Sunday, 11 August 2013

Girls, Guys, Shades of Gender, Suspender Belts and Pay Cuts

A little while ago I was involved in conversation with a transvestite that raised some thought provoking ideas.

She seemed to feel that all transvestites are on a path that leads to a need for more and more time to be spent as a girl. Less and less as a guy.

That as time passes there’s a need to be more and more girl-like and less and less guy-like.

And that there’s an inevitability in all of this for all concerned.

As we talked I expressed my disagreement.

For myself I feel at peace with where I am at. My life is a mix of guy and girl, masculine and feminine. I don’t feel a need for the balance that there is at the moment to change.

I know that different people have different feelings and experiences. But I also know what my own are.

Actually at times all these kind of terms can get surprisingly confusing.

Girl, guy. Man, woman.Male, female.Masculine, feminine.Gender, sex. And I think that we (including myself) sometimes use some of these words interchangeably when they aren’t always quite so interchangeable.

However, having spent a little time looking around the WEB at definitions of some of these terms, there seems to be some confusion there as well.

There’s an interesting article here: Sex Difference vs. Gender Difference? Oh, I'm So Confused! – but it isn’t easy reading.

There’s an article on the UK National Health Service WEB site entitled : Gender dysphoria which also seems a little odd. It says:

Biological sex is assigned at birth, depending on the appearance of the infant. Gender identity is the gender that a person “identifies” with, or feels themselves to be.

and also says:

Gender can be defined using very narrow medical terms such as what types of chromosomes you have, or what types of genitals you were born with. However, many transsexuals (and also many experts in the treatment of gender dysphoria) find this type of narrow definition both unhelpful and offensive.

Whilst the World Health Organisation says:

"Sex" refers to the biological and physiological characteristics that define men and women.

"Gender" refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviours, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women

My own feeling is that there is more to gender than the World Health Organisation gives credit to. And they definitely have a different understanding of the word sex than do most of the people that I know.

I have a feeling that somewhere in all of this the word psychology should also appear.

I’ve heard it said, and I think that I’ve mentioned it previously in other blog posts, that there’s a view that gender is a line that joins masculine to feminine and that different people are at different places along the line.

There are times when people feel compelled to live their lives as though they were at a position on this line that they don’t really feel that they are really at.

Sometimes even at entirely the wrong end of the line.

Also, for many, the pressure to conform to a role that is either purely masculine or purely feminine has been intense and damaging.

The good news is that the pressure is, in some places at least, lessening. People are being allowed to be themselves. There’s still a long, long way to go, but at least things are moving.

I have this feeling that there are many more than 50 shades of gender, and that they aren’t all grey.

Over the years I’ve grown to accept and, in a way, celebrate, my own gender and have been fortunate enough to have family and friends that are able to accept it as well.

I feel that my position isn’t at either end of the gender line and I’m OK with that. The makeup and feminine clothing that I wear at times is an expression of this.

Actually it’s not just about gender in the sense of socially constructed roles. Nor is it just about sex or genital surgery. It’s more about who I feel that I am. It’s an expression of myself.

I think that different people are in different places when it comes to gender.

That there are lots of people that are in the process of still discovering who they are and where they are.

In a way, perhaps we all are still learning and still making discoveries about ourselves. And if we’re not then maybe we should be?

And I’m sure that the world is always a nicer place when people are allowed to be themselves when the way that  they are and the things that they do are of no harm to anyone.

And then … here’s a list of a few gender characteristics taken from the World Health Organisation:

  • In the United States (and most other countries), women earn significantly less money than men for similar work
  • In Viet Nam, many more men than women smoke, as female smoking has not traditionally been considered appropriate
  • In Saudi Arabia men are allowed to drive cars while women are not
  • In most of the world, women do more housework than men

There’s no mention of makeup, nylon stockings, suspender belts, skirts, blouses, dresses or high-heeled shoes.

Instead it’s a list of things that seem to be a result of men exercising unfair and unreasonable control over women. Although, I guess the smoking in Viet Nam represents something of an own-goal scored by the men.

And, ok, to be honest, I’ve heard is said that the history of high heeled shoes fall into that category as well. And there are perhaps people that would say the same of stockings and suspender belts.

As I said earlier. It’s a complex business.

But, for myself, I’d definitely rather have the suspender belt and stockings than a pay cut. Though immeasurably better would be the suspender belt, stockings and equal pay for equal work.

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