Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Muddled Thoughts of Sex and Gender

As I've said before when I write about such things, this is probably a much better topic for my partner and his expertise.  However, as I've also said, I think that an outsider's view is important in the discussion.  It can help bridge the gap between straights/the cis-gendered and LGBT as a lot of the tension is predicated on fear and misunderstanding, not hate.

Some of you may have read this story about Jenna Talackova, a Miss Universe contestant being disqualified because she was "actually" born male and had undergone hormone treatments and sex reassignment surgery (SRS).  People are saying she lied on her application form because she was born a biological male.  This may not necessarily be correct, and here's where a lot of people get confused, even social liberals.

This really is cut and dry.

- She was born a male.
- She went through hormone and gender reassignment surgery to become female.

Ergo, she was not naturally born a female. The contest rules state you must be a naturally born female. Since she was not, AND she lied on her application about being so, then she deserved to be DQed.

Hmm.  Not quite.  A lot of people don't recognize that there is a difference between sex (which is biological) and gender (which is dependent on other factors).  Sex is usually cut and dry; an individual is typically born with male or female sex organs.  Gender is not.  Transgendered individuals are often born with the brain chemistry and DNA indicators of the gender with which they identify, not the one indicated by their sexual organs.

Thus if Jenna put on her form that her gender at birth was female, then she was not lying.  Additionally, since she's undergone sexual reassignment surgery she can now correctly put female for her sex and gender.

It's easy to mix the terms as we've typically used them interchangably.  Most of us don't even notice when we're filling out a form if it asks for sex or gender, but this is a big deal to transgendered individuals.  It's one of the reasons why even the most liberal states still have issues protecting their transgendered residents; the rarely updated state forms often don't give an acceptable option.

I can understand it on a basic level, being moderately genderqueer/fluid myself, but even then I fall short.  It goes so against how we cis-gendered people feel that we may never be able to quite get there.  Still, I think we can take a look at things and accept that sometimes they happen outside of ourselves...and know that's perfectly okay.

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