Gender Diversity 101: Understanding Basic ConceptsAccording to the Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (S.T.R.A.P.), there are four basic terms related to gender diversity.
Not a few think that gender diversity only applies to sexual orientation or sexual preference. However, according to an officer of the Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (S.T.R.A.P.), diversity is not just about that. She explains that gender diversity involves four rudimentary concepts:
- Assigned sex - is reflected in one's birth certificate and defined by the birth attendant or doctor based on one's genitalia, i.e., female (vagina) or male (penis).
- Gender identity - pertains to how a person "sees" or "thinks" of herself/himself, i.e., female/girl/woman or male/boy/man
- Gender expression - refers to observable traits and behaviors, e.g., masculine or feminine manner of dressing, gestures, way of talking, etc.
- Sexual orientation/Sexual preference - attraction (or non-attraction) towards other people, as represented by homosexuals (same sex: gays for males, lesbians for females), bisexuals (like both men and women), heterosexuals (opposite sex), polysexuals (everyone's welcome), asexuals (attracted to neither sex or to no one based on biological make-up), and celibates (choice-driven withdrawal from any form of sexual intimacy), among others. An argument related to this underscores the nature versus choice debate. Sexual orientation supports the nature stance, while sexual preference describes the latter. Take your pick. It's best not to impose.
The reality of diversityHowever, those four concepts are not necessarily interconnected. There are men who see themselves as females, and women who think and feel that they are men trapped in a woman's body. Ergo, we have female transgenders (man-to-woman transformation) and male transgenders (woman-to-man). Not all transgenders though have the financial capacity to support a "sex re-assignment" surgery (not sex-transplant as there is no organ donation involved in the process). Transgenderism is not akin or synonymous with homosexuality, which is a form of sexual orientation/preference. Transgenders can be attracted to the opposite sex, or to the same sex, or to both, or to nobody at all. Based on this context, gender diversity also applies to gender identity.
In addition, not all homosexuals would like to change their sex organs nor do all heterosexuals subscribe to ways a man or a woman is supposed to behave. Many people prefer to combine masculine and feminine traits in presenting themselves. There are also queers who do not wish to be constrained by traditional gender dichotomies.
Moreover, there are intersex people who look typical at the outset, but have atypical reproductive organs, possessing parts that are physiologically defined as male and/or female. An example of this is a female athlete who has testes or the male sexual gland. Deciding over which sexual part should dominate resides not on the doctor nor the parents, but on the intersex person herself/himself.
Respect and acceptance of LGBTsOne frequently asked question during gender sensitivity sessions is: Is it okay to ask somebody her/his sexual orientation, particularly if "she" is a lesbian or if "he" is gay. The answer? NO. Even if that person is one's BFF (best friend forever) or other people "testify" that she has a woman mate or he has a male lover, it is still not ethical or proper to "coerce" someone to reveal a very personal information just to satisfy another person's curiosity or to belie rumors. Wait until that person voluntarily and/or publicly says/declares so. Besides, it's her/his business anyway. Better respect her/his right to privacy. Best to treat her/him the way every human being should be treated - or how you want others to treat you.
And for the homophobic, self-righteous population of this world, before hurling invectives at the transgenders, or subjecting gays to a boxing match or tying them up in wooden fences and killing them, or conspiring with sex-craved men to rape lesbians, or disturb the wake of a grieving family whose homosexual loved one died because of human cruelty, please think first and ask yourselves these questions:
- How would you feel if others violate you and your rights because of your gender, your gender identity, and/or your sexual orientation/sexual preference?; and
- If you're a theist or a believer in an omnipotent, benevolent, ever-loving God, how would you reconcile loving your neighbor the way you love yourself and God, if you discriminate against others?
Written by Leann Zarah (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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