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Emma Hertel
Miss Olson
Graduation Essay
April 11th 2014
Minorities are not Americas Priority
The United States was founded, in writing at least, with a significant emphasis on the
concepts of equal representation and protection under the law for all people. When 55 delegates
signed the United States Constitution in 1787, equal representation belonged exclusively to
white, British, men. Since then, many Americans have valiantly fought to expand the definition
of equal protection and representation under the law. But now the year is 2014 and progress
has been excruciatingly slow-- some might say glacial. In Congress 90% of the lawmakers are
male, 87% percent are white, and the median age is 53 (Scholastic). The median age for the
United States population is 32, making our representatives much older than those they represent.
American females make up 51% of the population (Scholastic) and, according to the 2012 US
census report, more than 20% of Americans are of an ethnicity other than white. Slightly more
than 4% of Americans identified themselves as something other than cis-gendered heterosexual
in 2012- yet nearly 300 years after the Constitution was signed, the United States of America is
still disproportionately ruled by heterosexual cis-gendered white men. The lack of representation
of minorities skews the everyday decisions our government makes concerning our safety and
financial stability. While many people recognize the growing diversity in America, a large

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portion of the population is still unaware that sex and gender are two distinct identities.
Education can be a change agent that will allow minorities to be more accurately
represented and to erase the stigma surrounding gender identity.
Even though gender is a social construction, the majority of people identify as cis,
meaning their genitals correspond with their sense of being male or female (Glossary of Terms).
If a person does not identify as a cis heterosexual even in a place as progressive as New York,
they can be fired, denied shelter if they are homeless, and denied credit and access to services
(Civil Rights for Transgender). America has made progress within the last 100 years, but by
having such a uniformed government, America is silencing many of its citizens.
The United States is supposedly the land of opportunity yet many are denied these
opportunities due to unspoken social norms and gender stereotypes. The United States federal
government should recognize that it is unjust to defer issues concerning queer (an umbrella term
for the LGBT community) citizens, such as gay marriage, to state governments. Although the gay
rights movement is gaining momentum, gender fluid (gender is constantly changing), genderqueer (genderless), and transgendered (formerly the opposite gender) people are often left behind
(Glossary of Terms). Given the gay rights movements increasing popularity, it is reasonable to
assume that the gender movement is not forgotten solely due to hate, but rather is the product of
ignorance.
Sweden has become one of the leading countries for progressive thinking concerning
gender and sexuality (Taylor). Like America, Sweden legally only recognizes two sexes, but
unlike America, Swedish citizens are developing the new gender neutral pronoun, hen. This is
monumental because a gender neutral pronoun helps to eliminate a lot of the expectations put

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upon Swedish youth to conform to gender norms. At a preschool in Stockholms Old Town, the
teachers avoid the pronouns him and her, instead calling their 115 toddlers simply friends
(Taglibue). In addition, it is noteworthy that same-sex activity has been legal since 1944, citizens

have been legally allowed to change their gender since 1972, and LGBT citizens have been
allowed to serve in the Swedish military since 1976 (Reinfeldt). It would be insane to suggest
that the United States become a socialist country, but in this instance the federal government
needs to step in and take the lead to ensure rights to all people.
(Swedish Code of Statuses Discrimination)
(American Civil Liberties Union)
The most harmful part of Americas current gender system is the cultural expectations
that go along with saying someone is a girl or a boy (Weeks). Gender roles put limits on the
aspirations of children and contribute to sexism. They tell children what they can and cannot do
before they have even tried. Historically, disobeying the gender expectations made for us by

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society leads to unpleasant and sometimes violent consequences. In the early 1940s, women
held a lot of the industrial jobs that men controlled before World War II. The men returned from
combat and expected to find their wives, daughters, and sisters diligently waiting for them
tending to the children. However, the women of America had discovered a new found sense of
independence that they were not eager to give up. The United States government then launched a
massive media campaign that introduced the next decade of American history. Suddenly
television started promoting this idea of the perfect all American family, an unrealistically
beautiful, feminine, perfectly manicured wife; a strong, suave, masculine, breadwinner husband,
and two kids. Women were fired from their jobs so that men could be hired, leaving women
completely dependent on their male relatives. Masculinity and femininity became a crucial piece
of the American dream. Domestic violence was prevalent and women became objects for men to
use and abuse, after all, men ran the country (Miss Representation). Because of the gender role
assignment movement of the 1950s even today it is considered taboo and inappropriate for a
male to wear female clothes or vice versa.
The 21st century has made way for a new social revolution through the power of
technology. Becoming educated is easier than it has ever been and thanks to the wonders of WiFi, the queer community has been able to organize, form support groups, and educate the
community more effectively. A 2013 poll published by the Washington Post indicates that over
58% of American citizens accept homosexuality. The gender identity movement, however, still
faces much controversy. A 2012 statement made by former Pope Benedict XVI referred to
choosing a new gender identity as manipulation of nature and he insisted that being created
by God as male or female pertains to the essence of human nature (Gender is Gift). But in many
societies that existed long before Catholics were around, there were gods who supported and

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practiced gender fluidity. For instance the Hindu God, Ardhanarishvara, is said to change genders
and be half man- half woman the majority of the time (Rocero). There is no person on Earth,
including the former Pope, who can definitively say which religion is correct. Either way, the
possible spiritual consequences of defying gender have no place in government.
Gender is a spectrum, just like sexuality. Gender fluidity is comparable to being bisexual.
Bisexuality means that you are attracted to men and women. Being gender fluid is a person
feeling that they are meant to be her/she at one event and then go to lunch and become he/him
(Adler). Sometimes gender fluid people choose to identify outside of the confines of man and
woman. For example, Lynn Walker (a journalist for SIRS), encountered high school students
who say they identify as tractor some days or use pronouns like Zee, Zim, Zer (Irvine) to show
how arbitrary the gender binary is to them. Sex is a chromosomal and anatomical fact, but gender
is more of a mental or social construct (Levine). Gender does not have to correspond with a
persons genitals. Preoperative transgendered people still identify as the opposite sex but have
their original anatomy. In contrast, if a person feels like their sex accurately represents their
gender, then they would identify as cis-gendered (Glossary of Terms).
Hate crimes and discrimination based on gender identity are just as serious as hate crimes
and discrimination based on race or religion, despite the lesser amount of attention they receive.
Very recently a male to female transgendered comedian, Avery Edison, was held back by
Canadian airport security for overstaying her student visa. Avery Edison is preoperative, so even
though her passport said she was a woman, it was not difficult for security to notice female
was not her sex at birth. Airport security then informed her than she may be kept in a solitary
holding cell because she was preoperative. Within the next few hours they decided to send her

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to a mens jail, where she remained for several days before finally being transferred to a
womens holding facility. Avery Edisons case is a minor example and although she may have
been extremely uncomfortable, she was not physically harmed. According to the Trans Murder
Monitoring project, 256 non-cissexuals were murdered in 2012 and mutilation was particularly
common. The disproportionate amount of bigotry and hostility that is directed at trans kids or
children defying gender roles versus the rest of the LGBT community is ridiculous. Gender is a
hard concept to grasp for so many people, but with the help of activism and education around the
world, progress is being made. The Trans Murder Monitoring Project reported only 78 noncissexual murders in 2013, an approximately 75% decline (Trans Murder Monitoring Project).
This can be attributed to increased understanding of gender and, in part, to Pope Francis.
Unlike Pope Benedict XVI, Pope Francis is much more accepting of the LGBT
community. In 2013 he allowed a funeral to be held for a trans woman in his church. For many
Catholics, the new Popes attitudes are introducing completely new perspectives.
Aside from Pope Francis help, social media has connected a massive amount of people
and allies, introducing them to diverse cultures they may otherwise never have discovered. With
each passing year, access to the internet becomes more inexpensive and instantaneous. A giant
platform combined with this level of accessibility is exactly what the queer community needs to
begin swaying Congress in the direction of equality. In a world freer from binary oppositions,
you could chose to live your life with fairly conventional gender limits, as most of us do, or you
could change your gender identity daily. You could set out from one fixed gender polarity and
travel to the other (Levine). Richard Levine has not outlined an unachievable goal. With such

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progressive strides already being made in the gay rights movement, the gender identity
movement cannot be far behind.
So many people are threatened by those identifying differently than cis-gendered
because this implies change. It takes effort to become educated, aware, and sensitive to the
preferences of others around you. Misgendering someone is embarrassing for the person who is
misgendered and for the person who made the mistake. Although that may be uncomfortable,
gender is not an issue about which the United States can continue to be passive. We need to care
because this affects peoples freedom of expression and individual voice- something the United
States historically has valued above all else. America, as a unified nation, needs to change how
we view sex and gender. The two are not interchangeable. America should follow Swedens
example and begin working on gender neutral pronouns and laws that protect all of our citizens,
regardless of gender or sexual orientation. The stigma surrounding gender identity is
unacceptable, The line between male and female is rather fine. Although we imagine our
genders to be firm and fixed, in fact they are a malleable as a sand castle (Boylan). To continue
to ignore this is costing American lives and it goes directly against the Declaration of
Independence and the Constitution. How can America consider itself a role model for the world,
if its own citizens are living in fear? It is time to educate America, to change attitudes, and to
finally uphold the legislation and values on which this country was founded. Sweden is fast
approaching this ideal society, and hopefully America is not far behind.