Sex and Gender. We often have been using them interchangeably in our daily lives. However, these two words, in terms of meanings, are related but different. Sex is a biological categorization based primarily on reproductive potential, whereas gender is the social elaboration of biological sex. Gender builds on biological sex, but it exaggerates biological difference, and it carries biological difference into domains in which it is completely irrelevant in the form of gender roles. There is no scientific explanation to why women should cook and men should not, but these performative roles that have been assigned to genders by society have been seen as an extension of the biological composition of one’s reproductive system, while it is completely dictated by social conditioning.
Alongside both these concepts, there is another concept of sexual orientation that we need to take in consideration. Sexual orientation refers to having or not having sexual attraction towards one or more groups of people. One thing common between these three concepts is that even though initially they all were seen in terms of binaries as the norm, it is slowly changing. It is now widely accepted that all these concepts are non-binary and fluid. With the advancement in medical sciences and the scope of Sex Reassignment Surgeries and hormone therapies has opened up the rigidness of sex as proclaimed by the biological essentialists, alongside the open discussion and slowly increasing acceptance of intersex bodies, non-binary sexual relationships, and the absence of sexual attraction or asexuality as a legitimate orientation. However, with the idea of binary thinking diminishing slowly in these concepts, we need to also see the state of those who belong outside previous binaries in society. We need to see the how the society perceives people with a sexual identity outside the male-female binary, with gender identities that are different from the one associated with their biological sex, with intersex bodies, with transmasculine and transfeminine bodies, and with a sexual orientation that is outside the heterosexual norms of our society. We need to see how to make the society more inclusive of these non-binary realities of sex, gender and sexual orientation, as well as what we can do as members of queer communities and allies.
People of alternative sexualities, gender identities, and sexual orientation, all over the world, and especially in India are seen as ultra-deviation from the so-called ‘natural’ hetero-patriarchal norms. And these norms are based on biological reproduction which often works to maintain the purity of caste, class, ethnicity and religion in modern India through endogamy and exclusion. Since the absence of heterosexual purpose of reproduction attached with queer relationships so the social and religious systems/institutions along with state (political systems/institutions) had discouraged it as unsocial, unethical and criminal activity (Although in India, now homosexuality is not criminal after the landmark SC judgement of scraping the infamous article 377).
This stigmatized attitude of the society has made a large section of society (not minuscule) live their life in complete denial, emotional unrest, confusion, deceit, disloyal and all other sinful forms as per the social norms. When will the society understand that by not allowing the non-heterosexual community to live their life as they earnestly wish to, the society is actually forcing people to a depressive and frustrating life, subjecting them to ridicule, discrimination to torturous conversion therapy that has resulted in even deaths of many queer people, the latest victim of which is Anjana Harish, a bisexual woman from Kerala whose family subjected her to conversion therapy to cure her bisexuality. Often closeted queer people are forced to remain in the closet for their entire life, living a lie and often the conflict with their families become so taxing that in India many end up in a heterosexual marriage and live a very complex life thereafter. These lead to loneliness, depression and other mental health issues which becomes difficult to deal with the dearth of queer affirmative mental health professionals in India and the lack of affordability and accessibility of mental health services.
Transgender people are blatantly discriminated against in public spaces and their representation in the organized workforce is very low. The policy sector often ignores the transgender population even in determining the policy decisions directly concerning them. There is an imminent need for increased effort to include transgender people in the organized workforce, especially in civil society organizations and other progressive spaces as well as policymaking bodies. The effort should also be to ensure the safety of them in professions like sex work where there is a high concentration of transwomen to protect them from violence.
There is a long way ahead to reach our goal of equity between genders but we as a civil society organization pledge to extend our support to the transgender community through increased participation of them in our programs as active stakeholders, include other members of the community in our efforts and build IGSSS towards a truly inclusive organization and workplace for the LGBTQIA+ community.
Happy Pride Month!