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March 31, 2014 | by  | in Features |
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A Glossary of Sex and Gender

As anyone who’s ever dined at KK Malaysian on a Friday night can attest, it’s a diverse ol’ world out there. This wonderful mélange of differences extends to the fields of sexuality and gender in glorious multifaceted Technicolor. Still think some men don’t have vaginas, or that some women don’t have prostates? Still clinging onto the dubious belief that asexuality doesn’t exist? Think again! Let’s talk about sex (and gender), baby (and all the good things that may be).

Sexuality remains an under-explored and under-researched field, such are the pervasive societal taboos affixed to it. Fortunately, some progress has been made. One watershed development came about after the research of Alfred Kinsey, who ascertained that sexuality is not a binary but a spectrum, wherein 1 corresponds to ‘exclusively hetero’ and 7 ‘exclusively homosexual and goddamn fabulous’. More, err, comprehensive research was conducted by Masters and Johnson, which unearthed the mysteries of male and female orgasm and sexual response. In the sociological field, Foucault blew the whole sexuality-as-illness thing out of the fuckin’ water with his conclusion that sexuality was not repressed, per se, but constructed and pathologised as a means of social control. This does not mean that there is no such thing as homosexuality (Foucault famously swore by the rejuvenative properties of anal fisting), but that your sexuality does not reveal anything inherent to your character. Despite what pop psychiatrists would have you think, bisexuality does not mean you’re greedy, and that homosexuality was considered an ‘illness’ by the American Psychiatric Association until the 1990s is shameful.

Gender is a different beast entirely, a nebulous thing which eschews any attempts at two-dimensional plotting in favour of a three-dimensional model drawn in hues of blue, yellow, pink, black, you name it. Society at large views gender as a binary, ordained and delineated according to the genitalia you happened to possess at birth, but this is a distortion of the truth. People can, and are, born into a gender that they do not align with, and rebel against the gender role instilled in them; some societies feature third or even fourth genders; some people find that their gender is not static but ever-changing. It’s crucial to note that these genders need not have predicated requisites. Gender performances and attributes are so tenuous and complex that self-identification as a specific gender more than suffices.

If a person’s gender is not ‘cis’ (more on that below), or they are not ‘straight’, they fall under the ‘queer’ umbrella. ‘Queer’ is a term used to distinguish these people from heteronormative, gender-dichotomised people. Not all queer people are ‘out’. Some remain ‘closeted’ because of fear of negative or even violent repercussions, and that is their right and must be held in esteem.

You have two options in dealing with queer people: treat them with respect (use their preferred pronouns always, refrain from derogatory slurs), or commit yourself to a life of being a steaming pile of human faecal matter. With that ministration out of the way, here is a handily compiled, though by no means exhaustive, glossary for educative purposes! Consult and absorb, distinguished readers; consult and absorb. INFORM YOSELF.


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He Tāonga

:   I wanted to write this piece, in order to connect to all tauira within the University, with the hope that we can all remind ourselves that we are a part of an environment which is valuable, no matter our culture, our beliefs or our skin colour. The ultimate purpose of this