This morning—while taking a break from writing a novelette, one that shows sex in the 50s—a letter to the editor in a recent Maclean’s magazine caught my attention. The writer mentioned that the government of Ontario’s sex ed. program is planning on teaching six genders, when in fact, there are more than 20 genders considered in some countries. More than 20? What? I had no idea.
I was aware of that there were more identities than heterosexual and homosexual. The transgender and transvestite population have been making news in print, film, and television in the past several years, but 20 genders and more, really?
As a teen growing up in Winnipeg during the 50s, society from my perspective was largely heterosexual with the odd person who wasn’t. (Note the word “odd”, but that was how this person was viewed back then.) That odd person was considered a “fruit”, “pansy”, “homo” and “queer”. They were not nice terms; they identified those who didn’t fit the so-called norm, the general public’s view of men and women.
As I think back, these names were born out of ignorance. Those men and women who were gay—not a term used back then—were relegated to the sidelines. Many back then didn’t dare show their sexuality for fear of being ridiculed or ostracized in some way. So, in essence, we didn’t know that there were more than the “odd” person in our midst who were of a different gender than straight male and straight female. It must’ve been very painful to live in fear of being discovered for who you really were.
When I became a social worker, and also an actress, I ran into quite a few gay men, who became dear friends. I lost a couple to Aids in the 70s, a tragic time for all. On the positive side, it was the time that gay men and women were emerging from the shadows. By then, I had moved with my family to Vancouver, a city that embraced diversity.
I also worked in mental health in the 70s and 80s, a time when homosexuality was a diagnosis, a condition that psychologists and psychiatrists tried to cure people from. I never bought it. I kept thinking, why would anyone choose homosexuality when society was so unkind as a whole? It’s not a choice. We are who we are.
In the late 80s, during the Vancouver International Film Festival, I saw Desert Hearts, a film about two lesbian lovers. The audience was full of female couples, who hooted and hollered when the action got steamy on the screen. I enjoyed their free expression and their obvious joy at seeing two women in love with one another.
Today, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, two-spirited and queer community celebrate together annually in Gay Pride Parades worldwide. In major North American cities, it’s common to see same-sex couples embrace or hold hands on the streets. See GLBTTQ Canadian Rights Timeline.
In recent years though, as more and more states in America have legalized same-sex unions, there’s been a backlash in the mid-western and southern ones, where lawmakers have tried to prevent same-sex couples from marrying. I can’t believe the fear that drives them to block a union of love they don’t understand. These lawmakers believe it’s an un-Christian act. How do they know that Jesus wasn’t gay? Or some of his followers? What are they afraid of? It’s not catchy.
No one can influence anyone to be one gender or another. You just are, however you’ve come into this world. And the beauty of that nature needs to be celebrated in all its colors. No wonder the rainbow flag has been adopted to represent the variety of genders in our midst.
Of course, I had to look up these 20 and more genders, and found that The Daily Beast reported on Facebook’s 51 genders. Wow! Prior to reading this, I was of the mind that there were basically three main categories: heterosexuals, homosexuals, and transgendered persons. Obviously, from reading this list, sexuality is more complicated than that. And if you step back and consider our world with over seven billion people, why wouldn’t it be?
Thoughts? I wonder how we can move forward in society without fear of the different and embrace all the colors of the rainbow. Surely, there’s room for all of us.