Recently I was watching my daily dose of Ellen and on came Katie Couric. Remember her? She’s the comeback kid who lost her husband prematurely to color cancer in at the age of 42. Katie, as you may recall is an American journalist who has appeared in a number of TV venues—and probably best known for her co-hosting role on the Today show (she has appeared on CBS News, ABC News, CNN, 60 Minutes, and Disney, to name a few). Currently, she is on Yahoo/ABC News and has spotlights on Good Morning America.
Ellen started the interview with lots of her usual funny banter, ramblings, and ice-breakers and then said, “Let’s talk about this documentary. I wish the audience could have seen the entire thing before you were on because it’s going to be on Nat Geo and I really hope everyone sees it. And I have to say, as a gay person, I don’t know anything about transgender or anything about… Couric inserts. “gender nonconforming”. Couric continues, “There’s a whole new vocabulary that exists and I think it is there is such a generational divide…it’s much more open and accepted for people to not fall into this binary that I was raised with…I wanted people to have the tools and have a real conversation about it…hatred comes from fear and fear comes out of ignorance.” The documentary they were referring to is Gender Revolution and highlights youth who embody a spectrum of different gender identities.
I have to admit I loved the interview, and was taken in, which is hardly the case for me with mainstream interviews about gender identity and transgender people (yes, I know, I am one—just picky!). I then went online to the National Geographic channel and watched the trailer. Instantly, I was hooked and deeply impressed with those who are featured, surprised by the powerful and intentional questions asked, and enamored with the educative voice of Couric. So impressed that I immediately went to the online National Geographic store and ordered the DVD (it’s not ready until June)
As I was clicking around the links on the page, I noticed that In conjunction with the documentary, the January issue of National Geographic published Gender Revolution be careful though if you click to many times, they will make you subscribe) and the articles were equally fascinating and compelling. The National Geographic website) says, “We created the gender issue—as we do every issue—with the intent to research, understand, and explain.”1 As I scanned the topics, I could see that the issue was truly written for a wide audience featuring a number of voices and perspectives. The articles featured in this issue include “In Their Words: How Children Are Affected by Gender Issues,” “How Society Makes a Man,” “When Moms and Dads Share Parental Leave,” “A Challenge for Girls Today: Moving Beyond ‘How Do I Look?” and “For These Girls, Danger Is a Way of Life.” The one article that stood out to me–and I found it to be most eye opening– was “How Science is Helping us Understand Gender” (National Geo Staff). The article features research to help us understand how gender identity is located in the brain. Dick Swaab, a researcher at the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience in Amsterdam found that “Sexual differentiation of the genitals takes place in the first two months of pregnancy… and…sexual differentiation of the brain starts during the second half of pregnancy.”The genitals and the brain exist in different environments and therefore receive different “hormones, nutrients, medication, and other chemical substances,” and this effects sexual differentiation.
Even more cool, is a downloadable discussion guide for parents and teachers. This discussion guide includes the following foci:
- Understanding Yourself to Understand Gender
- Gender Identity and Gender Expression: A Primer
- What Science Tells Us About Gender
- Shaping Gender in Childhood, Talking With Your Children About Gender
- Helping Families Talk About Gender
- Gender and the Larger Culture, Danger and Discrimination for Girls Around the World
- Next Steps, and to top it off
- Additional Resources!
What we now see in youth today is an innate sense of self that is remixing gender norms. They are putting gender in conversation with the other and recreating gender in their own images—self-determining how they want to express themselves, dress and be read as and in the world. They are gender blending, gender busting, gender shifting, gender criss-crossing, and gender demixing, all to arrive at a gender remixing. Similar to remixing music by blending sounds, beats, genres, instruments, and narratives, and arrive into a new shape and form, remixing gender is a deep felt sense of understanding how gender norms and stereotypes function as webs of imprisonment. By flipping and playing with them, without committing to either, and mixing clothing, norms and appearances in different contexts, they are recreating and refashioning the body. These youth, as Gender DJ’s, are teaching the rest of us–by just being themselves everyday– ,ushering in a more expansive understanding of gender, but most important, leading the way into the future by demonstrating what gender could be. We, no doubt, are in a Gender Revolution.
Be sure to order this issue as it is no longer accessible on-line and watch GENDER REVOLUTION: A JOURNEY WITH KATIE COURIC which airs February 6th 9/8c on the Nat Geo channel. I know where I’ll be that night.
1 There is even a Canada and International Issue.