While sitting in downstairs Powell enjoying my lunch, I was interrupted by the loud scream of a man sitting directly behind me.

“Hey, look! It’s that transgendered dude!”

I immediately turned my head and noticed a transgendered woman walking down the sidewalk outside of the Powell building. I also noticed the heads of about 15 other people around me turn the exact same direction.

As I continued to eavesdrop on the man’s conversation with his friend, I was baffled by what I was hearing.

“What if I just woke up one day and decided to play for the L.A. Lakers and be an astronaut? You can’t just wake up and decide you feel a certain way and be it. Life doesn’t work that way!”

I literally spent the rest of my meal in complete and utter awe and discomfort. My initial reaction was pure infuriation and anger toward what I thought to be the ignorance and negligence of understanding by these two men.

But behind the rudeness of this man’s comment was a deeper problem.

While discussing the concept of gender and gender identity in my sociology class, I was struck with this sudden realization. Historically, men have been the “norm” as far as gender goes and women only have an understanding of femininity as it relates to masculinity and men.

What these two men were displaying was simply more of a lack of understanding and reliance on the social norm. And this really got me thinking about what being the outside of the norm of society does to a person’s self-awareness.

When you are the standard, you don’t think about who you are. But when you are not the standard, you are constantly thinking about who you are, and more importantly, who you are not.

Being a young white male means not having to really worry as much about defining yourself, because society has already done that for you. It’s what society has deemed expected.

But a person who is considered so far outside of the societal norm, such as a transgendered female, is something that most of society has not been taught to deal with or accept at this time. Hence, the outburst I witnessed in downstairs Powell.

My mindset has never taught me to define people based on their social constructs such as gender, race or religion. I was always taught to view people as human beings. And I take for granted that not all people do this.

Once I had a chance to take a step back and really evaluate the situation, it was difficult for me to be overly angry with these two men.

Granted, I highly disagree with their opinion on the subject and even more with the ways in which they chose to express said opinion. But they were simply being overly vocal about views toward a subject that society still sees as outside of the societal norm.

The socially constructed view of gender is disintegrating slowly. With the recent approval of gay marriages in three states in the last election, we are seeing gender roles that once seemed radical becoming more and more socially acceptable.

In 20 years, a transgendered student may be able to walk down the sidewalks of Eastern with even more confidence and reassurance than today. But this will not happen without the courage of people, like this student, who are willing to take a stand outside the gendered norm of society.