Part 5: What is Commonly Taught and Thought

WHAT IS COMMONLY TAUGHT AND THOUGHT

In line with patriarchal Western thinking, people are generally taught and believe that there are two kinds of bodies, male and female.

A male body is a man’s body and is romantically attracted to females,

And a female body is a woman’s body and is romantically attracted to males.

Historically, anything outside of these parameters do not meet Western standards of gender and sexuality and have been considered aberrant, illegal and pathological at different times. Numerous methods have been used to control this aspect of people including aversion therapy.

Over the last 120 years, Western culture developed more and more stark divisions within the self and between people, often rooted in controlling different aspects of society considered undesirable. These perspectives expose the racism, anti-Semitism, homo/transphobia, disability discrimination and misogyny at work in areas considered ‘science’. One example of how this plays out is when the mind is perceived as separate from the body, action can be taken to ‘cure’ the mind if a person fails the M-F test and return them to a healthy functioning member of society.

“Lewis Terman was a leading figure in the California eugenics movement who invented and popularized the Stanford-Binet intelligence test, a tool used to assess “feeblemindedness” and identify young people for forced sterilization. Terman also developed the “M-F” test, which was used – and to some extent is still used – to predict homosexuality and gender diversity in youth and young adults, and to channel them into so-called reparative therapies to prevent the further development of diverse genders and sexualities. Here, we can see that the impulse to draw clear lines around racial groupings is intimately linked to the desire to have clear lines between male/female, even as standards for men and woman are often in flux, changing across time and place. Many advocates for transgender youth – including transgender adults – feel pressure to justify challenging and controversial decisions, often relying on research that reproduces a certain logic known to harm the very interests of people they seek to support.”

– Mauro Sifuentes, Genetics, Gender Identity, and Youth Transitions

Although recognition and classification of gender nonconformity appeared in Western medicine in the 1920s, gender identity disorder (GID) first appeared as a distinct diagnosis in the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA’s) third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) in 1980 and remained a category until the newest edition of the DSM (the DSM-5). Over the past few decades, after professional as well as public debates, the APA has moved toward differentiating gender nonconformity from mental illness. On December 1, 2012, the board of the APA approved changing the diagnosis of GID to that of gender dysphoria in the DSM-5, a significant move toward depathologizing gender variance. Psychiatrists increasingly agree that being transgender is not an illness to be cured or overcome (nor, for that matter, a state that can be altered).”

– Daphna Stroumsa, MD, MPH, The State of Transgender Health Care: Policy, Law, and Medical Frameworks

Change continues.

“The United Nations Human Rights Council, in a defining vote, adopted a resolution on June 30, 2016, on “Protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation, and gender identity,” to mandate the appointment of an independent expert on the subject. It is a historic victory for the human rights of anyone at risk of discrimination and violence because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, a coalition of human rights groups said today. This resolution builds upon two previous resolutions, adopted by the Council in 2011 and 2014.”

UN Makes History on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity

Voting in favor of the resolution
Albania, Belgium, Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, France, Georgia, Germany, Latvia, Macedonia, Mexico, Mongolia, Netherlands, Panama, Paraguay, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Slovenia, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Venezuela, Vietnam

Voting against the resolution
Algeria, Bangladesh, Burundi, China, Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Maldives, Morocco, Nigeria, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Togo, United Arab Emirates

Abstaining on the resolution
Botswana, Ghana, India, Namibia, Philippines, South Africa

Context:
Change is occurring, but deep cultural and societal shifts like this tend to take time to reach everyone. It is profoundly challenging to see through and step away from Western perspectives. They are large and all pervasive at this time. They can even seem invisible. But the truth is the false gender binary, oppositional thinking, suppressed history and scholarship, integral homo/transphobia and racism, all contribute to cultural and societal pressure on everyone all the time to conform, judge, internalize and survive. We end up policing ourselves, and each other. We create multiple layers of interlocking survival behaviors between us, instead of everyone just being exactly who they are.

Bullying queer/trans/intersex kids is about scapegoating rooted in deep, historical, cultural shifts in society.

Bullying queer/trans/intersex kids is about scapegoating rooted in deep, historical, cultural shifts in society. But it can also include unconsciously trying to get others to snap back into ‘right behavior’ out of concern for safety. I imagine my mother and her unbalanced response to hearing that I was a lesbian, (how I identified at the time). Riddled with horrible memories of what it meant to be a lesbian from her childhood, she screamed at me for an entire year about how horrible all this and I was and how everyone was going to suffer for it, before stopping talking to me altogether for many years. It was more than she could bear. There was nothing I could do. I could not stop being myself.

What can erase a heart like that? What can cause that much confusion and pain? It’s more than ignorance. It’s a deep, deep judgment. It smacks of survival.

Impact:

Conformity is highly prized in our culture. Sacrifice. Repression. Doing the ‘right thing’ even when it’s not who you really are. Remember back to Colonel Manly from the first American written play we learned about from the early US History part? There was a need to create specific stereotypes in the face of colonization, slavery and war.

Not surprisingly, today, many, many decades later, there are many stories, an obsession perhaps with media that portrays the hero who goes against social convention and wins big for following their own heart. But it’s mostly just a story. Like pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. In real life, this kind of thinking can serve as a mirage for marginalized communities. Competitive. Dog eat dog. Individualistic. Power over. At any cost. These are valued and seen as part of what it takes to succeed in Western society.

On LGBTQI2S+ Community:

The tools and degree of scapegoating of our community shift and adjust with the times, but essentially anything and everything is used to judge, erase and or police all genders and sexuality that fall outside of patriarchal parameters, which for the LGBTQI2S+ community is ALL OF US. Many queer/trans/intersex people visibly and or socially pass as straight and cisgender to varying degrees at different times, sometimes for safety and survival reasons. But that means anyone who is visibly queer/trans/intersex in appearance or behavior is at greater risk for being singled out.

Policing gender happens in the LGBTQI2S+ community. Safety can be a visceral, unconscious response for many of us if violence has occurred socially or in the home, especially around gender and sexuality. This can severely alter self and expression from the inside out.

The Gender Unicorn In 2005 a group of 4 people created a graphic that eventually morphed into the Gender Bread Person. In order to break down stereotypes and help understand sex assigned at birth, behavior, sexual orientation and gender identity, they used visuals and familiar concepts that separate parts of the self.

In 2011, a straight, white cisman plagiarized the Gender Bread model and claimed ownership.

It was later translated into the Gender Unicorn by a group of trans activists. This model made some basic changes, but kept the overall format: sex assigned at birth, gender expression, gender identity, and physically/emotionally attracted to. These models isolate areas in order to see them independently. Unhinging them from one another helps to dismantle assumptions that bind stereotypes together.