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Gender Diaries: Robin Estrin

As the world continues to push against gender constructs, the conversation around how people are identifying themselves is constantly evolving. Each week, MILK.XYZ will feature a guest editor writing about their specific relationship with gender and, often, where it intersects with fashion. This week, we feature poet, educator, and radio DJ Robin Estrin, whose writing has appeared in the Chicago Quarterly Review, Catamaran Literary Magazine, and The Adroit Journal, and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. 

My dad is as much a product of his generation of baby boomers, with their promise of homeownership and financial security, as I am of mine: millennial. Neither straight nor gay, not static in my gender identity, and not sure about my credit score, I embody a series of ambiguities that lead me to believe I may never be a homeowner.

The two of us came of age in different worlds, and despite our similar voting records, we don’t always see eye-to-eye. Especially around questions of gender and sexuality. He views my generation’s divorce from convention as a trend, (one that he supports, he’d add); I see it as a movement. My friends use they/them pronouns. His friends use social media to complain about other people’s bad grammar.

Writers have taken to calling 18-34 year olds the gayest generation in history, but it’s more than that. According to GLAAD, we’re also more likely to identify outside traditional binaries altogether. People who are asexual, pansexual, non-binary, and trans have always existed, but increased cultural understanding and acceptance indicate that in 2018, we all feel freer to be who we are and thus lead happier, more productive lives.

So, we’re queer and we’re here, but how do we justify our existence to our parents and grandparents, many of whom find comfort in binary modes of thinking? Binaries serve a practical purpose, after all; they help us classify and evaluate information.

A mathematical concept called fuzzy logic might be a good place to start. Advanced by Dr. Lotfi Zadeh at UC Berkeley in the 1960s, fuzzy logic is a theory which allows classes of objects to hold unsharp, or fuzzy, boundaries. It evaluates truth in degrees on a spectrum, not in absolutes. To my generation, especially the 20 percent of us who identify as LGBTQ, this makes sense. We are coloring outside the lines in revolutionary ways, throwing out the original Crayola box and renaming all the crayons.

Fuzzy logic’s revered predecessor, classical logic, permits only conclusions that are entirely true or entirely false—0 or 1—and nothing between. But why would we evaluate something as nuanced as our humanity by the same methods we use to program a computer?

Truth is, sometimes I dread having conversations about identity with older folks. But as 15th century theologist Julian of Norwich wrote in her Revelations of Divine Love, dread is “born of reverence,” and reverence is “the holy dread with which we face that which we love most, or that which loves us the most.”

In other words, to be irreverent about something is to concede its power over you, to honor it for its scope and force in the world. To be irreverent, then, is to be… reverent. And to conflate the two is to reject a binary that’s pitted generations against each other forever.

So next time I’m dreading a tough conversation with my parents, I’ll remember this: my love for them, and theirs for me. We’ll talk it out.

And if that’s not the gayest, most radical thing ever, I don’t know what is.

Images courtesy of Irma Barbosa

Stay tuned to Milk for more Gender Diaries and see our previous installments here.

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