jennifer hanigan

a pinch of this and a dollop of that

Out of the Box

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This is another guest post written the lovely friend who wrote this one.

I used to assume unquestioningly that there were two very big (yet very well-defined) boxes that almost all humans fit into: obviously and unquestioningly male/masculine and obviously and unquestioningly female/feminine. There were always a few people I couldn’t really fit comfortably into the boxes. But I could mentally shave them down—un-notice or de-emphasize the importance of their hair length, or the way they laugh, or their jawline, or their amount of breast tissue, or their sexual orientation—and they would fit, more or less.


Now that I have been privileged to have the veil lifted ever so patiently from my eyes by the brave and beautiful trans people in my life, I look around and realize that very, very few people have physical bodies and personal gender expressions that fit perfectly into those culturally determined, narrowly defined binary boxes. That petite southern belle making pimento cheese sandwiches? Her voice is as low as most men’s voices. That bearded, broad-chested balding guy? He crosses his legs at the knee “like a girl”. Why not celebrate her voice and his leg crossing, as beautifully human instead of mocking, ignoring, or explaining away these things so that we can stuff complex humans into the binary boxes?

I look around and think that we’re all just standing around outside these tiny boxes—boxes that can’t even hold a human foot, let alone a fearfully and wonderfully made human body. We are, most of us, trying to climb into, or stuff each other into, these boxes. But the boxes can’t contain us, the wild diversity that is humanity. I just can’t successfully stuff people into them in anymore, not when I am no longer willing to shave off all their stunning uniqueness-es in order to make them fit. It’s disorienting at first to have everything unboxed, messy, chaotic. Disorienting like the learning of a new dance, when everyone is laughing and stepping on each other’s feet, and trying to get their hips to move on the off-beat. But there is so much more joy to be had dancing with each other—seeing and being seen, weaving in and out, grasping and releasing, whirling and bowing—than there ever has been sitting around in cramped boxes.


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