Friday, July 22, 2011

The inconvenience of gender polarity.

Gender to most people in the North World is probably defined as being either male or female depending on biological sex at birth.

If you were born with a penis, you were placed into the gender category "Male". You were given a name that reiterated this measurement and clearly marked your polarity for all the world to know and concur with. You were "encouraged" to wrestle, explore, dissect, investigate, grunt and idealise your mum.

If you were born with a vagina, a whole host of other social polarity views were conferred on to you out of deference, indignation, hatred, and objectification. All of which were just because you ostensibly have or had a vagina.

Your sex your gender doth not make. Not anymore.

Gender in modern sexuality is becoming a blurred concept. Gender is now more than just a biological constraint of genetics; it is now a personal and very individual concept of identity.

You have now - at least in the opulent, self-actualising North - opportunity to completely and dynamically redefine the paradigm that is your sex. You can now place your gender role anywhere along a mutable identity scale regardless of whether you have a penis or a vagina.

For example:

You can be completely and utterly Cisgender. This means that you will concretely and resoundingly affirm your biological sex with your gender role. If you were born a boy, you will identify with all things society has deemed to be "Boys do as boys will". You will co-opt all the social expectations for being male unto your Self. If you are female, you will completely identify your role in society within the social structures of "Being a Woman". This is who you ARE. You cannot be otherwise! You were born with your sex and you identify your gender role with that sex.

If however you are any of the following, your gender identity becomes a little more obscure to the rest of world - if not yourself.

You can be male biologically but *feel* female and ergo *gay* - as in sexually attracted to other males.

You can be male biologically but *feel* very male but still *gay*.

You can be male biologically but *feel* female but not *gay*

You can be male biologically but *feel* either female or male and be attracted sexually to both sexes. You can be this and be attracted to only one other of these sexes.

You can be female biologically but *feel* incredibly male, whilst being *straight* according to social sexual pairing.

And so it goes on.

Gay men who like to dress like *blokes*.

Gay men who dress androgynous, so no one can really tell what sex they are.

Straight females who feel like they just never fit with the stereotype for being female...

The variations are as many as there are those who question the polarity of gender.

The simple answer is: There are no two genders.

There aren't even really two sexes as some people can actually be another type of sex altogether - Intersex. There will come a time when this term will be included in the little boxes on documents entitled "Sex".

The inconvenience for most Cisgendered people in North World societies is that we're decidedly uncomfortable with this inability to package people into either "male" or "female". It's uncomfortable because a Cisgendered person simply cannot comprehend gender outside of their experience: that being, identifying completely with their biological sex. We are so accustomed to feeling that we're male or female according to our vagina or our penis, that the idea of being anything else is confounding, confusing and even terrifying!

The reason I muse on this is because I was watching an episode of Glee Project tonight and a character auditioning on the show for a spot in the Glee cast is decidedly difficult to label instinctively as either a *male* or a *female*.

Turns out that S/He is definitely a male biologically - although I had to go to Google to source that info. How s/he presented on the show was this confusing mixture of both female and male behaviours and a decidedly hermaphroditic physique.

I was astonished at how uncomfortable it made me feel.

Of course I am ashamed of this discomfort. I pride myself on being as non-judgemental and as open-minded as I can be about people. I accept - at least on a theoretical level - that people come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, postures, creeds, races and so on. I love that about humanity - at least on a global scale. When I am confronted by the reality of this diversity it leaves my inner bean feeling more than a little discombobulated! And I need to understand why.

As a Cisgendered female, it was hard to figure out just WHO this "Alex" person actually was! I absolutely had to place this person into a gender labelled box. And there were only two boxes! Male or Female! All this transpired in my mind in a nano-second. All this in order to feel comfortable about who Alex was/is. Hence the Googling!

For me, identifying "Alex" as male made the pieces of his gender identity and his sexual orientation feel more normal, comforting, absolute and understandable. Not being able to identify his biological sex made me anxious, nervous. His gender role was too indeterminate and amorphous to understand. I found I had to focus so much on him/her just trying to figure out which sex s/he was that I ended up missing a fair proportion of the other activity on this tv show.

Accepting that gender isn't a polarity and that some people will choose to move themselves around the gender spectrum is far more difficult for Cisgendered people than I thought it would be. Of course, I do need to learn how to do this. For people who don't identify as male or female but somewhere else on that curve it must be hell. Feeling comfortable with ones identity is critical to a whole host of mental, emotional and psychological successes in life! Being unable to even pinpoint where one would fit on the gender curve must be positively awful! The simple fact of knowing instinctively that your identity is ... 'Thus'.... be it male, female, intersex or on a point anywhere around there is a rather sublime blessing I would have thought.

There is much complexity in the way our civilisation structures notions of sex and gender. A part of this is simply to keep society in some kind of order, preventing too much "difference" creating or causing anarchy, fear and the potential break-up of the Tribe, leaving it vulnerable to attack and dissolution.

Our language, art, politics, environment, our philosophies and religions all tell of the human struggle to understand identity. Polarising identity down to just two social sexual gender roles is just not good enough any more.

Diversity means we have to expand our dreaming and our concepts to new levels. Can we do that?

Can I do that?

It's time I should.

Our very survival may depend on it.

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