Everyone has seen it going around in the media, the push for gender neutrality. Even Pink recently shared that she is raising her daughter, Willow, who is six-years-old, to be gender neutral in their label-free home. Although I have found a lot of articles on this subject, I find that not a lot of people truly understand the topic, only because there aren’t enough conversations about it.
I reached out to British Columbia resident, Eva Patenaude, to share her passion for gender neutrality.
How would you describe yourself?
I’m a proud queerdo and try to remain pretty label-free other than that one. I’ve spent the last three years freeing myself from the shackles of societal expectations in order to learn what I want and who I want to be – and then learning how to be the best me I can possibly be. I’m the Media and Events Coordinator for the Victoria Pride Society and get much joy from doing my part to bring our community together. I produce and perform in the spectacular gender-bending King Fling events while also building my own company EP Promotions which brings together great music, events, people, and memories.
So, since you said you try to remain pretty label-free, what does gender mean to you?
Gender to me is made up by society and only exists because we accept and enforce it. Biological sex is relevant only for reproduction, so if I’m not looking to reproduce with you (I can guarantee I’m not) my biological sex should be irrelevant. I have a strong masculine side and a strong feminine side. If gender is important to you (and I do accept it is important to many) then technically you can say I’m genderqueer. For me, I’m just Eva. I’m Eva before I’m a woman, I’m Eva before I’m a queer person. Instead of making assumptions about what I’m like based on your understanding of what a woman is, take the time to actually get to know me cause you’ll find some of your assumptions to be totally out of whack.
And, why do you think gender exists?
Gender exists to tell people what to do, whom to date, and how to live their lives. Society as a whole needs to stop micromanaging individuals’ lives. Let people discover the things that make them exceptional and unique and just let them be. The more we support each other for who we are as individuals rather than shaming each other for our differences, the more we can build up our communities and societies as a whole.
You’re from British Columbia, and the first baby to be born without a gender identity is from BC! What was your reaction when you heard about it?
It’s amazing! I find that so uplifting because that likely also means the baby’s parents will introduce their baby to all things, whether considered masculine or feminine, rather than presenting the child with a very limited set of choices on who they can become and what they can accomplish. Truthfully I find the whole concept of, “It’s a boy!” or “It’s a girl!” so strange. I have to bite my tongue most of the time to keep myself from saying, “How could you possibly know that? All you know is whether or not the baby has a penis and that’s just weird to talk about. How does nobody think this is weird?”
It can help with our society’s gender-stereotypes, that’s for sure, especially the children without a gender identity. What kind of impact do you think this could have on future children and their parents who decided not to put a gender on their child’s health card?
I think people will start to realize they’ve been making a big deal about nothing. It doesn’t matter what a baby’s gender is; all that matters is that the baby grows up supported and loved and secure in who they are as a person. A child growing up with a sense of worth in who they are as an individual will be able to accomplish so much more on this earth than a child who is constantly being reminded how they are failing at living up to gender ideals.
Do you have any suggestions to offer people who want to learn and understand more about gender?
For anyone wanting to engage in personal dialogue, first, you must make sure to get consent from the person you are attempting to engage. Gender identity can be a very personal and sensitive topic of discussion for many folks, including those still on their journey who maybe aren’t quite certain yet where they fall on the gender spectrum, or who maybe have figured it out but aren’t yet comfortable talking about it. If you seek and receive consent, let the person with whom you are engaging know that it is your intent to have your eyes and mind opened and any questions you have are to help you understand. Let them know they can tell you if you say something offensive so that you can be corrected. And most importantly… LISTEN.
Do you have any advice on how to help educate others who aren’t sure about this subject?
One person’s experience of gender isn’t another person’s. Because I have taken the time to know many folks of all kinds of gender identities on a very personal level I can speak about other experiences, but I always make sure to convey that it always comes down to individual experience. Make sure to not “out” others when speaking about gender. It is up to that individual to decide to whom they are out too and how and when they are outed. What I have also found extremely valuable in helping others understand is to remember that we are all a product of the society in which we grow up. Most people don’t choose to be ignorant, they just don’t actually realize they are ignorant. Try to be patient, sympathetic, and understanding.
People are starting to look further into gender because it isn’t so black and white as it may seem. It looks like society is starting to realize this by the actions they are taking. We have seen the positive impact our government, healthcare system and even celebrities have taken for non-binary people. While we are seeing great things happening surrounding ideas of gender, it’s still important to try and educate yourself as much as possible on these issues. If you have questions, reach out to someone you know that has some kind of knowledge in this area. Odds are they are more than happy to talk to you about whatever questions you have and may be willing to share their personal experiences if it helps educate the people in their lives. If you don’t know anyone who is non-binary, google can be your best friend. The web has a lot of information about gender neutrality that is just waiting for your eyes to see.