A Conversation About Gender and Sexuality


As many of you know, I am involved in an interfaith group. Today was our weekly meeting. At the end of the meeting, five of us stayed late to talk about gender and sexuality. Three of us are in our 20’s and we all consider ourselves queer. I have said before that I am demisexual and gender queer. There was another gender queer person who identifies as a lesbian there as well, and the final twenty-something identifies as bisexual. The final two members of our small group were a retired teacher and a Lutheran pastor. They were both very interested in how gender and sexuality are discussed today because the language we use today was not used when they were young.

One of the main concerns discussed was education. For my generation, it is very easy to take a Sociology, Psychology, or Philosophy of Gender and Sexuality course and learn all about the terminology and what it all means. We often take that for granted because the language we use is so easily available to us. But this information is not easily available to those outside of the post-secondary community. So how do people become knowledgeable about the nuances of sexuality and gender without going to university or college?

There are resources available online, but they aren’t resources that would be found by anybody who doesn’t know to look for them. This is unfortunate. It also means that those of us who identify as queer are forced to educate others about ourselves. This is important, but it is also not fair.

Why is it important? Because we don’t identify as the majority identifies. We are the minority. If we want people to understand how we feel, we need to explain our feelings to them. By creating a community of those who understand us, then we create a community where we are accepted and treated as equals. This is something that we all want. Luckily there are a lot of queer people who are willing to take the time to educate other.

But not everyone is willing to educate others, and we shouldn’t be expected to. This is why is is unfair. It is not uncommon for people to demand that we educate them. It is not our job to educate we. I am willing to talk about my gender and sexuality to help others understand who I am. I am willing to talk about them to create empathy and understanding. But I don’t have to do so. And a lot of other people don’t want to talk about their gender or sexuality. They aren’t often comfortable conversations, especially when someone isn’t fully accepting of one’s identity. As such, nobody should be made to educate others.

I felt it necessary to discuss this today, because I do want to create that understanding. I want to make the resources available to those who don’t know where to look. So here are a few:
http://books.google.ca/books?hl=en&lr=&id=_kH0L1x8B88C&oi=fnd&pg=PA133&dq=gender+and+sexuality&ots=lGPcLVDLA4&sig=7_jTuCaU5egj8mgyhVQl01o7LDc#v=onepage&q=gender%20and%20sexuality&f=false
http://www.med.monash.edu.au/gendermed/sexandgender.html
http://www.who.int/gender/whatisgender/en/
http://www.apa.org/pi/lgbt/resources/sexuality-definitions.pdf
http://groupthink.jezebel.com/i-am-genderfluid-1558789334
http://www.genderdiversity.org/resources/terminology/
http://gender.wikia.com/wiki/Genderqueer
http://www.tolerance.org/gender-spectrum
http://itspronouncedmetrosexual.com/2013/01/a-comprehensive-list-of-lgbtq-term-definitions/
http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/sex-gender-and-sexuality-its-complicated/
http://www.genomebc.ca/education/articles/separating-gender-from-sex/

For those of you interested in learning more about gender and sexuality, I hope these resources help. If you want to learn more, I will happily find more resources, or answer questions to the best of my ability. I’d also suggest finding a local LGBTQ community willing to offer education to those interested in becoming allies. But please don’t demand that anybody educate you. Please be respectful and understand that they are doing you a favor by giving you the information, and they are probably willing to give it to you because they want to improve the community in which they live.

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20 responses to “A Conversation About Gender and Sexuality

  • Mr Syms

    I do agree that people should be educated in how these categories work, however from an acceptance point I can’t really understand why they need it. For me a person indicating who they are attracted to and how their body and mind may differ from the typical is as simple to understand as indicating how tall they are or what color their hair is. When people can’t figure it out it’s the same to me as freaking out about one person with blonde hair in a crowd of people with brown hair. What’s not to understand? And I don’t say this in criticism of people, I’m just saying I don’t get it.

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  • paidiske

    Could you point out for me which of the documents this was in? I’d like to continue the discussion, but I need some context and I don’t have time to go through them all today.

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  • paidiske

    Thank you for the list of resources. As a young person, and a leader/teacher in a faith community, I find myself having these conversations with people old enough to be my (grand)parents, and it’s easy to get out of my depth when trying to educate in an area where I don’t have expertise.

    Someone asked what spirituality has to do with sexuality. I think it depends how you define “spirituality.” If you take a broad definition; that it has to do with how you relate to the world, what gives life meaning for you, those sorts of things, it might be possible to see how people with similar spiritualities would share attraction?

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    • equippedcat

      If you change the meaning of the word spirituality to what you say, then your explanation makes sense. However, can words be redefined? Well, obviously, they can and are, but SHOULD they be? Doesn’t it hinder communication when a word’s meaning is not static?

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      • paidiske

        Is that a change in meaning? It was the meaning I was taught to work with when assessing people’s spirituality in pastoral training (in an interfaith setting). I think these sorts of terms often carry different freight in different contexts and communities, though.

        What is your definition of spirituality?

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        • equippedcat

          spir·i·tu·al·i·ty
          noun \ˌspir-i-chə-ˈwa-lə-tē\

          : the quality or state of being concerned with religion or religious matters : the quality or state of being spiritual
          plural spir·i·tu·al·i·ties
          Full Definition of SPIRITUALITY
          1 something that in ecclesiastical law belongs to the church or to a cleric as such
          2 clergy
          3 sensitivity or attachment to religious values
          4 the quality or state of being spiritual

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          • paidiske

            I would absolutely refute the idea that spirituality is as narrow as religion. Approximately one third of Americans (I am told) identify as “spiritual but not religious.” Clearly the distinction is socially important.

            I think it’s a grave mistake to take something which is a fundamentally human attribute; the ability to construct abstract systems of meaning and value, and restrict it to being the province of religion.

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          • equippedcat

            Refute all you like. Merriam-Webster dictionary is who I quoted. I don’t doubt that one third of Americans claim to be “spiritual but not religious”. Spiritual has the implication of ones relationship with the supernatural and the parts of the natural which are not fully satisfied by Science (particularly those specific to the person). Religious tends to bring to mind the concept of the organized religions, which tend to be viewed with distrust by many people, who either think they are silly or are works of Man and being used for the benefit of those men, not God or Mankind.

            Thus, a person can be spiritual and religious, only spiritual, only religious or neither.

            Note that I am not saying that humans do NOT have the attributes you describe, just that spirituality is not the best word to describe it.

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          • paidiske

            Perhaps… but realising it is used in some contexts in that way might help you to understand statements such as the one which prompted your question.

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          • equippedcat

            Ok, let us go with your definition a moment. I still don’t see how that has anything to do with sex/gender terms.

            The modifier for the definitions is “sexual, romantic, physical, and/or spiritual attraction”. Sexual, romantic and physical attraction have a basis in the effective or perceived sex of the people involved, and the definitions make perfect sense. But the attraction to a person whose “spirituality” is admirable does not require a basis in the effective or perceived sex of the people involved. There are certainly cases where sexual attraction is augmented by “spiritual” attraction, but there are also cases of “spiritual” attraction with no sexual, romantic or physical attraction. The AND is not useful, since you can have one or all of the sexual based attractions WITHOUT a “spiritual” attraction. And the OR is worse, since it offers the option of there being ONLY “spiritual” attraction, which then makes the definition of the term unreliable.

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  • brokenpencilsarepointless

    I completely agree. And to those who don’t understand why not everyone should be an educator, think of it this way… Every black, Turkish and Polish person should not have to educate those who make racist comments. They often do. I often do. And my reward, after feeling hurt and upset that someone has judged me, my family and/or friends by the colour of skin alone, is that they are upset and feel they have just been branded a racist, thus I am left consoling them, not the other way round.

    It is important that not everyone should feel they have the right to demand an education from those who have a first hand experience. That is their choice.

    Thank you for a well written piece and thank you for being my first follower! I look forward to reading more of your posts.

    Liked by 1 person

  • brokenpencilsarepointless

    I completely agree that you should not have to educate others. And to those who disagree, think about it in this way.. Every black, Turkish or Polish person should not have to explain and educate people on racist comments. Often I decide to pull people up on it and then I end up helping them feel better about themselves as they now feel branded a racist. That is not necessarily the case and now I am made to feel bad for the fact I was hurt and judged for the colour of my skin and had the audacity to point it out. Obviously people are prejudiced in many ways against different races, religions, social backgrounds… The point is that everyone should not be expected to be an educator and it is often incredibly awkward.

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  • Joanne Corey

    An additional barrier for some of us in the older generations is that sexuality wasn’t discussed at all. I’m sure that the full spectrum of gender/sexuality was present among my generation, but we, especially those raised in rural areas as I was, weren’t brought up in an atmosphere to discuss even the stereotypical male/female heterosexual experience, much less other sexual/gender expression. I have learned a lot from talking to my daughters, who are now both in their twenties and have grown up culturally with more freedom to discuss and explore identity than I was. I also appreciate what others write, such as this post. It’s helpful to have links to follow, too.

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  • equippedcat

    It seems odd that there are terms for MTF and FTM, since in my opinion, once someone changes their biological sex, they are what they are and what they were is of no importance.

    In one of the lists of definitions, it includes “sexual, romantic, physical, and/or spiritual attraction”. What does “spiritual” have to do with sexuality?

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    • Caroline

      Because life isn’t an instant, it’s a journey, and history is important (though some would rather forget it). Because not everyone who is MtF or FtM has changed their biological sex, and it describes where they are now.

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  • equippedcat

    I agree, you don’t HAVE to educate other people. But the education is necessary in order for people to understand, and hopefully make things easier for you. Who then should be in charge of such education? And if they are not “you”, how can it be assured that the education is accurate?

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    • hessianwithteeth

      There are people who are actually trained to educate people about gender and sexuality. And they know more about it than I do, because my information only comes from my personal experience and the experiences of the people I know. Those with training are taught about sexualities and gender identities that I have no experience of.
      It’s the same reason we don’t expect POC to educate the world about slavery. We have teachers who are trained to teach about slavery. They have knowledge that any given POC can’t be expected to have.

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      • equippedcat

        People with experience need to be involved in the training of the teachers, Otherwise, what the teachers teach may just be theory, or swayed by their personal opinions and/or propaganda they grew up with..

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        • hessianwithteeth

          But they are involved. Heck, most LGBT friendly centers are run mostly by LGBT people who feel drawn towards educating others about their experiences and the experiences of others. That is the role they feel inclined to take. But it is not a role that we all want to take, which is why I say you shouldn’t demand that anyone educate you. Some people will, others won’t, and that is their right.

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  • truthtangible

    Yeah, the terms surrounding sexuality and gender have changed dramatically. Most of my parents generation thinks that “gay” includes everything that is not straight and that “queer” is a derogatory term for gay. It’s gonna take a lot of education to help this discussion move to the main stream.

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