We live in a very organized society. Not organized in the sense that we like to keep our kitchen cabinets neat, or make our beds in the morning. But rather, organized in the sense that we like to categorize, and label. But not so much with objects. More so with each other. People are either:

Fat or skinny.

Short or tall.

Black or white.

Nice or mean.

Smart or dumb.

Male or female.

Most of these I feel are unnecessary. Our pants size shouldn’t matter. Our skin color shouldn’t matter.

But something that I feel that matters is our gender. It is part of our identity. It is part of who we are.

For me, this is a label I am proud of. I’m proud to be a woman. A female. A daughter. A sister. I’m proud of my potential to create new life, to bare a child. I’ve always been taught to embrace that label. That classification. Being a woman is not something to be ashamed of.

But being either male or female is no longer the norm. What has become the norm is to be different. Facebook now offers 58 different gender options.

I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. My parents are very liberal. In fact, they call themselves ‘oxy-mormons’, because there aren’t very many left-wing Latter-day Saints. Because of this, I never really thought anything about gender growing up. I knew that I was a girl. I liked girly things. I definitely liked boys. Some of my best friends’ parents were gay. The concept of having two moms wasn’t really weird to me. I knew they loved their children, and I knew they loved me and my parents, so the fact that they were gay was never really discussed. I can’t remember whether or not I knew they were married. In my young mind, that didn’t matter. My parents had taught me to love everyone, regardless of their gender, race, religion, or life decisions.

It wasn’t until Prop 8 was under way that I really began to question what I knew. Or what mattered to me. I remember my dad sitting me down and explaining why certain people that I loved so much weren’t talking to us anymore. Why Sally’s parents wouldn’t let her come over and play anymore, or why my friends at school would ask me why I hated gay people.

This was a turning point for me. In my young, innocent mind, I felt that  I needed to take a stand. I couldn’t be a fence sitter on something like this anymore. How did I really feel about this?

To be completely honest, I still really struggle with this subject. I feel strongly about what I was taught in church, as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I won’t go deep into doctrine, but I do know and have a strong testimony in the importance of families. (A father, mother and children.) Having grown up in a home with parents who love me, and a good relationship with my sisters, I know that the family is ordained of God. And I also know that marriage should be between a man and a woman.

That being said, I also feel that love is love. Whether its between a man and a woman, two women, or two men. People should be able to be with the one that they choose. And we cannot control who people choose.

So it hurts, when people call me a homophobe, or tell me that ‘I just don’t care.’ Often those who promote and encourage understanding and human rights are the most oppressive and close minded. They do not know my story. And I don’t know theirs.

What frustrates me is that there are so many labels. People feel the need to further classify themselves beyond just male or female, or gay and straight. I feel that the over-specifying simply creates more problems. Ultimately what we are missing is a lack of love and understanding.

We need to accept that we don’t know or understand each other as well as we think that we do. But we also need to give our 100% in trying.

If we feel loved or accepted, we shouldn’t feel the need to over-categorize ourselves.

I am LeeAnn Shaffer. I am a daughter. I am a sister. I am a friend. I love to write and I love chocolate. I am obsessed with Ke$ha, and hedgehogs are my favorite animal. Sometimes I drive all the way to Trader Joe’s just to try the snack that they have out, and I can’t ever walk in a straight line. 

Who are you?




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