Transgenderism, Sexuality, and the Myth of Gender

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As someone who was raised in the long Southern stretch that is the Bible-Belt, it’s safe to say that while I was growing up, the concept of male and female was as concrete as the foundation resting underneath my childhood home. At some point in my teens, I began to question anything and everything, as young minds tend to do. However, unlike many people, I never grew out of it; throughout my twenties, I’ve continued to find the entire idea of concrete categories aggravating and problematic. While there are many of these categories which we’ve come to unquestioningly address as “truth,” today I want to address the gender myth.

Now, before you look down at your crotch and say, “What’s between my legs definitely is not a myth.,” I want you to stop and pay attention: Does biological sex exist? Of course, no one would try to say that you aren’t a male or that you aren’t a female. Your sex is not in question. What is in question is the concept of gender (sex and gender are by no means the same thing) and whether or not such a concept is even necessary.

So, just what is transgenderism? Well, that all depends on who you ask, as the terms transgender and transsexual are semantically debated terms. For our purposes we’ll use them interchangeably. Transgenderism is the concept behind when an individual identifies with a gender that doesn’t fall into the cultural norms of their assigned sex. We’ve all heard of hermaphrodites (though the word has fallen out of favor): A person (or any organism) being born with both sexes. Often times at birth, the parents will make a decision for their child to undergo surgery which gives the intersex child a single biological sex. There have been cases where a hermaphroditic child has been surgically altered to appear one sex, only to grow up and self-identify with the opposite sex. Although rare, these cases make it clear that gender is fluid rather than set in stone, and that nature itself doesn’t abide by our man-made concepts. However, even when a person is born a male or female with no biological confusion, this doesn’t mean that the person identifies with their assigned sex automatically. This conflict of identity can wreak havoc in a person’s life if they are forced into the ill-fitting box society has built over the past few hundred years.

Percentage of LGBT Population, by state (Source: Gallup, 2013)
Percentage of LGBT Population, by state (Source: Gallup, 2013)

While sexuality unavoidably plays a role in this concept, the idea itself isn’t about sexuality. If a person is born—let’s call her Terry—a heterosexual female yet associates her identity with that of a male, does that make her homosexual? It’s a perplexing question to be sure. Many would say that since she is biologically female and is attracted to males then, no, clearly she isn’t homosexual. However, what if Terry undergoes sexual reassignment surgery and becomes a man? She’s still attracted to men, not women, but now resembles the gender with which she originally identified. My response: who cares? The Western world in particular has cemented the ideas of sex, gender, and sexuality into a single concrete concept that allows for little to no interpretation. Luckily, recent years have seen cracks begin to form in the solid exterior encasing gender.

If males and females may be born biologically one way and yet identify with the opposite sex, what does this imply for sexuality? Does heterosexuality, homosexuality, and bisexuality even exist? Well, the obvious answer is, yes, it exists, but only because there are those who believe it does. Nature, however, would seem to say otherwise as every day transgendered people are being born. Think about this: The sheer amount of content related to sexual fetishes searchable on the internet point to the massive variety of preferences humankind can envision. Of particular relevance to this article are the volumes upon volumes of “she-male” pornography. Don’t believe me? Just do a quick search for “she-male,” “tranny,” or “transsexual” porn and watch as the page numbers continue to climb. What could be more telling about the nature of human sexuality than the popularity of a sexually ambiguous female/male hybrid? Undoubtedly, there will be those who disagree with me and simply point to this fetish as a homosexual category, because biologically a She-Male is a man. Again, biological sex has nothing to do with gender and sexuality.

Furthermore, the Japanese have a word: futanari, which is the Japanese equivalent of hermaphrodite (it can also refer to androgyny). However, culturally the word is used to describe a popular genre of hentai—a Japanese word that has internationally taken on the category of pornographic anime. This genre is dedicated to the depiction of dual-gendered, usually feminine formed characters. It doesn’t matter if these words are strangers to your eyes. What is important is the popularity of these genres because they tell a story about the socially complex nature of sexuality and gender. A complexity that cannot be contained within the stifling categories that have been erected (no pun intended) within the minds of many.

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Sexuality and gender are fluid concepts that have always leaked through the concrete ideas humankind has clung to for the last few centuries. The concept of a transgendered person existed well before the rise of Judeo-Christianity, just as homosexuality has existed for thousands of years. In ancient Greece, the idea of sexual orientation didn’t exist as we view it today. Our concepts of masculinity and femininity are more aligned with the ancient Greeks way of thinking, but these concepts had nothing to do with biological sex. In fact, the ancient Greeks had a term: Pederasty. This was a same-sex relationship between an older male and a younger male. On the other hand, the historical evidence of lesbian couples is less notable; however, the poems of Sappho make it clear that female-female romance was definitely not a foreign concept.

Meanwhile, governments across the globe are debating whether or not homosexuals should be allowed to marry. The sheer absurdity of the topic as something that is debatable should be hard to grasp, but unfortunately it is all too easy to understand. The world is full of narrow-minded people who refuse to consider the fact that their beliefs are harmful, but they have absolutely no problem forcing their beliefs on those who disagree.

We’ve all heard the phrase, “everyone is a little gay,” in regards to the fluid nature of sexuality. I couldn’t disagree more with that generalization. Everyone is not a little of anything. We all have our tastes and attractions. You don’t have to be attracted to the same sex simply because I say sexuality is fluid. You don’t have to be attracted to the opposite sex simply because society says that’s normal. You don’t have to be attracted to any set of sexual concepts. The only thing you need to be attracted to is whatever you find appealing. It doesn’t matter if you’re male, female, or transgendered: There is no rule that you should feel compelled to follow which dictates your identity or attractions.

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