In society, sex and gender are controversial and confusing. Traditionally, sex and gender were binary (male or female), but today they are a spectrum. Bill Nye explains the spectrum of human sexuality” by using an abacus break it into four different categories: sex, gender, attraction, and expression.
Sex is defined as biological features that are often split into male or female. It’s the sum of the structural and functional differences by which the male and female are distinguished. Or, it’s the phenomena or behavior dependent on these differences. Sex varies because of the varying of sex hormones, chromosomes, and organs.
Gender is like sex in that it is on a spectrum. Gender is the physical appearance of male/female binary classification and is based on the individual’s personal awareness or identity. People think that sex and gender must match, but this isn’t the case. On one end of the gender spectrum, there are individuals who were born one sex and identify as that sex. On the opposite end, you have individuals who were born as one sex but identify as the opposite sex. They are referred to as transgendered. Jazz Jennings is an excellent example of this.
Jazz was born as a male, but at an early age, she identified as a female. She began transitioning to a female by taking hormones. Because Jazz is transitioning from male to female, she has received many threats, where people call her a “freak”, “transvestite”, or telling her that what she is doing is unnatural/ a sin.
In the middle of the gender spectrum, there are individuals who neither identify as a male or female — gender fluidity. One example of a gender fluid individual is Ruby Rose.
An actress who considers herself gender fluid, Rose sometimes dresses more masculine. Other times, she dresses in ways that better fit feminine societal roles. (She has the bone structure to pull off either one).
Attraction, like sexuality and gender, is also on a spectrum in regards to who you are sexually attracted to. Much of the population are attracted to the opposite gender making them heterosexual. On the opposite side of the spectrum are individuals who are attracted to the same gender or sex — homosexual. Those attracted to both males or females are referred to as bisexual. Those attracted individuals regardless of sex or gender are referred to pansexual, while people not attracted to either male or female sex are a-sexual.
In the past, expression was binary. Females wore clothes like dresses, pink colors, and makeup socially defined as feminine, while males wore more masculine clothing like darker colors, suits, and ties. But, this is all changing. Here are a few examples showing the diversity of expression for men and women:
James Charles is the first male model for CoverGirl cosmetics, showing that men, like women, can wear make-up.
These are just three examples in the fashion world of how certain pieces are for one type of gender. Ellen DeGeneres is known for her more masculine clothing, even though she identifies as a female and is attracted to other females. Jennifer Morrison is a heterosexual female who can rock a suit and tie. The final fashion choice is from a runway show where male models showed off more feminine pieces like a dress and fur boots. One of my favorite examples of expression that defy binary rules is RuPaul Charles.
Ru Paul is a homosexual male who can rock drag attire and a suit and tie. On an interview with Oprah, Rupaul commented by saying that dressing in drag was his job, but he still enjoys colorful suits that reflect feminine patterns and colors like pink polka dots. In fact, RuPaul’s explains the spectrum of expression best when he says “We are born naked, and the rest is drag”. After reflecting on the “Abacus of sex” and the “spectrum of human sexuality”, I believe that gender is socially constructed.
In society, we try to place a label on something to better understand it, and we apply these labels with the help of attraction and expression. But, what happens when we can no longer rely on expression to define gender? When trying to determine someone’s sexuality or gender, we use fashion, mannerisms, and emotional responses to deduce whether someone is male or female. We try to label or define someone by only their appearance, which needs to stop. One advocate for this type of labeling and how to approach it is IO Tillett Wright.
Io was born as a female, but identified as a male and is homosexual. When IO interacts with people who are transgender, queer, or homosexual, IO asked their preferred pronoun — he, she, or it. Notice how I did not use a pronoun when talking about IO, I used IO’s name? This is how we should talk when discussing people instead of using the pronoun of he, she or it. Instead of labeling a person’s sex, gender, or expression and putting them into binary boxes, we should consider a more tasteful and humane approach like ice cream flavors.
During the sexual spectrum episode of Bill Nye, he introduced a cartoon clip of different flavors of ice cream cones in a conversion therapy group. The storyline of this clip is that vanilla tries to convince the other flavors to be more vanilla because it is the most natural of the flavors. This clip is a good representation of how we shouldn’t try to change ourselves so that we can fit in with the norm. Each person or flavor is made of similar ingredients (internal body parts and organs), but the flavor is how we define ourselves vanilla (heterosexual), pistachio (homosexual), and mint chocolate (bisexual). Be true to your flavor.
Instead of labeling people by their expression, sex or gender, love them for who they are, and embrace your own flavor. In the words of RuPaul: “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else”.
This week’s featured photograph is of a boy standing in a fountain. The idea behind this photo is that a child doesn’t have near a number of social biases, as compared to adults. They express themselves freely without concern for others judgments.
Here is the link for the Cartoon Ice cream clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=46h-LfNWPn8