Seán Healy | Senior Staff Writer
Society has often based its wisdom on pre-existing, and not very well thought out, “facts”. “The sun rises there. It sets over here. Therefore the sun ‘must’ go around the earth”. “Everyone’s either an Adam or an Eve.” “Marriage is a great relationship model.” “My senses can tell me that guy is gay, straight, etc..” “God does/doesn’t exist.” “Free speech means I’m free to harass you.”
These beliefs have at various points been, and often still are, wrongly considered axioms – prompting little more than a first glance. But there are dangers in lazily accepting the “opinion of the day”, while ignoring a marginalised minority raising concerns on concurrent issues.
Late last December, Leelah Alcorn reached a new depth of misery because of the way she was misunderstood and mistreated by those she trusted to care for her.
Here’s one analogy I use when people reject the existence of pansexual, bisexual, asexual or transgender identities: For centuries, French governments have done often irreparable damage to regional languages and dialectical communities by systematically flattening the representation of the “patois” – an approach originally put into law as a form of enforced equality policy, favouring the use of one language alone.
One reason I continually feel the need to defend myself to strangers and friends on topics such as my own identity is because I am not exactly gay, yet I am far from comfortable with prevailing conceptions of heteronormativity, masculinity, or the psychological impact these things have had on me and others throughout my life. I do not want to be anyone’s “gay best friend”, but I’d be kidding myself in saying that I haven’t felt the same towards some of my male friends as I have towards some female ones.
If I draw too much attention to some of the uncommon aspects of my existence – in refusing to speak softly of marriage, traditional romance, exclusionary sexual categorisation – I could possibly break the mould, all as part of my own patois personal identity some would view as needing assimilation. With a lot more than marriage resting on the approaching referendum, I sometimes feel like faking my understanding of marriage. I say, “I love marriage.” The truth is, I’d probably hate marriage, and I don’t even know if I’ll ever want to marry a man (or anyone), unlike others who know that this would be their dream. But there will still be many discriminatory issues to solve once this basic equal right is granted to same-sex couples, and I rarely speak of this.
Awareness being one of the strongest weapons against prejudice, there have been a number of under-publicised attempts at progress.
The original constitutional wording, that marriage is a “man and woman” thing, could be comparable to the way some issues are dealt with today. At the time the constitution was written, the general populace might have been under the impression that this wording was an all-inclusive, holy expression of identity. Some of the non-binary exclusionary and bisexual exclusionary approaches to solving society’s ongoing troubles with gender and sexuality discrimination could be just as blind in failing to encompass all groups. This year’s gender recognition bill completely excluded non-binary people, for example.
To mention another minimally discussed issue: The 2013 update of The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), rather than simply omitting all implications of trans* as a “disorder”, instead introduced the term “gender dysphoria” to replace “gender identity disorder”. This good-natured attempt still isn’t as effective as it could be in preventing many ignorant perceptions of trans* communities and identities.
The manual is evidently promoted as psychiatry, and some are using such literature as a basis for human rights violations under the guise of therapy. Late last December, Leelah Alcorn reached a new depth of misery because of the way she was misunderstood and mistreated by those she trusted to care for her – who instead listened only to their binary prejudice, and pushed for her to act like the gender she physically resembled.
People may look at me questioning both my sexual orientation and my gender identity, and wrongly allow their binary prejudice to infer a strong connection between the two areas.
The petition in response to this tragic event – statistically one of many deaths linked to harassment towards individuals in the transexual community – reached the American president, and he finally expressed public disapproval of the kind of horrible treatment the teenager experienced. Awareness being one of the strongest weapons against prejudice, there have been other under-publicised attempts at progress. According to Time magazine, Facebook increased their number of gender options to above fifty some time last year, showing a push by possibly the world’s most powerful company to take linguistically inclusionary policies to the realm of a societal issue.
Even some of the rigid categorisation within the queer community causes some people to look at my own ambiguous demographic and say, “If they’re not sure, maybe there could be… ‘a cure’”. People may look at me questioning both my sexual orientation and my gender identity, and wrongly allow their binary prejudice to infer a strong connection between the two areas, or that my identity is more lacking in integrity than “fully gay” or “fully transgender”. Such conclusions are empirically empty abductive inferences, and reflect only an ancient history of accepted bisexuality aversion and rigid gender binaries in society. This binary prejudice provokes accusations against me of some form of perversion, simply by differing from the most common norms in straight and LGBTQ+ circles.
I have never personally taken to one norm. There have been debates on whether people “should” come out. Coming out, for me, would be wrongly placing myself in one category, when my sexuality is not that simple. Alongside that, it would be the cringing bane of my existence, totally contrary to my belief that sexuality is irrelevant in interpersonal relationships among family and friends.
I stress, as I always do when people either question my integrity or tell me to pick “male or female”, the only person I feel a moral obligation to be honest with is myself.
There was a debate held in Trinity this year about elements of perceived “choice” in sexual orientation – based on beliefs that those who are “unsure” choose to be so. I see discussions erupt across the internet of “cures” to a human characteristic (just like heterosexuality). Some of these views implicitly demote my identity, and the identities of those in any way similar to me, to the level of a sickness in need of alleviation. The only debilitating experience linked to an attraction to men is having to deal with bigots. Other than that, it should be quite enjoyable.
People should have the right to label themselves as questioning or queer in any facet if they don’t fit into the binary model. Bisexuality and pansexuality (different things) happen to be some of the most discriminated against groups in the sexuality spectrum, mostly due to the public misconception that they are orientations associated with distrust, promiscuity, perversion, polygamy. I’ve even heard the term “psychopathy” used. Correlative relationships between identifying as bisexual or queer and having mental health issues are statistically meaningless when you factor in the amount of abuse these people face in everyday life – like being mistaken for a weirdo seeking lab rats the minute I write about my feelings of pansexuality.
I stress, as I always do when people either question my integrity or tell me to pick “male or female”, the only person I feel a moral obligation to be honest with is myself, and rare individuals who have earned my trust. As with the great binary of recognised gender labels, in sexuality, a solitary pair of terms is descriptively insufficient. In fact most of the terms I’ve come across are insufficient for my multidirectional but clausal libido.