‘Everybody wants a label, but then when you get one, it can be dangerous’
Chris Ricketts appeared on The Late Late Show on Friday, February 19th. Chris was born in a female body but identifies as male. He advocates gender fluidity as opposed to classifying someone who is transgender as either male or female. In his book Food Needs Labelling, People Don’t, Chris discusses the problem of labels, in particular, labels around sexuality and gender.
During his television interview, Chris mentioned that there are at least ten different gender types: ‘There are not two sexes, there are ten. You are part of the diversity of nature’. This includes male, female, intersex, gender variant, to name a few. He makes the point that labelling is not healthy for our society.
If someone is transgender, they may feel the need to have gender reassignment procedures so as to fit more easily into societal norms. However, Chris argues that not all people feel the need to change their bodies’ in order to feel more comfortable.
Chris was raised as a girl and attended an all-girls secondary school. He could not understand why she was treated differently than him male cousin of the same age. He recalled starting out at university and not being comfortable with the increasing norm of entering into an active sex life. Later in his 20’s, he began to have boyfriends. He subsequently married and had two children. He felt that one had ‘to live to how your body dictates, because society only sees your body.’
Because he identifies mentally and emotionally as being male, he does not consider himself as gay; despite having married a man. His easy response to Ryan Tubridy’s question about why he had children was simply put: ‘because I had all the parts’. In an interview with the Irish Times, Chris stated that he felt the implication of The Late Late Show interview was that, because of his gender fluidity; his life must have been a struggle. On the contrary, Chris seems to be happy and comfortable in his own skin. Is there a desire by the mainstream to label anything outside of that considered ‘norm’ as engendering a turbulent life?
In popular culture, the conversation around transgender and homosexuality is underway. With figures like Caitlyn Jenner coming to our screens, and societal shifts like that of the Marriage Equality referendum here in Ireland, minds have opened and been educated greatly on these issues. However, it may be time to heighten our thinking on matters such as sexual variation and orientation so as to have a more intelligent and thorough conversation about them.
Before Chris’ television appearance, many people may not have heard a person discussing the topic of gender fluidity. Up to now, the topic has not been highlighted on a stage such Irish prime time television. It might now be the time to expand the scope of the discussion through voices like that of Chris Rickett’s.
Caitlyn Jenner in her docuseries I Am Cait, explores the issue of transgender. This is mainly portrayed through her own experience of formerly having been Olympian, Bruce Jenner, and making the transition to become Caitlyn. She decided to have gender reassignment procedures.
The series also looks at the stories of other transgender people who have endured massive struggle because of their gender identity. A common story for many people is that of entering prostitution. This is portrayed as being a commonality of the experience for many transgender people in the US. There is also a clear emphasis placed on an assumed desire for people to go through a physical gender reassignment. The issue of cost for procedures is raised as a struggle for those who would like to have it done but must take a more gradual route.
Little is said about those who may not feel the need to undergo procedures, but who wish to be recognised as being of a gender other than the one biologically assigned to them. Caitlyn Jenner is accused of showing too glamourous a version of the life of someone who is transgender. She was in a position to have surgery and transform her life from Bruce to Caitlyn very rapidly and without financial worry. This is not the case for the majority of people.
Despite all of this, Chris Ricketts has respect for Caitlyn Jenner and all that he has been through. However, Chris would like to highlight that this is not a ‘one size fits all’ issue. His message is that we should not place pressure on people to conform to one gender or another. He feels that surgery and physical changes should not be treated as a requirement for people who are transgender or gender fluid. This is particularly important in the case of children who may have gender identity questions.
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A photo posted by no gender roles in my lobby (@thosequeer.kids) on
Transgender actor Laverne Cox stating that focusing on transitioning rather than tras discrimination is the problem. Photo Credit: Instagram thosequeer.kids
Chris says that ‘everybody wants a label, but then when you get one, it can be dangerous’. He talks about having spent most of his life trying very hard to conform to what he believed was life as a woman. This lead to the breakdown of his marriage and his discovery of language for what he was feeling. He was able to tell his loved ones; his parents and his children, that he was transgender and has emotionally identified as male his entire life.
Chris Ricketts’ book Food Needs Labelling, People Don’t has introduced a new aspect to the gender and sexuality conversation in our society. Chris has discussed how the overwhelming response to the book has not only come from people who have gender identity issues, but from people who believe that her story is one that is a universal story of self-acceptance.