Preface: I’m updating this on August 12, 2020 to reflect a more inclusive way of describing the gender and sexual diversity community: Gender and Sexual Diversity/Gender and Sexually Diverse, or GSD! I have been reading reams lately about what makes people comfortable and uncomfortable, and the LGBTQ (whichever version, or how many letters) ends up leaving people out. GSD is more inclusive and simpler! Seems like a no-brainer!
I have been working on a project for my spiritual formation community. One of our members expressed an interest in learning the language about the GSD community, and I volunteered to have a crack at it. Having written several of them, I am finding a view of wonder and appreciation, so I would like to share them here.
I’d like to start with the ideas of gender and sex. Human beings are wonderfully complex and I am thankful to the GSD community for highlighting some complexities that I, for one, have been unaware of because of who I am. I was born with female parts (biological sex), I identify as a woman (gender), I dress and act as my culture expects a woman to dress and act (gender expression), I am romantically attracted to men (romantic attraction), and I am sexually attracted to men (sexual attraction). That’s five parts of me where I used to think there was only one: WOMAN. Since all the pieces fit together in a culturally expected way, I have gone through life thinking that it’s all wrapped up together.
The vast majority of people experiences what I experience: you’re born with certain body parts and your life progresses (both internally and externally) in an expected pattern that coincides with those body parts.
It is people navigating life outside these expected experiences that have pointed out that it’s not all one package, but five separate elements to one complex package! That’s where I want to start. Think of one of those all-in-one utensils: a knife, fork, and spoon all in one. That’s me! I came prepackaged, so to speak. But people live as mismatched sets: a stainless steel knife, a silver fork and a plastic spoon. If you’re a spork (or whatever you call it when you also include a knife), you can feel like that’s the way it is for everyone and not understand that it is possible to come from separate sets. When you’re a mismatched set, it can be frustrating to try to explain to a spork what it is you experience and how you feel.
So, as a beginning, think about these five elements and how they are wonderfully, delightfully woven into each of us in a myriad of different ways: biological sex, gender identity, gender expression, romantic attraction, and sexual attraction. I’ll expand on each of these five terms in following posts.