My mother has always been one of my personal heroes and is a huge reason why I’m so opposed to gender roles.

She’s been a pediatrician for longer than I can remember. For years, she’s been working twelve-hour shifts in the emergency room at Queens Hospital, taking care of kids and young adults with all kinds of problems, from colds to seizures to physical violence brought on by mental disabilities. She’s gone through more than her fair share of sleepless nights in the ER dealing with other people’s kids when their parents couldn’t, but never once has she forgotten about her own children. As wonderful as she is as a doctor, she hasn’t been anything less than a perfect mother. When I was little, I never really noticed how often those long hours must have tired her out because her love and wisdom in taking care of me and my brother have always shone through. I have always appreciated and loved my mother for raising us the way she did, but it wasn’t until I grew up a little that I began to see how hard she worked to make her family happy. Because of that unyielding dedication to everything she did,  I didn’t really grow up with the mindset that most boys grew up with: that girls are inherently worse at things than guys.

Defining someone’s entire life and personality by whatever is in their pants seems narrow-minded and incredibly boring to me.

Don’t get me wrong: If a woman wants to be a housewife and raise her kids while she cleans the house or a man wants to hole up in a man cave and break out some brewskies with the fellas to watch the big game, then that’s their prerogative. What I don’t like about gender roles is the idea that men or women or anyone under a different category must be inherently one way or another in a black-and-white (blue-and-pink?) society.   Being a housewife or watching sports should be considered choices, not obligations.

Early on in my childhood, I started balking at the idea of people being divided by their gender,  with society largely believing that girls had to like pink and play with dolls and that boys had to like blue and play football. I wanted to try and shake up that monochrome world around me. At a family reunion, the boy and girl cousins each separated into their own rooms. Without much thought, I found myself hanging out with my girl cousins for most of the time. They welcomed me with open arms without much regard for my gender. Out in the real world, I openly displayed my love for magical girl superheroes by enjoying things like shojo manga for girls and decorating my locker with pictures of my favorite heroines. When it came to “male-coded habits” like enthusiasm for sports or cars, I never actively rejected any of them. I enjoyed lifting weights at the gym and would watch the occasional baseball or football game with my family, but I wasn’t trying to fulfill any of society’s expectations by doing things like that. I just did them.

I’ve never really thought of any aspects of my lifestyle to be strictly guy stuff or girl stuff. I’ve always considered them to just be “me” stuff. I haven’t had the proper terms for the way I live my life until recently, but I know now that the last thing I ever want to do is to be restricted by what my penis indirectly decides I should be doing. I’ll get moderately buffed up at the gym and I’ll sing and dance to Lady Marmalade while imagining myself as a sexy courtesan in the Moulin Rouge and not let my gender stop me from doing that and so much more.

People can be more than what their gender “dictates.” These days, learning that gender extends far beyond what people are biologically born with, I’m happy to know that nothing in society has to be so blue-and-pink anymore (even if most of the world still needs to catch up). Gender roles are bricks that support a wall of bullshit and I’ll spend my entire life smashing them.

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