Gender Stereotypes & Mental Health

Okay… so this could be a tricky one. I’d like whoever reads this to keep an open mind, I am not trying to say my way of thinking is correct or that anyone actually has to agree with it, I just want you to try and keep an open mind. Also it is going to be a little stream of consciousness like so bear with me.

I have a lot of friends who are LGBT+ and I’ve had issues with my own femininity in the past. I’m cis gendered, which means I am comfortable with the gender I was born with but I don’t fit a lot of the stereotypes that come with my gender. I recently cut my hair very short and since then have received criticism and compliments both about my hair including insinuations that I must be a butch lesbian amongst other comments. Yesterday a tyre blew out on my car and I posted on fbk about it and I got comments about ‘girl power’ and how unusual it is for a girl to change their tyre. I admit I struggled getting the nuts off cos damn they are tight and had to call my husband for advice as he’d shown me what to do but I hadn’t done it solo before… but why does gender even come into it?

I’ve always been into things that aren’t considered girly, and if as a cis-gendered person I can be made to feel uncomfortable and question myself how hard must it be for people who don’t fit into that pigeon hole of ‘normal’. What is normal anyway? I am a gamer, I am into computers, I don’t do makeup or shave my legs and I don’t feel the need to jump up and down and scream at every exciting thing in life. I don’t sleep around, lead guys on or play games… flirting can be fun but only if both sides know that is all it is and if not its dangerous waters. (Note I’m married and happy with my partner at this point anyways).

This lack of girly behaviour made me unusual at my school were 3 girls dropped out pregnant, it also made me a case for sexual harassment from other students on top of the normal bullying, thankfully it never went far enough to be traumatising, just irritating.  Also being forced to wear skirts was a hell for me, I always wore shorts underneath to save embarrassments but I so wish trousers had been in. Apparently during primary school the other kids thought I must be a lesbian because I wasn’t interested in guys, hell I just wasn’t interested in anything until one particular guy got my attention in the final year of senior school, it just wasn’t on my radar. I know plenty of people who are a-sexual still going into their 30’s, there is nothing wrong with it. There are people who enjoy casual relationships but don’t need a partner and prefer it that way.

Being outside the ‘normal’ can easily feel persecuted and the need to hide the extent of your ‘wierdness’ can be exhausting. There is also the social pressure to fit in, that leads you to think ‘maybe I should try and fit my gender a bit more’. When you already live a life of anxiety and depression then societal pressures about gender and who you like so don’t need to be added on top. I have enough issues and my friends have a lot more from stereotypes to outright sexism or homophobia.

Why does gender matter? Why does who you fall in love with matter? Aren’t we all just people? I feel like life is too short to live with all this hate, how does the way we live effect you? Why do you feel the need to judge? Some people can take comments and brush them off and for some people it can be soul crushing and lead to a steep mental health dive. I have an anorexic friend who suffers the same issue of random strangers judging them and making comments that are either outright hurtful or that they think would help. It doesn’t even have to be gender issues, just anything visually unusual.

I am proud of who I am, I don’t feel like I should need to hide who I am or who I like but I also know that sharing information with the wrong people is still dangerous in this world. I love people, I don’t care what shape, size, gender, sexuality or religion they are as long as no one tries to pressure their views onto me we are all good. All I care about is that people are healthy and happy and so very few of us are. Modern society prosecutes and pushes us until we break, and there is no shame in breaking its only human. Hell 6 year old children are being treated for depression these days, mine didn’t hit until I was 16 with GCSE’s and my first death in the family.

You never know what someone is going through, how close they are to breaking. You never know where their insecurities lay. Some people will show it openly but a lot of people hide and have coping mechanisms so people don’t see. This is something I always try and consider (and don’t always get right) when interacting with people. Don’t hold bad days against people, don’t give up just because they are struggling because that is when they need you the most.

A friend once posted a quote “being well adjusted to a broken world is no good thing” so for those non-adjusted people amongst us, keep strong.

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