Lifestyle Last updated on 2021-02-26 20:48:48
LGBTQIA+ : Understanding Gender & Sexuality In The Changing Times
- Ms. Deepanwita Roy
- 7 Min Read
Back in 2019, 27-years old man Abhijit (name changed) consulted: a well-spoken employee at an MNC. Initially, during the beginning of the session, he was extremely hesitant, and eventually, he shared how his recent discoveries about himself have been making him uncomfortable and have caused immense stress for him at work and in his personal life. In his own words, “I have never been in any relationship during my high-school years or even in college and always asked myself why I don’t like anyone in my friend’s circle until recently when I joined my job and started living with a colleague of mine, I realized that I like him more than anyone in my life, I enjoy spending times with him, going out for occasional drinks on a Friday night and when he brings a date to our home, it makes me extremely jealous. I shouldn’t be jealous, right?” Soon, when we started getting deeper into his thoughts, he said, “I felt sexually attracted to him and that bothered me to a greater extent. I keep questioning myself, I have been reading on these but I think I am finally realizing who I am”. For most people, a journey towards self-discovery is always stressful and can also be overwhelming. I appreciate Abhijit for coming up with this as he played a pivotal role in initiating this article. As his symptoms and concerns didn’t fit into any of the diagnostic criteria to label him with a mental health disorder, the only resort was ‘supportive psychotherapy’. At the very initial sessions, all he needed was an unbiased, non-judgmental set of ears to hear him out. Soon we entered understanding the fundamental things relevant to LGBTQIA+, as Abhijit and I explored during the therapy sessions. Even though the LGBTQIA+ community in India is steadily getting the attention that it deserves but as a nation, we still have a long way to go, the need for all kinds of love to be seen and accepted inclusively in absolutely the need of the hour.
Have you ever wondered what is sex and gender?Since childhood whenever we are asked to fill out a form or a document for school registration or job application, we are asked to provide our name, address, phone number, DOB, and sex, or gender. But have you ever asked yourself, why is it ‘sex or gender’ and not, ‘sex and gender’? Like most people, it might not have occurred to us that sex and gender are not the same. However, conceptually sex and gender are distinct.
- Sex refers to a person’s anatomy, physical attributes such as external sex organs, sex chromosomes, and internal reproductive structures.
- Gender is a term that refers to social or cultural distinctions associated with being male or female.
Then what are gender roles and gender identities?How many of you have binge-watched ‘Gender reveal’ videos going viral all over the internet? In India, it’s illegal to know the sex of the foetus before child-birth, but in the USA, many couples celebrate the occasion of knowing the gender of the baby while the baby is in the womb. We quickly assign colour coded outfits, blue for a boy and pink for a girl! Thus, role learning starts with socialisation even before the birth of the child. And, as we grow up, we are introduced to certain roles that are typically linked to their biological sex. The term gender role refers to society’s concept of how men and women are expected to act and how they should behave. These roles are based on norms, or standards, created by society. In our society, masculine roles are usually associated with strength, aggression, and dominance, while feminine roles are usually associated with passivity, nurturing, and subordination. Also, another way, children learn gender roles is through play. Parents typically supply boys with trucks, toy guns, and superheroes that promote their motor skills, aggression, and solitary play. Girls are often given dolls and dress-up apparel that foster nurturing, social proximity, and role play. Studies have also shown that children will most likely choose to play with ‘gender appropriate’ toys (or same-gender toys) even when cross-gender toys are available because parents give children positive feedback (in the form of praise, involvement, and physical closeness) for gender-normative behaviour. Eventually, the drive to adhere to masculine and feminine gender roles continues later in life. Again, gender identity is an individual’s deeply held sense of being male, female or another gender. Gender identity can correlate with a person's assigned sex at birth or can differ from it. Some children become aware at a very young age that their gender identity does not align with their physical sex characteristics, even expressing the disconnect as soon as they can talk. Individuals whose biological sex and gender identity ‘match’ rarely think about the alignment of biology and identity because they have the privilege of being considered normal by society. But, there is a wide spectrum of gender identities in between the two extremes of ‘man’ and ‘woman’ which the term ‘transgender’ alone cannot cover. Therefore, an umbrella term often used is ‘genderqueer’, which would also include persons who identify as neither man nor woman (agender) or see themselves at any level intermediate between the two too. Is that all? Actually No.
Now comes the most important question, what is sexual orientation?Sexual orientation refers to a person’s emotional and sexual attraction to a particular sex (male or female). Typically, sexual orientation is divided into four categories:
- Heterosexuality, the attraction to individuals of the opposite sex;
- Homosexuality, the attraction to individuals of one’s own sex;
- Bisexuality, the attraction to individuals of either sex; and asexuality, no attraction to either sex.
- Asexuality, the lack of sexual attraction to others is often marked as a fourth category
- L - Lesbian. Lesbian is a term used to refer to homosexual females.
- G - Gay. Gay is a term used to refer to homosexuality, a homosexual person, or a homosexual male.
- B - Bisexual. Bisexual is when a person is attracted to two sexes/genders.
- T - Trans. Trans is an umbrella term for transgender and transsexual people.
- Q - Queer/Questioning. Queer is an umbrella term for all of those who are not heterosexual and/or cisgender. Questioning is when a person isn't 100% sure of their sexual orientation and/or gender, and are trying to find their true identity.
- I - Intersex. Intersex is when a person has an indeterminate mix of primary and secondary sex characteristics.
- A - Asexuality. Asexuality is when a person experiences no sexual attraction to people.
- + - The "+" symbol simply stands for all of the other sexualities, sexes, and genders that aren't included in these few letters.
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