A gender bender*

By Cobus Fourie

I have often struggled with conformity in general. My biography places prominence on the notion of nonconformity. I have wondered since I was very little why some things were assumed to be true with no questioning. I always, to this very day, want to know the “why” and “how come” of everything. My erstwhile doctor said it was unbefitting of a 26 year old to be so curious. I interjected and said it would make me a lemming otherwise. My doctor had no clue why I insisted to be a very difficult patient and always demanded on official diagnoses and explanations on pharmaceuticals dished out. I did not realise it then but I was also basking in and entertaining dichotomies and taxonomies.

I’m at risk of inducing a feeling of “not again! Typical. Cliché.” But one has to work through these issues. This dissection of the cultural constructs we so often take for granted aims to provide insight into these issues.

I often ask questions (some considered sensitive) to people who are able to provide insight I would otherwise not be able to attain. I can imagine how it might feel being questioned though as I very often field questions regarding the gay issue and had to explain and defend politely so many times to colleagues and others that I stopped counting. But I guess asking is better than assuming so I always treat the situation calmly and with rational constraint.

`Many harbour the notion of masculine versus feminine and after years of social progress, heterosexual versus homosexual. These dichotomies are huge largely false social constructs only used to vilify those not exactly fitting into the quaint pigeonholes. Sure, there are people who exist within the tight confounds of these dichotomies but statistically these are a very tiny percentage of the total population.

In Statistics 110 you are taught all and sundry about the Bell Graph or otherwise known as the Normal Distribution. This graph explains many natural phenomena like the distribution of intelligence and even something as simple as test scores. It introduces the concept of the continuum or spectrum between two determined points on either terminal. The premise of the Bell Graph is that the greatest proportion of a sample is presented in the middle of the two extremes.

Does this mean that the majority of people are bisexual and neither wholly masculine nor feminine? It might be pure conjecture but extending a known concept to match aforementioned makes perfect sense. If it applies to so many other human phenomena, why could it not apply to gender and sexual orientation? Judging the diagram drawn up by Kinsey it seems it would have been too controversial to declare most people bisexual.

The Kinsey Scale was probably a revolutionary concept at the time of its formulation circa 1948. Kinsey contended in 1948 that, “males do not represent two discrete populations, heterosexual and homosexual. The world is not to be divided into sheep and goats. It is a fundamental of taxonomy that nature rarely deals with discrete categories… The living world is a continuum in each and every one of its aspects”

Kinsey goes further to elaborate on the scale:

0- Exclusively heterosexual with no homosexual

1- Predominantly heterosexual, only incidentally homosexual

2- Predominantly heterosexual, but more than incidentally homosexual

3- Equally heterosexual and homosexual

4- Predominantly homosexual, but more than incidentally heterosexual

5- Predominantly homosexual, only incidentally heterosexual

6- Exclusively homosexual

The continuum of self-identity for gender and sexuality confirms and supplies a bit more on aforementioned. Girshick elaborates on the various continua but includes a two-tier approach which I find problematic as it reintroduces a dichotomy into a continuum. I find it quite paradoxical.

Girshick states the following on gender identity:

The Gender Identity Continuum: Our internal sense of gender relates to our feelings of being a man or a woman. Traditionally it was believed that if you felt masculine you would not feel feminine, and vice versa. But some people feel differing degrees of masculinity and differing degrees of femininity. Some people do not feel particularly like a man or a woman, and some feel they are both. Having parallel continuums where degrees of “man” and of “woman” can coexist help us capture a broader range of gender identity experiences.

Reicherzer and Anderson confirms the gender continuum and expands it to sex, gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation. The United States National Institutes of Health also has material on the gender continuum

It is though noted that none of the continua I could find noted definite values and distribution figures or standard deviation confirmations. It would be interesting to see the actual distribution on the various continua, given that the sample data is representative and free or error, bias and contains responses from truthful respondents without the truthfulness of the sample causing bias in the data.

In light of above I have a clearer understanding of the Q in the Pink community acronym. I suppose it represents the Not Otherwise Specified out there repudiating dichotomies and the ties attached to labels.

Would I call myself queer? I do sometimes. Do I see myself as entirely masculine? A definite no. Do I see myself as entirely homosexual? A definite yes. Do I see myself as completely conforming to the various gay stereotypes? Also no.

So I must be queer.

*Original title: The folly of the socially-imposed dichotomies of gender and sexual orientation


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