Translator: Leonardo Silva
Reviewer: Mile Živković “What sort of genitals do you have?” “Can I see them?” “What sort of underwear do you wear?” “Which bathroom do you use?” “Are you a boy or a girl?” “Wait, what’s your real name?” Imagine being asked those questions
on average at least once a week, for the rest of your life. It seems pretty intrusive,
impolite and just downright rude, right? Well, for me, this is a reality. “Why on earth would anybody
ask you those questions?,” you might wonder. Before I tell you that, I want to go
through a few basic concepts, so that we’re all on the same page. First, I want to talk about sex. And no, not sex as in having sex,
but sex as in biology. You see, our sex is a combination
of our bodily features, such as chromosomes,
hormone production, fat distribution, genitals, hair growth, and so on, and we refer to them
as sex characteristics. When a person is born,
we usually assign them male or female, based on these sex characteristics,
because it’s just that simple, right? Well, it isn’t really that simple. In fact, sex characteristics
are so vastly different between people that there are at least forty
recognized variations of sex. Usually, when a person falls
outside this binary of male and female, we refer to them as intersex. When an intersex child is born, whose genitals do not fit
into the binary of male and female, surgeons will often perform
medical interventions to surgically alter their bodies
in order to normalize them, often without their parents’ consent,
and certainly not their own. I don’t know about you, but to me, this seems like nothing but a clear
violation of someone’s human rights. Secondly, I want to talk about gender. When we think about
men and women, boys and girls, we get a certain idea in our head. We associate women with femininity,
and we associate men with masculinity. We expect men and women
to dress differently, do different things, and have different roles in society. And this is partly what gender is, the socially-constructed idea
of what men and women are, and what we expect them to be, because it’s all so
“just that simple,” right? Well, not really. Gender is also much more complicated
than just two binary categories of men and women. In fact, gender is different between
different societies and different cultures and it changes through time. So, gender and the way
people identify their gender are therefore often much more complex,
and the reality is much more diverse. Now, this is where I come in
and tell you a little bit about myself, and why I get asked
these questions all the time. When I was born, I was assigned boy,
based on my genitals. Despite this, I am most certainly
not a man, nor have I ever been. It’s shocking for some of you, I’m sure. Usually, when a person is born,
we assign them, as I said before, a certain gender based on their genitals, and usually it’s right, usually it fits,
but sometimes it doesn’t, and I am an example of a person
[with whom] that doesn’t happen. And I’m also not just a gay man
that took it “a bit too far,” before someone asks, (Laughter) because to be a gay man,
you need to, first, be a man, which I just established that I’m not, and you need to be attracted to other men. Being gay has to do
with your sexual orientation, while being trans, like I am,
has to do with your gender identity. When I was 14, I started playing
an online game called “World of Warcraft.” In this game, you can create a character and play with people from all over
the world, through the internet. In this game, I introduced myself
as a girl to the people that I met there. I don’t really know
why I did it at the time, or what was going through my head, but it helped me realize something
that I’d been struggling with for years. It was something that I had
never really said out loud, or even admitted to myself at that time: the fact that I was not a boy. As time went by, I got to know
the people in this game a bit better, and eventually, they wanted
to meet up in real life. Now, this is where things
got a bit tricky for me. You see, I was 17 and I had not told
a living soul that I was trans, and I actually had no opportunity
to explore my identity at this point. So, I confided in my best friend and I somehow convinced her
to travel with me and meet these people. Now, this included that I had
to go shopping for new clothes, I needed to learn
some basic make-up tricks, and generally learn “how to be a girl.” Now, if this doesn’t show us effectively
what a performance gender really is, I don’t know what does, but as no one actually knew about this, we’d be very secretive
about everything that we did. We’d spend whole afternoons
in the shopping mall, pretending to be shopping clothes for her, when in fact we were
shopping clothes for me. I’m sure you can imagine the look
on the store clerks’ faces when we were buying clothes
that didn’t really fit my friend. (Laughter) She would often get questions like, “Ma’am, are you really sure
that dress fits you?” When we finally traveled abroad
and met the people, it was a roller coaster
of emotions for me. I remember getting off of the train
at the train station, and we walked up a flight of stairs. At the end of the hallway, I see the group
of people that we were going to meet. In this moment, I completely froze. I turned to my friend
and I said, “I can’t do this.” She took a deep breath,
looked at me and said, “I did not go all of this way
and do all of this so that you can back out of this now. So, you’re going to take a deep breath,
pull yourself together, and we’re going to meet these people.” And then she grabbed my hand
and pulled me towards the group of people. This trip really couldn’t have gone
any better for me, and it was the time of my life, really, because, at this point,
I was finally living. On the way back home after this trip, we met two Icelandic women
on the same train to the airport, and as Icelandic people do
when they meet abroad, we of course said hello
and introduced ourselves, because Icelandic people
are kind of tacky like that. (Laughter) As soon as we get back to the airport, I go and change my clothes
to more neutral clothes, as I still had my old name
and gender marker in my passport. As soon as I step on the plane,
these two women we had met greet me as the flight attendants
of that very flight. I’m sure you can imagine
the look on their faces because they were just as confused
and surprised as I was, but for me, this moment
represented something. It represented the two worlds meeting, the world I had created for myself
over the internet, and the reality back at home. So, for me, this moment was pivotal. When I got back home, I started telling
more people that I was trans, and when I was 18,
I had my big “coming out.” I announced to everyone that I was a girl
and, for the longest time, I totally conformed to all
of the socially-constructed rules of what we expect women to like,
what we expect them to do, how we expect them to dress, and so on. I told everybody how I loved
to dress up in dresses all the time, I told everybody
that I always knew I was a girl, and I told everyone
that I always loved make-up. I also told everyone
that I loved to play with dolls, and my favorite movies were chick flicks
such as “Mean Girls,” which, by the way,
is the best movie that I’ve ever seen, just to be clear. I always had this haunting feeling though,
that I was just fulfilling a stereotype. You see, I wanted to prove
to everyone that I was in fact a girl, and I actually had to prove it
to medical professionals in order to get the healthcare
services that I needed. So, I played the role, and I played it so good
that I even managed to convince myself that this was who I really was. Eventually, though, I realized
that everything I was constantly doing wasn’t necessarily
because I really wanted to. It was mostly because of society and the messages I was getting
from people around me. Eventually, when I realized this, I started living more
as my authentic self and stopped worrying
about the pressure to conform, and what I should like,
and what I should do. I indulged myself, and I allowed myself to do the things
that I really loved again. I allowed myself to be me. And if you think that you have it tough
trying to live up to gender standards, you don’t know the half of it. It’s so multiplied when
it comes down to trans people that we have to accept
having a “mental disorder,” and we have to fill requirements
of medical professionals, who are complete strangers, while they evaluate, judge and decide
whether they are convinced that you actually are the person
that you know you are. So, of course I played the role and told them everything
that they wanted to hear. It was honestly very easy, because it’s very
tragically stereotypical. I honestly sometimes
felt like I was in a factory, and they were making sure
that they made the perfect men and the perfect women, that conformed and did not
rock the boat too much. Today, I identify more
as genderqueer, or nonbinary. This means that I don’t identify
with the categories of men, nor women. The reason for this
is because I don’t feel comfortable being lumped into these categories
because I feel that they are oppressive. I feel like people expect me
to conform to certain things that I have no interest in conforming to. So, for me, it’s personal,
as well as political, but that’s because life is political. As you can see, my expression
is mostly feminine, and I am not entirely uncomfortable
with being classified as a girl, but I don’t feel like I fit
neatly into this box. I also reject the notion
that I am inherently male because of my genetic make-up. You see, sex is also
a social construct, just like gender. The meaning that we put into these
categories isn’t made by nature. It’s made by us humans,
through social interaction. I alone had the power to define myself
and my body; no one else. Sometimes you’ll get people
who will tell you that, “You aren’t this,”
or, “You are this,” or, “You’re not that,”
and, “You’re not this.” This is a message that I want
everybody to take in, that nobody has the power
to define anyone, but the people themselves, and that’s one of the most
important things. Imagine being constantly questioned
about everything that you do, people constantly harassing you
and berating you about who you are. Trans people don’t only face this, but we also face a serious threat
to our mental and physical safety. We are prone to developing anxiety,
depression and other mental problems, as well as an overwhelming
majority of trans people trying to, or committing suicide. Access to healthcare is often severely
limited for trans people around the world, and even nonexistent. Trans people are, therefore,
often at the lowest class of society, with no chance or opportunity to live out
their true and authentic lives. And this is just one way that the current
ideas about sex and gender affect people in seriously harmful ways. And this is something that I want
all of you to take away with you today: the way that we think
about sex and gender today is harmful, oppressive, and unrealistic, and it has to change. It’s not just harmful
for trans people like me, or to intersex people,
or people who somehow don’t conform. It’s harmful to all of us as a society, because it affects all of us
in different ways. And when things are starting to harm
people for simply being themselves, we need to stop and think:
“How do we change it?,” because we actually can change it,
but it’s going to take a bit more than just showing up at a Pride Parade
once a year, waving a flag. You need to speak up about injustice, and you need to confront
prejudice actively. You need to help us deconstruct the idea
that sex and gender are binary categories and that they are
unconditionally tied together, because it’s this that’s causing harm. Before I leave,
I want to use this opportunity to pay my respects to all of the trans
people who have fought before me, all of the trans people who do not
have the same status and privilege as me in society. I want to use this opportunity
to pay my respects to all of the trans people
who have lost their lives due to prejudice,
discrimination and violence that these binary categories produce. As we say in the trans community,
“May you all rest in power.” (Applause)


42 Comments

pommedeterrorist · June 9, 2016 at 12:20 am

Yas Ugla!

MrBizzarewizard · June 9, 2016 at 8:33 pm

Ugla, thank you so much for the speech. It made made clap at the end watching it alone at home. Very empowering <3. U r amazing 🙂

Erica Pike · June 10, 2016 at 2:22 am

Æðislegt, Ugla!

Fox and Owl · June 12, 2016 at 10:00 am

Ugla is incredible 🙂 Such an important conversation

cx45830 · August 22, 2016 at 6:15 pm

So well explained.

Sheri For · September 3, 2016 at 10:37 pm

sorry steven speilburg why dont you make a movie about how our society is going down the shitter because people cant except the way God made us, we have to push on others everywhere we turn

Andres Diaz · November 6, 2016 at 7:59 pm

Thank you for your speech

Josh Salads The Destroyer of Worlds · January 19, 2017 at 3:10 am

I'm done with tedx talks

kaiju54 · February 14, 2017 at 3:31 am

uglas voice is weirdly calming. great talk!!

Bethezzda Baenre · April 21, 2017 at 4:53 am

I lived as a woman for years on line in mmo's before I transitioned. It helped me to come out and live authentically too !

Naomir McKay · April 30, 2017 at 5:22 pm

Thank you so much Ugla for this speech. I think it's a topic that a lot of people are afraid to speak about so thank you so much.

Sara Anne Fay · May 2, 2017 at 12:18 am

Well done…………………

Timmie Flock · May 27, 2017 at 6:59 am

Powerful talk, and very eloquent. Thank you.

Hannah mich · May 31, 2017 at 2:30 am

I am intersex and was born with both ovarian and testicular tissue. So sad that people are so preoccupied with the exact nature of our body.

Hannah mich · June 17, 2017 at 1:21 pm

I too am intersex even though my body appears more or less male it is far more complex than that. Inside of me are both male and female parts. The word gender dysphoria is often used to to describe people who are transgender so people would say that I am transgender because of dysphoria but I say this word has no meaning to me because I was born with both female and male parts. Dysphoria is a word that refers to a persons phycological comprehension that our gender is the opposite of what the appearance of our bodies would suggest.
I applaud this lecture. It raises our world to a whole new level.

amy w · July 10, 2017 at 4:17 am

I really do believe it's important for people to express their opinions and feelings. I do also believe there are many plans laid to confuse genders and construct a new world of people, completely void of who they were created to be. Jesus said he is the way, truth and life. When you know him, He shapes your identity. The Holy Spirit lives within you and this world cannot influence you. This world has nothing for the soul.

Christopher Norris · August 10, 2017 at 6:06 pm

There are two genders. Denying biology will not change that. Search for Jordan Peterson for a rational view on this topic.

Guy Baldridge · August 23, 2017 at 10:33 pm

That nose ring throws me off WEARD!😼

Pel Qel · September 22, 2017 at 10:13 am

One of the best presentations I've ever seen on this subject! I agree totally.

Rolan Edward Hughes · November 13, 2017 at 11:29 am

That being said, I agree with this Ted Talk.

Liam Sturgill · November 27, 2017 at 12:56 pm

THERE ARE ONLY TWO GENDERS

RandomPokecenter · December 3, 2017 at 8:51 am

Look at me, im a genderless fish because i feel like it…sure

The Way In · February 8, 2018 at 11:36 pm

An absolutely fantastic talk. Go, Owl!

alltimelojain · February 10, 2018 at 11:03 pm

you do have a disorder dude – its called gender dysphoria

Madi Bertolino · February 18, 2018 at 12:50 am

Owl is so amazing! They present feminine, but they are not female! It's gorgeous!

Lexie · February 18, 2018 at 4:24 pm

omg …..im in tears …..she is soooooo right …..so many of us have suffered and lots of us have died ……thank god we ve come a long way but still have a long ways to go …..i told a friend it might be 5O to 1OO years before conversations like this will not be needed any longer. I love you Ugla …thanks for ur efforts

Laura Clemons · March 8, 2018 at 1:28 am

Men must earn it nothing comes for free!!!

J. García · March 8, 2018 at 5:11 pm

If you don't want questions do not publish that you are a dude dressed as a women. Otherwise, who would know what you are.

Miss W · March 30, 2018 at 7:31 pm

Thank you for this <3 well said.

Marti · April 2, 2018 at 9:51 am

She spoke my mind and she did it in such an amazing, intelligent way. Thank you Ugla for being such a strong and well spoken person. This is not only for trans people, this is also for "seemingly" binary people who are being put into these extreme binary boxes.

Zoe Kay · April 8, 2018 at 9:03 am

I love her!

Starring Nick · April 17, 2018 at 1:08 am

Preech 💙💪🏼🏳️‍🌈

Erica Sentire · April 25, 2018 at 6:49 am

This is world wide
Has been for long long time

Tammy Senrick · April 29, 2018 at 10:39 pm

You have the power to define your body, if you can unwind all of your DNA strands, remove that Y chromosome and substitute an X. Otherwise, you are defined all day, every day, as a male, and no amount of resurfacing will change that. It is not a social construct that you were not born with a uterus. You may choose to reject biology and say otherwise, but that does not make it so. You don't have the right to tell real men and real women that they have to accept what you say about gender, or they are bigots. Some of us would just like natural human reproduction, and humanity, to remain intact.

Lexie · April 30, 2018 at 1:00 am

i didnt notice this before and not to be mean but anyone notice her forehead, is it shaped in a square like fashion ….like really flat on both sides just above her eyes anyone notice kind of bizarre looking …..sorry just making an observation

Micheal Heath · May 9, 2018 at 3:19 am

Thank you Ugla <3 An amazing, engaging & informative talk, xo

Wilker Januário · June 22, 2018 at 1:45 pm

Amazing video ❤️

Miuta Miuta · February 17, 2019 at 4:25 pm

He is mentally ill. And you put him on a stage?!

Parisa Sam · September 15, 2019 at 7:05 pm

this is incredible. falling in love with UGLA!!!!

Jay Jacobs · September 23, 2019 at 10:42 pm

Owl you are very much the champion LGBTQI plus community!!!

Philosophy Today · October 23, 2019 at 3:04 pm

This is so satanic. Please , repent before is too late

Miki Dewberry · November 20, 2019 at 8:36 pm

there are only 2 genders, you cannot change it, keep progressive propaganda away from our children

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