(definition further explained in this post if you still aren't satisfied)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Let's Talk About Sex!

So, I had the tv on yesterday.  Which is abnormal for me, because I don't actually have the time these days to do anything.  Ever.  At all.  Think about that.

Anyway, I actually had the television on while I was eating between classes, and a show came on that started talking about intersex people.  Have you ever heard the term?  It turns out that an "intersex" person is the same thing as a "hermaphrodite", except that the term "hermaphrodite" is seen as offensive nowadays and is supposed to apply to animals and plants only.

It's a really interesting topic to look into.  The intersex person they were interviewing explained that what we think of as a clear distinction between male and female is wrong, that sex isn't actually black and white differences but a range that people fall into.  Apparantly, all babies start out as females, and hormones determine whether they become male or not.  An intersex person wouldn't fall to one extreme end of the scale like most people do because the hormones that turn them manly didn't finish the job.

All this jabber translates into: the baby has man AND woman parts.  A lot of parents choose surgery to make the baby one sex or another, but some believe that they should wait until the child is grown and can decide for themselves what they want.  If I'm understanding this right, it's a strongly held belief in the intersex community that a person should be allowed to choose and that corrective surgery at birth is a horrific and psychologically dangerous decision for the kid.

To refer to someone who's intersex, you would use "hir" (pronounced "here") to stand for "him/her".  The word "zhe" (pronounced "zee") would be used for "he/she".  The intersex community would like for these pronouns to be more widely used, but since intersexuality isn't really very openly discussed in our culture, that's just not happening, at least not yet.

I find this whole topic interesting, so I took time to research it a little (which is something I haven't gotten to do in forever because I don't really have the time to pursue my own interests much).  After reading up on intersex people, I got linked to reading about androgynes and transsexuals too. 

Androgynes are people who deliberately dress in non-gender-specific clothes so that it's practically impossible to tell if they're male or female simply from looking at them.  Some do this in the belief that sex shouldn't matter, so they force people to interact with someone who's sexually ambiguous.  I think they ask people to use the same pronouns as intersex people do.

Transsexuals are people born as "the wrong gender".  They identify with the opposite sex so much that they believe they've been born into the wrong body.  An important thing to understand about all of these subjects is that "sex" is a person's biological identification, their physical body, while "gender" is our society's associations.  Your sex is whether you're male, female, or intersex.  Your gender would apply to the way you act, the things you choose to do, which sex you identify with, your role.

I can't even get into all the implications with sexual orientation.  If you're intersex, or even transsexual (if you want to stretch it a little), how do you know whether you're gay or straight?  What if you're dating/having sex with/in love with someone who's intersex?

I should make sure to specify for everything I've said today: I'm not part of any of these communities, so I have no way of truly knowing if my information is correct.  I researched it on my own, so I can't be sure how valid these things are, and I invite anyone who knows more than me on any of these topics to please correct me on anything I've misrepresented and share anything they choose to educate us further.

So why did I spew all this random information with no real point?  I just find it interesting.  Don't you think it was time you learned something new that was actually interesting anyway? :)

For commenters: What's something you saw on television or learned about in some other way recently that grabbed your attention?  What's your take on any of the subjects I covered today?  How do you think you would handle being intersex, transexual, or androgynous in today's society?

photo found using Google images


Kaely said...

I'd heard of all of them except Androgyny for years. I only recently learned of that one within the past year or so. They had a character on Bones played by Ally Maki. Hir name was Dr. Tanaka. The characters had bets going as to whether zhe was make or female. Of course they couldn't ask because zhe wouldn't answer because it's not important to hir.

The funny thing is the extreme difference between the woman who played hir and the way the character actually turned out. Her voice was altered and such. And Ally Maki actually didn't know if she was going to turn out to be male or female. They filmed it both ways, and she had to wait until it aired like everyone else to know for sure.

What I found the most interesting was that when they interviewed her about it she said something along the lines of, "It was actually really interesting to play that character. I was anxious at first, afraid I would get it wrong. But as the filming went on I started to care less and less about the gender of the character and just played them like a person. I guess for at least a little while I actually became Androgynous. My friends and family didn't understand why I wasn't freaking out wanting to know if I turned out to be a male or female, but it just didn't seem to bother me."



WhisperingWriter said...

That is pretty interesting.

Tansy said...

wow, I never really thought about that before, its actually really interesting.

So what I learned on TV this week. I was watching the Tyra Show, yeah make fun, but really she was doing a segment on going to the doctor.

You know when you go to the doctor's office and you have to fill out a bunch of forms, well a lot of people actually lie about those questions.

There was a panel of doctors explaining why they asked those questions and why it was important to answer them honestly or it could really mess up your diagnosis and procedures.

Awesome blog!

natalie said...

That definitely is some really fascinating stuff to think about. The entire concept of sexuality is just so mind boggling to me. And I had no idea that the terms of "hir" and "zhe" even existed! Whoa.

4gOny said...

In California you will see all of the above on above average basis,I've seen known and talked to almost all of those groups mentioned. The androgynous thing was a big fad in the 80's in south Cali.

Jody said...

"I can't even get into all the implications with sexual orientation. If you're intersex, or even transsexual (if you want to stretch it a little), how do you know whether you're gay or straight? What if you're dating/having sex with/in love with someone who's intersex?"

Think about sexuality as a spectrum...a lot of people who are actually gay, bisexual, or whatever - they don't call themselves that, they call themselves "queer" - meaning that throughout their lives they have been attracted to many people of different sexual orientations, sexual identities, sizes, shapes, etc. Also, "queer" can mean thinking about relationships in a different way than the norm - viewing sex and emotions in a different way. Some people even consider themselves "genderqueer" - meaning that on some days, maybe they're feeling more masculine, and some, more feminine, or identify with one sex over the other differently throughout their lives. I'm sure someone else could say all of what I have said a lot better, but you could talk about that allllll day. I myself have identified as queer sometimes, but normally, at the end of the day, I just go with "gay", because I'm most comfortable with that.

Check out the Wikipedia article! Because we all know, Wikipedia is God.


Sunny Insomniac said...

Jeez, Deidre--that's one awesome post! Great job on the research!
Okay, this may be totally random and partially awkward, but did I tell you that I'm using your name for a character (who has a fairly important role) in my new novel "I Am Altered?" I am posting a few excerpts of it tonight...one of them featuring the character with your name. She is not based on you (after all, I only know you in cyberspace--ah, Awkward, there you are!), but I love your name. Okay, weirdness over.
Thanks for your awesome comments. They mean a lot to me. :)
~Sunny Insomniac

Deidra said...

Kaely: I know, I was so excited when I watched that episode because I had researched androgony heavily a year or two before and had always found the concept interesting!

Tansy: You won't believe this, but do you know where I got this topic? I was actually watching an episode about intersex people on...the Tyra show! So yeah, I don't plan to make fun of you for that. :)

Jody: I have heard the term "genderqueer" before, and I wondered exactly what it meant. I only had a vague grasp on the concept. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I like being able to understand these things more.

Sunny Insomniac: I'm flattered! I'll check out those excerpts right away to make sure my namesake is behaving herself. :)