LGBT1 Midterm Exam
What is the problem of the gender binary? The sexual orientation binary? Explain how these binaries are both repressive and constructive. (What does it mean for power to be repressive and constructive too? Apply this to both gender identity and sexual orientation.)
The gender binary is a social construct which does not reflect reality. This fact creates tension for people who do not fit into the contrived metaphor of a gender binary as imposed and constructed by those in power. One of the most common reasons a person may not fit into one of the binary genders is biology. There are dozens of biological conditions under the umbrella of intersex which place a person outside the gender binary. This leads to repression towards the person by the people around them and the people in power in local culture; the intersex person is often forced into one of the binary options which does not reflect the reality of the person. Sometimes this involves surgical gender assignment of infants or children, all at the behest of the people in power who impose cultural constructs about gender on the child and parents.
Another common reason a person may not fit the gender binary is because they recognize it as a social construct and do not accept it as a valid structure to define themselves within. Rejecting imposed structures is a fundamental quality of humanity. We want to break out. We want to be free. We construct and define ourselves outside the rules and norms which we are given by people in power. For many people, including genderqueer, transgender, and other groups, rejecting imposed ideas of gender becomes a fundamental part of their identity. The flawed social construct of the binary is often the first thing to be rejected during this process of self-construction.
Many transgender people feel that they were born in the wrong physiological sex; a belief that is corroborated by brain structure analyses and other means. These people may decide that their true identity lies across the binary, or that it lies outside the binary. No matter what the reason is that a person may reject their place within the binary, they all hold in common the truth that the binary is a socially constructed and fundamentally invalid perspective with which to approach reality.
The sexual orientation binary is another social construct which does not reflect reality. It is the result of myths and misinformation about sexual orientation which have percolated through our post-dark-age culture to form a stew of superstitious nonsense which many people attempt to use as a lens through which to view the world. It is convenient for them to use simple concepts to describe other people. This is a major factor in the categorization and labeling of people into sexual orientation groups by those in power. The problem is that it does not reflect reality. Early sexual research showed that there is a bell curve on the spectrum between homosexual and heterosexual, with most people falling in between rather than at one end. The idea of categorizing all people at one end or the other is repressive nonsense. This fallacious concept has led to criticism and repression of people who experience both types of attraction as “undecided” or “outside the norms.”
Another problem is the fact of asexual people, who experience no sexual attraction whatsoever. These people are clearly not in one of the two categories demanded by the socially constructed idea of a sexual orientation binary.
The sexual orientation binary has another overarching problem; its intransigence or immutability. Once a person has a sexual orientation label, they are likely to conform to that label rather than exploring outside it. This intransigence is imposed by people in power through the construction of these permanent labels which themselves do not reflect the truth of all people.
Explain the tensions between the following groups in one paragraph each: a) LGB and T, b) Traditional Trans Narrative and Genderqueer, c) LGBT vs. Queer.
Tension exists between Lesbigays and Transgender people on epistemological, cultural, and historical levels. Epistemologically, Lesbigays generally see themselves as part of a valid gender binary and a valid sexual orientation binary. The Bi- (binary) prefix is right there in the middle of the word “Les-bi-gay.” Transgender people fundamentally reject all or some of these ideas. Culturally, Transgender people have a history all their own. The history of their culture and movement largely took its own direction without the support or aid of the Lesbigays and their movements. The converse is true as well. Lesbigays had their own historical culture and movement which largely excluded Transgender people.
The traditional trans narrative includes an eponymous etymological acceptance of the gender binary. Trans means to cross over. Crossing over between genders implies acceptance of the gender binary. It’s in the meaning of the word “Transgender” and inescapable within that context. Genderqueer people reject the gender binary. They may change from the presentation and role norms of the gender assigned to them at birth, but they reject the idea that there are two sets of presentation and role norms to choose from. They freely accept and reject ideas throughout both sets, and outside either set. This fundamental difference between the two groups creates tension.
LGBT people categorize themselves within a small number of socially constructed identities which accept both the gender and orientation binaries to some degree. Queer people reject all of this. They reject both the binaries and the categories. Queer people see each of these labels as carrying with them systems of oppression which can simply be shrugged off by refusing to play the game of adhering to labels and categories. Their attitude and response to the question of their identity is a simple, “fuck you.” Naturally, this creates tensions between LGBT people and Queer people. Some common conflicts include hate crimes legislation, gay marriage, and gay adoption laws. LGBT people see these as necessary laws to impose equal rights for LGBT people on an unwilling Cis-Het majority electorate. Queer people see these laws as excluding anyone not named in them. The Queer solution would be to remove all government interference with marriage, adoption, etc based on any discriminatory factor, not just for gay people.