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Gender Diversity 101: Understanding Basic Concepts

According 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:

Now, the traditional model that social agencies (i.e., family, community, school, the workplace, religion, media) have generated and sustained prescribes that if a person's assigned sex is male, he should identify himself as male, express himself in a masculine manner, and should be attracted to the opposite sex. Or, in case of a female, she should be attracted to a man, behaves like a lady, and sees herself as a woman.

The reality of diversity

However, 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 LGBTs

One 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:

It is time to embrace the fact that aside from change, diversity also rules the world. We need to treat gender rights as human rights as well. After all, there is only one human race and we are all essentially equal.

Written by Leann Zarah (

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