In my last article, I tried to articulate the primary definition of Sex, Gender, and Sexual Orientation. I had, in my mind, this thought to write a follow-up article, which shall deal with 'Gender' in more detail because it needs special attention (without a doubt it is a sophisticated topic).
Gender, as described earlier, is a social construct. We all know that and those who don't, please take a note.
Gender is ascribed to how you talk, behave, eat, walk, and it is ascribed to the freedom you get and so on. To understand the nuances of this word, which has immense capacity to affect our lives, I decided to read a lot about ‘Gender’ and 'Gender Politics'.
In particular, No Outlaws in the Gender Galaxy – this book by four queer individuals - Chayanika Shah, Raj Merchant, Shals Mahajan, and Smriti Nevatia – was an important discovery. The book is a product of a research project which consisted of studying the lives of 50 queer people from India (mostly belonging to the marginalised castes - hence, it makes the study much more critical in outlining how they are doubly ostracised as they belong to a lower caste and that, that they're queer; both of which are looked down upon in the Indian society). And, in this book, I learned a lot about how 'Gender' is 'Naturalised'.
Two of the most interesting and important terms used in the book are PAGFB (Person Assigned Gender Female at Birth) and PAGMB (Person Assigned Gender Male at Birth). The usage of such terms was the mark of a sensitive and detailed study in this field. According to the authors, no one is born 'Female' or 'Male', they are assigned a 'gender' when they are born (a similar argument can be extended in the field of religion - we assign a religion to our children. Religion of the parents is considered to be the default religion of our children.)
And, hence they are expected to behave and perform in the way 'Male' and 'Female' ought to perform.
Our society has assigned certain roles and responsibilities to the gender binary – Male and Female. Let’s learn what are the criteria to qualify as a male and a female.
A 'Male' should be tall, muscular, rough, ready for a brawl, should hide his emotions, cannot cry, is full of rage, has a monopoly over adventure; needless to say should have a penis, and should be the one who penetrates and dominates a woman. A male should earn for the family, go out, can roam late into the night, can talk loudly, can drink, and beat his wife.
In nutshell, male should play the active role of a controller, master, and dominator.
A 'Female' should be a little shorter in height, have a typical body which is desirable, smell good, attract and woo the husband, sophisticated, behave in an appropriate manner (whatever that means), speak less, can cry, bear children, stay indoors; she should succumb to the needs of a man. A female should be the one who should be taking care of the family, be home before dark – if a working professional, and be obedient to her husband.
In nutshell, female should play the passive role of a subservient, servant, and receiver.
This is how our society has defined the roles of man and woman in the world: this statement not only exhibit the ignorance of people other than the gender binary but brand them as un-natural beings.
My dear reader, as it is natural to be in conflict with the assigned gender and the gender we associate ourselves with, our biological anatomy doesn't always decide our gender roles but society does. It decides on our behalf what should be our roles depending on what is in between our legs!
One should learn that there are not only two genders: Male and Female. Gender is a spectrum; it includes being male, female, transgender, bigender, agender, nongender, genderqueer, androgynous, genderfluid etc. Sadly, society has classified itself into male and female genders only. And refuses to accept people who identify their gender one among the non-binary list.
And anyone who doesn't identify themselves as one among the two gender extremes, they are not accepted by the society and are often discriminated. You might have heard a lot of statements like any one or all of these:
These are a select few situations and rather mild. The community faces a lot of other adversities discussion of which is beyond the scope of this article. Many of you might have laughed on homophobic jokes, participated in insensitive commentary which makes it difficult for queer people to 'come-out' because, let's face it, everyone wants to be loved and feel included. Besides the external agencies that disturb queer people, it is more of an internal negotiation: who am I, to whom I get attracted, will I ever be able to perform my sexuality? And, these are not just questions, they are fears.
But society doesn't care. Society assumes that you're male or female depending upon the way you dress, talk, behave and do anything actually. We should be more sensitive towards the non-binary gender: Ask how they would like to be addressed, which pronoun to be used – he/she/ze/they, and which restroom they would like to use. But we only recognise the popular pronouns - 'He' and 'She' and we never cared to have a washroom/restroom in our offices or other institutions that can be used by non-binary genders. Besides facing a lot of discrimination at home, queer people face inner conflicts and on top of it, they are not treated equally in the workplace, often the object of amusement for other people. (This is just a peripheral discussion; I shall address this in detail in other submissions.)
It is just a glimpse into the world of exclusion and discrimination, which the non-binary genders face. And, will there be any end to it. No, if we continue to 'naturalise' genders.
Saurabh Sharma is a passionate writer, theatre artist and public speaker. Currently working as a content marketer. He's a freelance journalist at Palimpsest Publishing House for their monthly issue, The Equator Line and writes on Youth Ki Awaaz about the stifling environment of LGBTQIA+ community in India.