With an increasing shift towards a pansexual gender fluid way of life, perhaps we are introducing a new challenge whilst trying to address an old one.
Another day has gone by and another slew of events have happened all around the world. All eyes are fixed on the United States election, with everyone awaiting more alleged illegal activity uncovered featuring Mrs Clinton, or another derogatory comment from Trump. There’s the destruction being wrought by the horrible Hurricane Matthew. In Australia we’ve had the death of the proposed plebiscite on gay marriage in our country.
Oh yeah, and all the news outlets were quick to report on Miley Cyrus once again commenting on her life as a pansexual.
There is some merit to this interview making headlines across almost every major media outlet, and it’s that the issue of sexuality and gender fluidity is one of great relevance to an increasing number of people. In Australia this topic has been front and centre of an investigation of the content of the Safe Schools program, in which many parents and teachers have had a vested interest in ensuring the content of the sexual education in our country is what they believe to be best for our students and society.
In short, this issue is here to stay, and with a shift towards a pansexual gender fluid society, I believe there exists a new challenge. With so many views existing on the issue already, I would like to offer another.
Defining what we’re talking about
If you’re not aware, gender fluidity is the notion that gender isn’t a fixed property of humans, but something more to do with how you identify with particular roles or traits. The number of genders is subject to debate, with many people offering alternatives to the traditional binary values of male and female. One hash tag would claim there are #76Genders, New York State recognises 31 different genders, Facebook begun with options for 58-71 genders before employing a Custom field in which you can enter whatever you feel is relevant, and others would contend there are more or less than these, particularly the Tumblr community.
Pansexual, the term Miley said she relates with, was originally coined by Freud to define a state where you encompass all types of sexuality, with the word’s current definition and common usage essentially meaning you’re open to sexual interaction with those who identify with any of the genders.
Recent statistics have shown a 45% increase in the UK in the number of people who identify as bisexual in the last 3 years. In the last 3 years, people. We can see that people have certainly started exploring beyond once stringent locked down boundaries. Where originally gay and lesbian identification was more of a noteworthy deal, we see a shift away from even these, and as we have seen around our world today, even beyond the borders of bisexuality.
All this to say, hey, this is a big deal.
Gender vs sex
One of the main points of contention in the debates around this topic, even and especially within this community itself, is the difference between sex and gender. Sex, they say, is the biological predisposition and physical configuration of your body, and gender is how you come to identify with male, female, or other role definitions based on your upbringing. You may have been born a woman, but because you’ve associated with more masculine attributes over time, or some unique blend, your gender actually takes that form. And it’s definitely true that gender roles have been heavy handedly imposed on people while growing up, so when you find that these roles don’t seem to mesh with you, then you may try to find an identity that better describes you. .
The World Health Organisation has a fascinating read on the subject, charting legal, psychological and social implications of this phenomenon in people’s lives. They highlight that there are actually people born with different mixes of chromosomes and genitalia, such as hermaphrodites and Triple XXX chromosome women, who have physical or hormonal traits which actually render them in a different bodily state to “more traditional” body types.
This is made all the more interesting with our new found ability to alter our physical reality. Sexual reassignment surgery, hormone pills, and everything in between is now available to the masses. We are now capable of molding our bodies into the form of the body type we most identify with. This has been more commonplace in countries like Thailand but is very much possible almost anywhere else nowadays. The most noteworthy example in the West would be Caitlyn Jenner.
And so our society really has enabled us to be who we want to be and identify with who we want to identify.
On top of this, we are well able to choose the sexual lifestyle we associate with the most. Heterosexual, homosexual, bi, pan, cisgendered, asexual… There are actually quite a number of different options now. And if you live in a western nation, chances are you’re already identifying and living out exactly the identity you’ve chosen or relate to.
The quest for recognition and the moving target
These feelings are massively real for people, and as such, we are searching for validation and acceptance. It’s quite well documented in most nations the plight of the homosexual community to push for recognition of gay and lesbian marriage, with it being legal in a number of nations already. Even if marriage isn’t legal in these nations, the lifestyle is entirely liveable and even recognised for tax purposes and social benefits traditionally only attributed to heterosexual couples.
One argument which has become more prevalent in bringing in this equality is that if you make one type of sexuality marriage, then you have to bring equality to all. One argument prior to the legalisation of gay marriage in the USA was that if you legalise gay marriage, polygamists may also want to push for equality. Indeed this is exactly what has happened – a number of nations around the world already recognise it – as one person’s equality may not be equal enough for everyone to identify with.
And so a progression of the conversation may extend towards people who may identify with polygamy as the sexuality they identify with. Bestiality is also a view held by many that could be seen to be an equally important way of life. Perhaps child marriage or sexualisation is something they identify with – why wait so long? These views are current shunned by many societies, and perhaps even naming these examples was enough to cause offence.
My point is this – if we don’t form some sort of identity or sexual foundation based on biology, but now on whatever we agree, you and I become the enforcers of our new standard for sexuality and gender on others. Why is your gender or sexual viewpoint more correct than theirs? Equality for one means equality for all, right?
If you redefine gender and sexuality according to your standard, you become the obstacle to somebody else’s equality. And this is the exact state we have been in when it comes to traditional definitions of marriage. The same arguments that have won the debates thus far may also be the same arguments society will have to revisit again when another group seeks what has been granted.
And you know, this isn’t actually a new issue. Sure, it may be gaining prevalence in the West again this year and in increasing value over recent years, but this is actually something that has been with many societies for millenia. The Greek and Roman existences had very fluid views of sexuality. An example was with the worship of the goddess Artemis involving child prostitutes, male and female, committed for 2 years of their lives to service the attendees of the temple – a very accepted and beloved view of society at the time. Still thousands of years before we have sexual practices with animals and inanimate phallic objects in the worship of Asherah, another accepted view of society.
The question that we all want the answer to
What’s my point in all this? I believe the challenge at the heart of this issue in our society is one of the deepest questions you and I will ever face:
Who am I?
At the heart of it all is the nature of our identity. Are we mere biology, products of what gender roles have told us to be? Was I born something other than what I was told I was? Do I not fit in because I’m actually not straight? Or more than gay? Or less? Or a man trapped in a woman’s body? Or something else? Can I have more masculine traits or more feminine traits and still maintain an identity as male or female?
Am I more than my sexual identity? Am I more than the norms of society? Do I actually have a reason to be here, or am I supposed to just make this up and find my way through life?
Our generation, for better and worse, does not like to be labelled anything we believe to be limiting. And in our quest to shy away from labels, perhaps we are introducing confusion into our lives by our refusal to be boxed in. Without any framework from which to define a life, what am I then?
We can and will and are charting the course we want for our lives. I think we all need to be very careful though that in our search for significance and definition, that we are doing things that truly help us find our identity, rather than frame it.
The increasing amount of options we have may not actually be helping us find who we are meant to be, but rather give us a number of alternate paths from perhaps who we were made to be.
Everything is indeed permissible, but perhaps not everything is beneficial.
Big topic, lots of angles, lots of differing views on the subject. I just wanted to contribute another in my own understandings of the topic. How about you? What are your experiences with our new pansexual gender fluid society?