Commentary

Defined by a Bubble

I expected to be frustrated at some point during the Advanced Placement Calculus test last Wednesday, but I never imagined that such a feeling would first surface while I completed the basic personal information. I can be summed up rather easily in three small bubbles: female, white, 12th grade. I’ve personally never had any trouble fitting my identity into the very small window of traditional options provided on standardized tests, but this time the concept frustrated me a great deal when the sheet asked me to indicate the level of education of both my “Father/Male Guardian” and my “Mother/Female Guardian.” What about the many students who don’t have parents that fit into those categories? I can only imagine how alienated my friends with two moms or dads must have felt due to such assumptions of heteronormativity. The heteronormative expectations do not stop there, either. Why must I pick “male” or “female” when indicating my own sex? Some people are born as a combination of the two, and a significant number of people identify as something other than the gender they were assigned at birth. By not providing options aside from “male” and “female,” testing organizations send the message that other identities are not legitimate, further distancing and hurting those who distinguish themselves from our cultural “norm.” Though I’ve never struggled with identifying myself on a standardized test, I have struggled on Phillipian surveys sent out to the student body. In two recent surveys, I had to answer, “What is your sexual orientation?” with one of four options: gay, straight, bisexual or unsure. I hesitantly clicked “bisexual,” but even while doing so, I knew that was a lie. I actually identify as pansexual, which is the attraction to people of all gender identities and biological sexes. It is similar to bisexual, but includes genders that don’t fall under the traditional gender binary, such as trans or genderqueer individuals. I know that the omission of pansexual as one of the sexual orientation options was in no way meant to offend me. And it didn’t; but it did make me feel like an outsider. I could not quite fit into any of the identities given, so I had to alter my own in order to answer the question. Rather than forcing others to mold their identities to fit heteronormative standards, I think that we, as a society, need to provide more inclusive “bubbles.” Offering more options, and/or including a blank space so individuals can self-identify, is the first step towards embracing those who are so often excluded. And it would help eliminate (at least some of) my annoyance while taking standardized tests. Devon Burger is a four-year Senior from Andover, Mass.