‘Gender is the essence of your being, painted on,’ says Lyn Langille
It all starts at birth. “Are you having a boy or a girl?’ Then come the baby gifts. Pink blankets for girls, blue for boys. A little girl gets dolls, kitchen toys and make-up for her birthday while a little boy gets trucks and toy guns. A girl is expected to be soft and dainty, while a boy is rough and strong.
Social expectations based on gender — whether conscious or not — are endless and specific. Many people would argue that gender is not something we are born with. Rather, it’s a social construction.
In the Calgary Journal documentary, Painted On: Modern Gender Stories, one family and two other Calgarians share their narratives about redefining gender. All are living outside the so-called gender binary, which limits gender to only male or female.
“Gender is not binary, which is the way most of the world sees it,” says Brianne Langille, a male-to-female transgender woman who is married to her wife Lyn Langille. “They see it as you’re either male or you’re female and I’ve seen so much that leads me to believe that gender is a spectrum.”
D.A. Dirks, a professor at Mount Royal University who teaches General Education and Humanities, identifies as neither male nor female. Rather than using gender-specific pronouns such as ‘he’ or ‘she,’ Dirks prefers ‘they’ when being spoken about. They say this is often hard for others to adjust to because gender-specific pronouns are such a strong part of our language.
Produced by Scott Kingsmith, Krystal Northey, Alyssa Quirico and Kian Sumalpong
“Both in terms of my internal sense of who I am and my own gender identity, I don’t feel male or female.”
Colton Cuthbertson, who started his transition from female to male less than a year ago, says that while living outside the gender binary can be tough, it is worth it in the end to be true to one’s self.
“It’s huge for me to check off the male box because that’s who I am and that’s how I want to be seen,” says Cuthbertson.