need to first make sense of what's in our heads. All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players. Shakespeare said this 200 years before we had a word for sociology. But Will knew his stuff. In every way, he was a prodigy. And what he said here rings true in my ears all these years later as I'm thinking about norms, and folkways, and what Durkheim called mores, and all the descriptive roles we play in our day to day without even reallyâ€Ś OK. (Laughter) Had another moment. What I'm trying to say is what Shakespeare said about the stage, he hit the nail on the head. At birth, you're cast in a play, given a role, given a script, and told to play that part until you're dead. The directors in our plays follow us around every day of our life. The directors are our parents, our teachers, our peers, our preachers, news broadcasters, book writers, TV show producers, firefighters, every person in your life who has an impact on you, knows the script you've been given and knows when you've been missing your cues. And as we grow up, we become directors in other people's plays. We know when a little boy isn't playing a little boy part right, or when a little girl is running astray. All of that's sociology. But it's important to have a grasp on it if you're going to have a grasp on gender identity. Because gender identity is rooted in sociology. It's rooted in gender norms, and roles, and the way that we perpetuate and reinforce those ideas in society. Your gender identity is how you make sense of yourself in your head, and how much you align or don't align with what you understand the options for gender to be. Those options, and your understanding of them, are based on how you were socialized to understand what gender is. And that will be different from continent to continent, country to country, state to state, even person to person. But for the most part, we have a shared idea as a society what it means to be man, woman, or other. Gender identity is, at its root, a way of classifying personality. But we have way more than two personalities. So, why do we set up our gender options that are binary? Well, we don't. Not all of us, anyway. Let me give you a rundown of some gender identities I know of. I'll try to do it alphabetically. But I can assure you, that's not my strong suit. A gender, bi gender, genderless, gender queer, gender fluid, man, non-binary, non-gender, trans, third gender, transgender, transsexual, transvestite, two spirit, woman. I could keep going. That's more than two. So, we can leave it at that. I don't have time to define all those terms for you, but they're easy to look up. That's what the Internet's for. Well, and porn, but... (Laughter) Don't do that! (Laughter) What I do want to say is that the thing that binds all those identities together, the reason why they exist is because there are groups of people who are so not man or woman that they needed a whole new label to apply to them. These are people who historically have been labeled as having a psychological condition, a gender identity disorder, gender dysphoria. They've been called troubled, confused, and sick, a danger to themselves and our moral fabric, when in reality, it's society that's confused. Our understanding of gender as binary is sick. And to make someone confined to one of two options when in their minds they know that that role isn't for them... Take the script away and mark it up with a pen. This isn't the role I was born to play. I know myself better than you could ever know me. And who are you to say what's healthy when your idea of health is destroying a part of me? Our understanding of gender as binary isn't just incomplete, it's dangerous. In a recent study in the UK, 84% of trans people reported that they had considered suicide. Half of them attempted it. They did this because they didn't feel welcome. They didn't feel right. They didn't fit. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to say gender identity, or non-binary gender identity is a dark thing. Or at least it shouldn't be. We just need to shed some light on it. So, I've talked about biological sex - penises and vaginas - I've talked about gender identity; I want to talk about gender expression, which is a different thing entirely. I'm a man. It's probably not a surprise for most of you to hear that. Because I'm so manly. (Laughter) Why do people laugh when I say that? (Laughter) I mean, no one doubts my male identity, right? The answer to that question is the difference between gender identity and gender expression. People laugh when I call myself manly because, even though they don't question my manness, they question my masculinity. I'm a man who wears pants too tight, colors too bright, my voice is a bit too high, and my hair is just right. To be forthright, I cry during "Lion King." If you don't, I think you're dead inside. (Laughter) (Applause) I clean up well. And I smell delightful. And I use words like "cute", and, well, "delightful". (Laughter) Gender expression is all of that and more. It's the ways we present ourselves, and what those things stand for. Gender expression changes from culture to culture because what gender means in ours means something completely different in another. We tend to think of gender expression as existing on a scale from masculine to feminine. When in reality it's two separate scales and a measurement on each of them. On one scale we can measure how much we express
femininity. All those things I told you about myself would increase that exponentially. But on the other scale, we measure masculinity. Does me having a beard make my salmon pants less girly? No, not really. But it does increase my masculinity, slightly. Gender expression changes quite readily. In some cases, it changes from activity to activity. Think of an average day for you. Here's how one starts for me. I wake up, hair matted to the side of my head; drool on my face, wearing boxer briefs, grumbling obscenities. It's at this point in my day that I express most masculinity. But it changes quickly. Because step one of my day is going to the bathroom, getting full on pretty. (Laughter) I hop in the shower, shampoo my hair. Awapuhi Ginger leave-in conditioner, facial scrub, full body wash. Hop out of the tub, I smell like a flower. (Laughter) And then I pluck my eyebrows. I'll do my hair, try on outfits in front of my mirror, which I'm sure is something all the guys do in here, am I right, bros? (Laughter) No? Then I hop on a bus. I'll do phone call meetings for my nonprofit and work in broy phrases like "dude" and "bullshit" because in that part of my life, and I hate to admit it, expressing masculinity is a pretty big benefit. And then I go to a cafĂŠ, order a black tea, and sit quietly, working and keeping to myself throughout the day. So, in just a few hours, I've expressed both masculinity and femininity. In just the few minutes I've been on this stage, I've done the same thing. It's something you've been noticing, even if just subconsciously. A lot of people express the gender that aligns with their gender identity; some people don't, whether it's for comfort, pleasure, or personal creativity. And for some people, gender expression is a performance, a display of hyper-masculinity or femininity. You've probably heard of these people. They call them drag kings and drag queens. So, let's wrap this all together. Let's put this all together. I've talked about a lot in a very short amount of time. I tried my best to condense it down and make it understandable, I made it rhyme. (Laughter) But, gender isn't something you're going to fully understand in 15 minutes. If I were to write a book about gender, it would be very hard to do in under 200 pages. And I know that, because I wrote a book about gender, and it was very hard to do it in under 200 pages. But we still talked about a lot. So, let's recap. One, let's all agree that gender is more complex than what we learned as kids. Two, while biological sex is certainly a component of gender, it is not a determinant. That is the biological sex characteristics that you are born with don't really have any mandate on who you'll grow up to be. People who are born with penises are taught to be boys. People who are born with vaginas are taught to be girls. Three, gender identity, how you make sense of gender in your head, sometimes aligns with your biological sex, and sometimes it doesn't. Four, your gender expression is a separate thing entirely. It's how you present gender to the world, and sometimes it aligns with your biological sex and your gender identity, and a lot of times it doesn't. And five, let's all agree that gender as we learned as kids is not as complex as it should be. Now, I know that that was number one. But it's also number five; because it's very important. In my ideal world, well, let's put it this way. Socrates said, "The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing." After this talk, I hope that this talk will serve as a catalyst in helping you realize how little you actually know about gender, as well as an inspiration to open your mind and be willing to learn more. We're all constantly learning about gender. And we have time to do that. But you have to be willing to. You have to be willing to unlearn all the things you learned as a kid and open your mind up to some stuff that might freak you out. But that's what it's all about. Now, in my dreams, I don't foresee a society that is gender blind. But I do foresee and wish for one that's gender creative where people can figure out who they are and be themselves, exploring what that means and in that they'll be supported. Where questioning one's gender won't be shunned, but an expectation, and where realizing that you don't fit into this gender mold, won't lead to isolation and depression, but will be a source of celebration. And above all, a society where people, regardless of their gender formation, are safe. But, in the meantime, can we at least get some gender neutral bathrooms up in this piece? (Cheers) Thank you. (Applause) Orthodox Judaism.