There are many, many reasons why I love dead-tree media, not least of which is that I hope that one day they will give me a job, but the one most pertinent at the moment is that they can yield up articles that set your world on its head in ways that might take a small fleet of blog posts to accomplish.
E.G., I present this New York Times article about Afghan girls who are raised as boys in order to give their families the prestige (and monetary opportunities) that their all-girl families would otherwise lack.
Yeah, it blew my mind too. In one of the most gender-stratified societies in the world, there are enough of a certain kind of cross-dresser that they have their own noun: "bacha posh," or literally "girls dressed as boys." These girls are dressed as boys from a young age. Some attend school as girls, then work after-school jobs, socialize, and play sports as boys. When the bacha posh hit puberty, or become engaged to be married, they transition back into girls.
I urge you to read the whole thing; it says a whole lot about gender and identity and the social pressures to have a male child in Afghanistan without simplifying the issues overmuch, and is an enormous credit to the reporter. Some of the girls interviewed loved the freedoms they got; some were uncomfortable socializing with boys and playing the male parts. One little girl interviewed kept stealing her older sisters' clothes because she didn't like hers; one teenager, Zahra, was referred to with female pronouns in the article but said ze never wanted to transition back, because "nothing in me feels like a girl." One woman didn't transition back until she was 20 years old.
Reading the article was kind of heartbreaking, because while most of the women interviewed said they liked living as boys for as long as they got to do it, it's difficult to separate out whether they liked being men or just the freedom that came with being men. Most of the older women interviewed said that their time as boys gave them strength and confidence, and let them deal more evenly with their husbands; but most of them also found switching back to be incredibly confining, "like being born again."
As soon as I read the article, I shared it with my roommate, J. J and I have talked before about our slightly gender-atypical childhoods; we were both tomboys growing up, but this article helped me realize that we constructed that identity in different ways.
I was always happy being a girl, but I wanted to be a girl who could be Han Solo. I wanted to swoop in, crack jokes, and save the day, and I wanted to do it without all this goddamn talking about FEELINGS - but I was a girl. This led to some frustrating moments of gender-confusion until I found myself some heroines who acted like heroes - Alanna of Trebond, Kara Thrace, Amelia Peabody, and others who were definitely female but who interacted with the world on male terms because that let them get shit done. J, on the other hand, says that when she was a kid, she definitely wanted to be a boy, because girls were weak and sissified. She was proud of being her father's "oldest son," and didn't start being comfortable with girly things until college. It's weird, because we've talked about this at least four times and never really understood what the other one was saying.
So! The reason I'm letting myself post about this in a fandom blog is because after the discussion with J, I remembered this fic that I read a while back that dovetails quite nicely with the whole "do I want to be male, or just interact with the world on male terms" quandry. It is Hating the Weather, by rivkat , and I have it bookmarked as "the genderfuck I have been waiting for since I learned the genre existed," because it isn't "What if Dean Winchester was born a girl" or "How does Dean Winchester cope with being turned into a girl," but rather "How does a Dean Winchester who was born a girl cope with being turned into a man (and furthermore, what are Sam's thoughts on the matter)?" And whoa, does that make for one hell of an interesting story. It's long (40,000 words), plotty, AUs the whole of seasons 2-4, and if you were allowed to nominate fanfiction for the Tiptree I'd be circulating petitions as we speak. Go read. Now.
I had more thoughts, but J apparently needs me to kill a cockroach. What the hell.