Gender Fluidity and what it means.
I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts lately; it’s my new thing. I’m literally flooding my system with as much knowledge around sexuality, intimacy and relating as I can in order to turbo charge my work, and of course to make myself as aware as possible about life in order to be the best human being I can possibly be. I’ll list a few of my favourites at the end of this post, but for now, I want to talk about gender and why we get so hung up on it. Why can women wear suits but put a man in a dress and he’ll likely come in for all kinds of abuse. Why can men go topless on a hot day but when a women does the same it’s “indecent” – just why?
I was watching an episode of Naked Attraction recently, it’s a dating programme where all participants are, well…naked! so the person choosing their date is doing so on pure, raw, naked attraction. I rarely watch television, but I’d turned on one evening to relax after a particularly challenging day, and there was this funky blue haired woman, describing herself as ‘pansexual’ and choosing from 6 potential partners based on her pre-outlined preferences. These people are at first concealed and then little by little revealed as the contestant doing the picking evaluates how they feel in response to what they see. The blue haired woman had 2 men, 2 women, 1 woman transitioning to be a man and 1 man transitioning to be a woman in her ‘boxes’. The two people in transition were at different stages of hormone treatment and their bodies reflected this part way stage.
Here is the woman in question with the male to female transition contestant who was one of the final two from whom she chose her date. This woman’s attitude was that love and attraction go way beyond gender norms or what society dictates that a body should look like or a male or female should behave like or present themselves as. I got excited by TV for the first time in a long time! A mainstream channel offering alternative ways of viewing gender and sexuality, and in a good, strong way? Yes!
It’s interesting to me as so many of us have experienced trauma around our sexual expression or the physical representations of our gender (or chosen gender). Children born with genitalia that don’t fit one gender or the other (in the past known as hermaphrodites, now known as intersex), were operated on without consent to make them one clear gender or the other, often with dire consequences for that person in the shaping of their identity and the conflicting experiences, emotions, thoughts and feelings that decision brought in its wake.
So here for your help are some commonly used terms that you may or may not be aware of, and what they mean, shared because the more we own ourselves and inform ourselves, hopefully the less likely others are to suffer as a result of our ignorance:
CIS gender – a person who lives in alignment with the gender they were assigned at birth. This term came about as a result of non-binary (ie., male or female being the only options) gender people being tired of being ‘othered’, in other words, let’s create a space where there is no ‘other’ or outsider.
Intersex – a person born with reproductive organs that don’t easily fit into standard expectations of one sex or the other, and who may be influenced by those hormones and chromosomes (and let’s not forget choices) to have many different aspects of their sexuality present in life.
Trans – trans is an umbrella term used to describe people with a gender identity and /or gender expression different to their sex assigned at birth. It may be used to encompass many identities that are outside of a cisgender identity. Transgender may not be the same as transexual. Trans people can be lesbian, gay, bi, straight, pansexual, etc.
Transexual – when a person chooses to use a combination of things like hormone replacement and/or surgery or other to fully transition into becoming the sex not assigned to them at birth.
LGBT – an umbrella term for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender which encompasses the many and varied expressions of our sexual communication and experience.
Pansexual – not limited in sexual choice with regard to biological sex, gender, or gender identity. Pansexual people are usually open to any partner of any sexual determination.
Many trans people prefer the pronoun ‘they’ to describe them rather than the binary use of he or she. Our sexuality is so often compartmentalised into binary determinations that it becomes really hard for people who do not sit within that experience. For me, binary expression is dangerous and can lead to serious abuse towards what is perceived as ‘different’ or ‘other’, remember the awful case of the trans person assaulted in a McDonalds washroom for using the toilets designated as women’s? A real and horribly violent reaction to prejudice, bigotry and judgement surfacing as a result of ignorance and fear.
What can you do? You can ask a person by which pronoun do they choose to be referred to. Do NOT ask them highly personal and sensitive questions like “so what parts have you got now?” or “so how far are are you” – these kind of questions are insensitive, offensive and inappropriate in the extreme. We are all entitled to sexual privacy! Never ‘out’ a person by thinking it’s ok to gossip about their process, or share images of them as they were or are, if you have no idea how ‘out’ they are or wish to be. Take your head out of your own a$$ and think outside that box! Gender is not something fixed and static….most of us have a range of feelings and experiences here, and sadly much of that has become co-opted and overtly sexualised by the mainstream. You only have to think about how many men want to see their female partners ‘get off’ with another woman, just for thrills to know that, and it’s not that there’s an inherent problem with that of course, but there most definitely is a problem if the person lusting after that experience is being a judgemental bigot when it comes to any other person’s sexual choices not being the same as theirs.
Educate yourself: There are many resources online where you can learn more. There’s no harm in not knowing as long as you are willing to be open to learning more. Everyone starts somewhere. Explore your own prejudices and perhaps your own sexuality more.
Here’s a couple of podcasts I recommend:
Challenge gender stereotyping, call b/s when you hear it, and reject violence of thought, word and action.
Talk more! Opening dialogue creates communities of understanding.
Thanks for joining me today, leave me your comments and chat and “let’s talk” – SM.