on gender and sexuality

It often seems strange how conservative and antiquated the older generations—grandparents and whatnot—are.

But think about it: the average 80 year old granny was born in the late 1920s. The Roaring Twenties, the Jazz Age. She’s lived through World War II. When she was a toddler, there was no TV, no cell phone, no internet, not even a Mars bar—the first ones were made in 1932! Only six decades separate me from that granny, and I already feel like she is from an entirely different era.

It’s easy to forget how quickly the world changes. And thus, it is entirely understandable that the slowly increasing acceptance of homosexuality, as well as gender identity disorders, etc, come as a shock to these poor old grannies.

Living in a large, multicultural city, the presence of an LGBT community seems entirely normal for me, and I respect their sexuality just as I would like them to respect mine. So I often forget it is not only the grannies who have difficulty understanding or accepting the new state of affairs. Take a step outside any large city, into the suburbs and small towns, and you will meet people who are largely ignorant about it all. Of course, there are ignoramuses in the cities, too, but in a bigger crowd they are easier to ignore or avoid.

The question is, how to reduce such ignorance? Is it simply due to lack of exposure, lack of education? Or could it be due to religion? After all, supposedly in Ancient Greek times homosexuality was accepted.

To be honest, however, as open-minded as I try to be, there are still many things that a big city girl like me does not understand. And if I don’t, there’s not much hope for the townies!

I suppose one of the main problems is that the LGBT community is still very young. By the time I am that 80 year old granny, I would hope that most people would be accepting of a person’s sexuality/gender.

I wonder, however, what I will tell my grandkids (if any!) about the olden days, back in the ’00s, before everything became (hopefully) accepted:

“When I was young, being straight was the ‘normal’ thing.”
“When I was young, you were either a boy or a girl.”
“When I was young, we had this chocolate called Mars bars.”

Back to the present…. The LGBT community complain that they are not integrated with the rest of society, yet in a way I feel they themselves are causing that separation. After all, they have created a community by defining themselves based on their sexuality or gender. But really, these two things contribute to your personal identity as much or as little as you want them to, just like your ethnicity, culture, and so on.

What I find most confusing is the role transexuals play in the whole scheme of things. The LGB part of LGBT are looking at their sexuality, their natural preferences for what they find attractive. Transexuals, on the other hand, are unhappy with themselves, feel that their body is not the natural or right one. Their sexuality is not necessarily the issue (although it can be), it is their own body.

Yet you cannot separate gender and sexuality so easily. After all, is a male to female T who likes men gay or straight? Do you use the birth gender or the mental gender to determine sexual orientation? In this case, where does the distinction between gender and sexuality lie?

I cannot imagine how difficult it would be to come to terms with such questions about oneself. I’m sure that the glimpses I gleaned from Transamerica are only a tiny insight into a complicated world. I cannot even fathom what it would be like to dislike one’s own body so much.

At the same time, however, I wonder how much gender really matters. Is gender really that important? If we created a third gender category similar to those in some Native American tribes (I think), would it be easier for Ts to accept their bodies?

In the gay scene, male to female Ts tend to be glamorous, excessive, girly to the extreme. But surely they would agree with me in that what matters is not how they look outside, but how they feel about themselves. And while I can understand changing one’s appearance to some extent, after a certain amount of plastic surgery and never ending operations it becomes apparent that some Ts are never going to be happy with their bodies. Why? Maybe because they have some idealized version in their heads of what being a real woman is like, some odd stereotype. Well suck it up, Ts, and be happy you don’t have to bleed on a monthly basis.

Who cares about stupid gender stereotypes, now that women can wear trousers and shave their heads and get tattoos and men can be all metrosexual and snobby about clothes?

After all, when we are all simply trying to seek gender equality, isn’t wearing dresses and heels and makeup and getting 12 boob jobs and acting like a diva all the time simply reinforcing the gender stereotype? (Of course, I’m the first to admit that not all Ts behave in this way, but I have met a large number who do.)

I guess though that perhaps Ts need the gender stereotypes to cope with possible insecurities which, as a born woman, I would not have. Yet at the same time, it is this very same gender stereotype which is creating the issue.

Perhaps the only way to help overcome the difficulties faced by the LGBT community is to change the concepts and associations behind gender and sexuality. But then where would that put us straight people?

[EDIT: Apologies for the lengthiness of this rant, and thanks for CM and TF for all the conversations on this matter!]

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About A.M. Harte

A.M. Harte writes twisted speculative fiction, such as the post-apocalyptic Above Ground and the zombie love anthology Hungry For You. She is excellent at missing deadlines, has long forgotten what ‘free time’ means, and is utterly addicted to chocolate.
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3 Responses to on gender and sexuality

  1. delumptious says:

    Just as much as some want to break out of gender stereotypes, others want to cling to them because of their insecurities, I guess just like conforming to any stereotype. Everyone has things they don’t like about their body, but when it relates to being in the wrong gender, then the issues are very different. But, everyone has to learn to be happy with themselves if they want to be happy in life, so there must be a point at which TS have to reach that too? Plastic surgery is a danger it seems because it allows people to always think of the next modification, and never be ok with things as they are in the present. While the LGBT comminity may share some of these insecurities, really, an L,G, or B is no closer to understanding or sharing common ground with a T than a straight person… considering how many Ts identify as straight! I think the very words ‘gender’ and ‘sex’ need to be re-defined, so that they can mean ‘gender identity’. But every step we take to make things more acceptable, also highlights issues that just shouldn’t be there!

    • Yeah, sometimes I feel like that the T is just tacked on to the LGBT community, since Ts seem to have very different difficulties with regards their personal identity and being accepted into society etc.

      At that point, it should be LGBTS! Room for everyone :)

  2. Everyman says:

    The LGBT community’s struggle for equality and acceptance in society is as much legal as it is personal.

    Social acceptance certainly eases personal acceptance of one’s sexual identity/orientation. But we should never forget the current legal struggle is one for civil rights. It touches on far reaching issues such as marriage, hospital visitation rights, and even extension of legal/monetary rights (such as pensions) to the surviving partner.

    This issue is as much an evolutionary step for our society as Women’s Rights and the Civil Rights Movement of the 60’s and 70’s. We can’t always foresee the changes to our society during the struggle.

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