The letter of sex

c: | f: Sex / Society

Gimme an ‘L’. Gimme a ‘G’. Gimme a ‘B’. Gimme a… ‘T’… ‘I’… ‘A’… WTF? I can’t keep up.

Being homosexual in the fifties was easy. Okay, maybe easy is a trifle glib: you were called names or worse, maybe even prosecuted like Alan Turing. But it was easy in the sense that there were terms that defined your sexual outlook, and that was about it.

By the time the eighties rolled in, nothing much had changed bar the fact homosexuality was considered legal. The law might have improved, but acceptance took far longer. Like Skoda jokes at my school, stereotypes were hard to shake and, in the vernacular of my youth, girl kisses girl = lezzer; boy kisses boy = bender.

The terms were used to indicate your sexual preference towards members of the same sex as you were assigned at birth. The fact the world contains anomalies – those who have atypical or congenital traits and therefore can’t conveniently be classified as either – seemed to be largely glossed over before political correctness became de rigueur.

Clearly, sex isn’t that clear. And this is becoming more apparent in the current, ever expanding system of letters in today’s soup of inclusivity. What we seem to have is a curious mix of not just gender preference, but gender identity, all rolled into one queer mess.

I identify as male. If I was attracted to other men, I’d feel a little put out that I’d be lumped in the same societal group as someone who:

  • Has two or more appendages or recesses.
  • Possesses both a train and a tunnel.
  • Decides to flip between male and female identity depending on mood.
  • Mutilates their body to switch between one or another sex.
  • Changed their identity and loves the opposite sex.

And yet that’s what has happened. In a bid to try and be as inclusive as possible, those that were once marginalised now have a place – a single place – where they can belong. To be stronger in number. To proudly say it’s okay to just be without feeling pressured by outmoded ideals and pre-Victorian values that prevail in the underbelly of today’s society.

Yes, the snappily-titled LGBTIAQ+ movement.

Where PC sex went wrong: identity vs outlook

When it became socially apparent that there was a bit more to being queer than whispering at dinner parties about those gay/lesbian freaks, the shift started by encompassing the hedge-betters: bisexuals. That makes sense. After all, you don’t have to just be attracted to one or the other sex, even though the laws of this country don’t recognise any valid marital union beyond one-plus-one. LGB FTW!

Then someone – I know not who – threw gender identity into the mix and the whole thing started to spiral out of control. Before political correctness was even a thing, I think Monty Python satirised the state of one’s identity best in Life of Brian, pushing the envelope (as was their wont) at a time when it was considered totally not cool to do so:

FRANCIS: Why are you always on about women, Stan?
STAN: I want to be one.
REG: What?
STAN: I want to be a woman. From now on, I want you all to call me ‘Loretta’.
REG: What?!
LORETTA: It’s my right as a man.
JUDITH: Well, why do you want to be Loretta, Stan?
LORETTA: I want to have babies.
REG: You want to have babies?!
LORETTA: It’s every man’s right to have babies if he wants them.
REG: But… you can’t have babies.
LORETTA: Don’t you oppress me.
REG: I’m not oppressing you, Stan. You haven’t got a womb! Where’s the foetus going to gestate?! You going to keep it in a box?!

That cuts right to the heart of the matter. The way you identify yourself and express your rights your entire life is tied to something you currently have no control over: your assigned birth gender. Maybe in future we will afford parents that control. Maybe we won’t.

The notion of gender identity isn’t new, but rarely made mainstream, perhaps out of fear of recrimination in a gender-oppressive and chauvinistic society. There are a few notable exceptions where a character in, for example, some well-known 1940s books made awkward gender affirmations:

I’m female. I dress like a tomboy and cut my hair short. I’m called Georgina but hate that, so I prefer George and I’ll sulk if you call me anything else. Come on, Timmy, let’s go out for some cake in the village.

Enid Blyton might not have been the most politically correct writer of all time – all black people and carnival folk are inherently evil, after all – but writing a character that had gender identity issues fifty years before it became borderline socially acceptable takes literary balls. Imagine the situation in the updated editions today:

My parents told me I’m female but I don’t feel like one. I dress like a tomboy, cut my hair short, yet still like boys. I’m called Georgina but hate that, so I prefer George and I’ll sulk if you call me anything else. Come on, Timmy, let’s go out to an LGBTIAQ+ meeting in the village.

The letter of the sexual law

So when did sexual attraction become embroiled in sexual identity or ambiguity? Being transgender, intersex or asexual has nothing – nothing – to do with how you feel about love. Why does it matter what type of bits you have? Love transcends everything.

If you decide your sexual identity is not the same as that at birth, whether or not you go to the lengths to physically alter it (or might change your mind the year after) your sexual preference doesn’t dictate which public bathroom you should use. Why should a lesbian who is comfortable in her gender identity have to join parades with people who wish to identify as something different? Shouldn’t there be a sexual preference group and a sexual identity group so people could choose to join one? Or both?

Society of course has bigger problems to face with regards public spaces. If all toilets aren’t converted to unisex – with all the expense and extra land and ecological damage this brings – will it lead to us all being issued mandatory sexual ID cards stating our current nominated gender? So when the police are called in after someone complains about a person with a beard entering the ladies toilets, it can be proven they identify with females and aren’t just there for a crafty Sherman in the next stall?

And what happens when another group who identify as something else want to join the party? Neutral? Non-binary? Das? They’ll have to tack on their letter to the list LGBTIAQND+. We’ll have to start using the Greek alphabet soon like the mathematicians did. And Nominet will have to change their TLD assignments to reflect the latest fad; it’s already out of date.

Why be everything to everyone?

It seems that the definition of a lesbian has been subtly altered from “a girl who shags girls” to “someone who identifies as female and is attracted to others who identify as female”. That leaves those such as myself who “identify as male and are attracted to others who identify as female” or those who are “born female but identify as male today, and are attracted to others who identify as female” out in the cold. What would that person be labelled? Why do we feel the need to be labelled at all?

Sure, I’m over-represented in Western society so arguably don’t need my own group. My label fell off a long time ago. Is it that only those who feel powerless or find themselves in a minority decide they need to ‘belong’ to something? Or has the omnipresent media raised awareness of the fact very few fit neatly in a box that a damn computer has to understand. Progress? Pah!

Shouldn’t we just ditch this single, ever-expanding system of letters and symbols that tries to cater to everyone? All it seems to do is marginalise the people it supposedly represents, as more “wacky” groups are added to it. If society at large and the media feel it absolutely necessary to classify everyone, why not use two systems? Or three?

How about a system that recognises gender identity, and a parallel one that asserts attraction, or lack thereof. That not only encompasses classical boy-girl unions but every other combination under the sun, more clearly and unambiguously than now:

  • Identifying gender: MFN.
  • Sexual gender preference: LGBH.

That gives some unique opportunities:

  • MH: Male heterosexual.
  • FL: Identify as female, prefer others that identify as female.
  • MG: Identify as male, prefer others that identify as male.
  • NL: Identify as non-binary, prefer others that identify as female.
  • NH: Identify as non-binary, possibly a different sex to that assigned at birth, prefer others that identify as opposite.
  • F: Female with no specified gender preference.
  • B: Bisexual outlook, but with sexual identity in flux.

It’s not perfect: I came up with it in two minutes. But isn’t that more inclusive and expansive than the crazy, unscalable situation we have now?

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