The Changing Gender Identity Debate

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In the 1970s in America water and air were dirty, but sex was clean. Although a post-Woodstock era, alternative sex lifestyle remained in the closet. Nonetheless, gender-based clothing was well established.

A young man from Nigeria in New York City, I was ignorant of dress codes in America. In my Yoruba ancestral home of southwestern Nigeria, everybody wears multicolor clothes. The idea that boys wear blue and girls wear pink was unknown to me as a new immigrant.

Dresses in Nigeria, even today, are custom-built. Before my departure from Nigeria in 1971, I raked together all savings from my teaching job for a new pant good enough to wear in America. The popular material was Textron. The most appealing color was pink. I bought the material, gave it to a tailor and proudly wore the pants to the admiration of my colleagues. Some started saving toward similar acquisition. I was proud of myself.

On arrival in New York, I visited an employment agency on Broadway. I paid the fee and after couple of weeks, a lady called me for an interview. She sent me to a factory in Queens where chairs were plated silver by electrolysis. I reported dressed in my best: my pink pant.

At the factory I presented my introductory card to the foreman, who wouldn’t come near me. He dismissed me with some obscenities I didn’t understand then. I wondered if I came to the right address. Perplexed, I got into the subway, back to Broadway. As soon as the employment agent saw me, she blew her top, having heard from the foreman. She asked me why I dressed as I did, and some other statement I can’t repeat. I continued to emphasize that I dressed in my best as she could see. After yelling at me for a minute or so, she calmed down. I guessed she finally realized I had no clue about the connotation of my appearance, dressed in bright pink pants to a factory of all-male employees. The woman sat me down in her small cubicle and explained the whole situation to me. It was then that I learned homosexuality was real.

I first came across the word at my Baptist Teachers College in Nigeria. It was a big word that I felt could enrich my vocabulary. The dictionary definition was totally unbelievable. Baptist College was all boys’ boarding school. I looked at other students and wondered how any man in his right mind could find another among us sexually appealing, when there were so many cute girls at nearby High schools.

That was 1970. It appeared insignificant when you think about the suggestion by the White House to inject itself into individual’s bathroom preference. One would think that there are a lot more pressing problems to solve in America than for the federal government to concern itself with which bathroom a student eases himself or herself in schools nationwide, with an accompanied threat of withholding federal fund to any non-complying state. With many nationally-important bridges such as the Brent Spence bridge on Route 71/75 connecting Northern Kentucky with Southern Ohio corridor that need repairs or replacement, the White House will be more interested in the economic impact of that bridge in that part of the country and others like it, than regulating bathroom preference for High scholars.

But the issue of bathroom is only a diversion for the White House, an issue created to distract people from real problems in the nation, just so that a fringe of the population might think something is being done on their behave, so that they could continues their agitation for more. For as long as people were provided an emotional racks to hang their emotional hats, they would tend to forget that their stomachs are empty and there are no clothes to hang on their backs. After all, that was the same tactics used by gays to secure gender-neutral marriage in the country. Only the squeaky wheel gets oiled in the America politics. It is no surprise that every societal wheel makes itself squeaky in order to get attention. Every group presents itself as a victim. Today, it is the LGBT, tomorrow who knows. As the employment agent told me in 1971: “Welcome to my world.”

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Bode Olakanmi

Author: The Cradle and the Bed www.strategicbookpublishing.com/TheCradleAndTheBed.html. A biweekly columnist for Daily Iowan for three years, in Iowa City, IA. I am a recently retired biomedical researcher from the University of Cincinnati.

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