Why do we constantly confuse sex with gender?

CW: brief mention of suicide ideation. 

I was a little disappointed with former Labor Aboriginal Adviser, Warren Mundine on “The Bolt Report” last night, when he said, I thought quite flippantly, that in his day there was only two genders; male and female. I thought he may have been a bit more understanding of people who have been historically and, often, still continue to be marginalised. It did, however, make me realise something – that many people –  either accidentally or deliberately –  confuse sex with gender.

There are two SEXES, (not including intersex). There is male and female, XX and XY (again, not including intersex and other chromosomal conditions). That does not mean that everyone strictly identifies with either. I believe as cis – gender people, like myself, don’t have a right to tell non – cis gender people how they should identify or that gender identity is ‘simple”. It isn’t the case for everyone. Has anyone thought that many non – cis – gender people have tried telling themselves to be what sex they were born as, only to fall into depression and suicide ideation? Former Australian Defence Force Colonel, 2012 Order of Australia recipient and transwoman, Catherine Mcgregor has been very frank about her own personal struggles with her gender identity to the point where, before her transition, she was planning to take her own life. For some, transitioning and identifying as the opposite sex isn’t the answer either.

 

A genderqueer activist on the LGBTQ+ Christian website, Believe Out Loud, used the analogy of computer coding and explained that the digits are coded either 0 or 1 for a software to carry out certain tasks (downloading, uploading a photo on Instagram, etc). The writer went on to say that gender and sexuality in humans isn’t always so straight forward. About the whole, “in my day there were only two genders”? In 2013, creator and star of the hit musical,”The Rocky Horror Picture Show’, Richard O’Brien, told the BBC that he identifies as “70% man”.  and admitted to taking female hormone, although not surgery. The article goes on to explain briefly some findings that has come out of recent research about gender identity, what’s believed to determine it and how in some people, it, like sexuality, can be fluid.

 

Why is this important? Because transgender – identified people are still a heavily marginalised group all over the world. Transgender suicide rate in the West,is believed to be at 41% according to American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. The overall American rate is 6.4%. I truly believe that one of the main ways to combat this is if we get real about what transgender people experience and stop treating them as a joke. Because the marginalisation of transgender people, like any other group, it not a laughing matter.

”Queer By Choice’? I Think It Depends What’s Meant By ‘Queer’

Siggy of “Asexual Agenda” made a post about the debate surrounding the hostile reaction toward the link between asexuality and celibacy and how it effects asexuals negatively. Siggy also talked about another term, that, to be honest, many LGBT+ people, including myself, are often hostile about… the idea of “queer by choice”.

A number of LGBTQ+ people vehemently argue that they don’t choose their sexuality or gender identity. Suggestions of sexuality being a choice is often met with anger. The backlash against “Sex and the City” star Cynthia Nixon back in 2012, is a a case in point. However, after reading Siggy’s post, I did a quick Google, and found something fairly interesting. . Blogger known as “Nerdanel”, argued that there was ALWAYS a choice when talking about identifying as queer. However, his approach to his argument wasn’t what I expected:

(2) There is ALWAYS a choice. Always. If you are queer in a sense, and you acknowledge this, even if it’s only to yourself – then you have made a choice to do this. If you have a queer partner, if you go out to queer events, if you are active in your community, then you have chosen to do these things.

Interesting, don’t you think? “Nerdanel” explained the “lifestyle” aspects if you will, of a queer identity; the partner, advocacy work, associations, etc. This blogger goes beyond attraction. In this instance, yes, this person has a point. Of course, you choose whether you want to pursue a relationship with someone or not. You choose who you associate with. You choose where you stand when it comes to the politics of the LGBTQ movement. Here being “queer” goes far beyond biology – which often fuels the “born this way” argument both in the LGBTQ+ community and major medical bodies.

There is also another question that have been sparked in my mind as I was researching this post… what exactly does it mean to be queer? How far can the definition expand? For exqample there are people who:

 

Going back to the “born this way” versus “queer by choice” argument, there are some people who identify as queer (including the one I cited and linked to above that think the “born this way” argument – contrary to popular belief, actually harms the LGBTQ+ community, rather than helps it. One of the arguments is that it actually reinforces the idea that LGBTQ+ people are essentially victimised by their orientation. It’s like “well, we’ll be nice to you because we know you can’t help it”. I can see where the problem is here. Especially in the wake of same – sex marriage being legalised in different places around the world, there are many LGBTQ+ people who don’t want to be treated differently and want to go about their day. In fact, that’s, from what I can gather, one of the strongest arguments for same – sex marriage being legalised. Ironically, some gays argue against same – sex marriage because they don’t want to be seen as “common” or “normal”. They don’t want to be put in the same constraints that many straight people adhere to when they are married.

My take? I’ll always argue that my orientation was something that I didn’t choose, frankly. Seriously, I spent years hitting my head against a brick wall, metaphorically speaking, to try and not be asexual. Like Australian comedian Magda Szubanski, in the past, yes, I probably would take a pill to make myself straight, I admit it. However, aside from all that, yes, choices can be made. I choose to vocal about asexuality and the LGBTQ+ more generally. I choose to be informative, without getting overly personal. Most importantly, I choose to take steps so I can accept myself, including my asexuality, not in spite of it.

 

What are your thoughts about “Queer By Choice”?

Homophobia in Australia and Not Being Straight

Last night, I cried twice. First time, I was watching the documentary “Frock and a Hard Place”. Second time was in the Q and A special hosted by Tom Ballard. Why you may ask? First, because I was so upset and shocked of the cruelty that LGBT people (particularly gay men), experienced in Australia in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Sure, things may have improved, at least legally, but, frankly, I think it’s still a blood stain on Australia, frankly.

Second time was when the episode of Q and A was on, and Lifeline was mentioned. We may have come a long way, but, truth is, identifying as anything other than cis – gender and straight can be a mind/ soul destroying experience for too many people. Frankly, I do put asexuals in this category (which was mentioned last night on Q and A – wow!). People don’t realise the damage, sometimes the irreparable damage that has been done!

 

When it comes to the issue of same – sex marriage (which some people say is inevitable now in Australia), people give the same old line “why, it only affects a small percentage of the population”. Well, as I’ve posted before, adding LGB plus asexuals who are romantically attracted to others of the same – sex, I guessed it’s probably between 2 – 3%. However, that’s not the issue… or at least it shouldn’t be. These people are still over – represented in the suicide and bullying statistics as pointed out again last night. Why do you think that Ballard quoted the Lifeline number? (For those who don’t know, or aren’t from Australia, Lifeline is a phon counselling service). It’s because for many LGBTQ+ people, realising who they are, and coming out can have major psychological implications! For too many, it’s a seriously isolating experience. It means the risk of losing friends, family and other people that we’re suppose to be able to rely on. And, I”m sorry to say this, but for those of faith, it means the risk of emotional and spritual abuse.

This is why it’s still a big deal! Homophobia and discrimination against other sexual and gender minorities (GSM), still exist, despite our advances. These issues go WAY beyond the same – sex marriage debate that has plagued Australia for the last couple of months. This is about getting to a point where it’s no longer risky to be yourself and being able to be OK with who you are!

Identity – Challenging Bromberg On His Argument

TW: suicide, but only a brief mention.

 

Is identity predestined or chosen? I’d say bit of both, but more of the former. Let me explain what I”m talking about.

I read this article on Andrew Bolt’s blog I’m just reporting what some other guy argues. It would probably be unlawful for me to agree. Predominately, it’s talking about cultural heritage, however, there are mentions of sexual orientation and gender identity that I feel compelled to comment on.

In terms of racial identity, I can see where Bolt is coming from. His parents migrated from Holland just before he was born in the last 1950’s. In his adult life, he made the deliberate choice to identify as “Australian”, leaving his Dutch heritage behind. However, I wonder if it’d be the same, for example, if the suburb in Adelaide (where he grew up), had a bigger Dutch population? What if he had a non – Caucasian heritage, like Chinese, Arabic or Vietnamese? Would his decision be the same? I also know of a family who’s kids I grew up with who’s parents spoke Cantonese at home. Isn’t it possible that could’ve had some influence on how they identify?

I know someone who’s mother came from Germany after the war. The mother slammed German relatives who spoke their native tongue in fron of the children because of the pain it caused. Maybe if this person was more exposed to the German culture or language, would things have turned out differently in the way she identified?

First thing; cultural heritage. In this article, the associate professor Mike Keane, among other things, quoted from Justice Mordecai Bromberg:

In my view, identity like any other form of consent, is completely contemporary phenomenon. At each and every juncture you make an autonomous choice about how you identify…

(Couple of paragraphs down):

Justice Bromberg’s standard would then create some bizarre and wholly unacceptable ethical precedents. Imagine what this principle, if logically extended to other forms of identity and ethics, would mean. Your upbringing would forever cast you into a certain  identity. You were born a Catholic? Well, then society will hold you to it all through your adult life. And if you want to identify as transgender? No, sorry you’re not allowed.

OK, on this little bit. I think I can safely say that the majority of transgender don’t “want to identify as transgender”. It’s how they authentically feel themselves. From what I’ve heard/ read about gender it’s pretty instinctual. Actually, on Sunrise one day (last year?), columnist Shelley Horton paraphrased respected Melbourne – based childhood and adolescence psychologist Dr. Michael Carr – Gregg when she said that if a transgender child isn’t able to express their gender identity, their risk of suicide skyrockets. (NOTE: not all children who go through this in early childhood end up as transgender adults).

By the way, this decade, century, whatever, is not the first time that there have been people who have identified as transgender. There have been historical accounts from the early 1900’s of certain biological women who have dressed up as men and have even married other women in that disguise. In such cases, historians have genuinely questioned whether the women were in actual fact transgender.

Secondly:

At a time when we are talking on the intolerance of Islamic State, Justice Bromberg’s decision would have us forever cast people to racial, religious and sexual identity from birth without the possibility of opt out.

How does exactly someone “opt out” of being straight? Or gay? Or asexual? I have said in the past that, yes sexual identity/ orientation isn’t black – and – white for some people. I have also argued that for others, sexual orientation is never likely to be fluid. And I still stand by that. I think it’s fair to say after the collapse of the “ex – gay” industry both here and the US, for a lot of people, gay, straight, asexual, etc, that there are people who can’t just “opt out” of their sexual identity (some of them can’t anyway). It’s how they’re wired. According to the American Psychological Association (although there are differing views, I might add), most people’s sexual orientation is identified and pretty much determined by the age of fifteen. Of course, there are exceptions.

It’s my view that identity is complex. I don’t think it’s simple to say, “it’s choice” or even that it’s all natural. It’s a mixture of both and probably more. Should we discriminate on any of these grounds? Good heavens no! But, like I said before, completely ignoring people’s differences isn’t the answer either, whether they “choose” these differences or not.