Society

Busting misconceptions about the LGBTQIA+ community: Part 1

During the pride month of 2020, through social media platforms like Instagram, people were asked to submit questions they have about the LGBTQIA+ community. The questions submitted were divided and sorted to screen out the frequently asked questions which have been answered in the following article, backed by research and factual data, for the general awareness of the public.

The term ‘LGBTQIA+ community’ typically represents all the genders and sexualities, and the abbreviation can be expanded as Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, intersex, asexual and the + represents all the other 68 genders which have been so far identified as an individual’s gender identity. The term LGBT community was formed in the 1980s, Q was later recorded in 1996 for queer or questioning, and then I for intersex, A for asexuality and + were added to represent all others.

Gender is the identity which is not restricted to the most common biological definition of sex but is much larger than the present binary definition of male and female which exists in the common parlance. It can differ from sex at birth or may remain the same. Many societies recognize the idea of a third gender but are still aloof to many other gender identities which exist. Whereas many societies and religions still see gender identities which deviate from the binary as an abomination. Gender identity is formed within an individual and is not a disorder either psychological or physiological.

Lesbian and gay identities in a larger understanding are comprehended by many, while many confuse trans and intersex identities. Transgender individuals identify with a different gender than the one assigned at birth (and it is not limited to surgical changes of the biological sex), while intersex is the existence of sex characteristics such as internal organs, hormones or anatomy which is not easily characterised by the binary sex definitions.

Questioning why the genders exist is like questioning why all the colours exist. The genders exist because that is what makes people who they are an identity they associate with, like the cultural identities which exist in this world so do many gender identities.

How do people identify themselves as homosexual? Is it possible to be sexually attracted to one gender and romantically to another? To answer these questions, few members of the community who identify as bisexuals were interviewed over the telephone apart from the available literature and could be concluded that, Sexuality is a fluid concept, the LGBTQIA+ community has people who are a-romantic (not romantically attracted to anyone) and asexual (not sexually attracted to anyone),  there is no step by step procedure to know one’s sexual identity, for some it may click as young as when they are 10 years old, while for others it takes time. How do people know they’re straight? When they feel attracted to another gender. It is important to note that sexuality is fluid, it’s a spectrum so one can lie anywhere on it, not necessarily on the extreme ends that are heterosexual and homosexual.

While it can still remain confusing for many members of the community, but they are not in a hurry to label themselves, if they are confused but yet are sure that they are not straight and want to use a label, they can choose to identify themselves as queer.

While many people like to use labels, many do not. The heteronormative of our society forces many people to keep labels, while others are more fluid with how they describe themselves. Both sexuality and gender identity are different from one another. Sexuality is a sexual preference: eg. gay, lesbian, pansexual, asexual etc. while gender identity describes one’s gender, eg. male, female or Non-Binary (their gender identity does not conform to that of a woman or a man) etc. Sometimes two sexualities, like bisexual, pansexual, omnisexual may overlap but mean the same thing. However, the distinction is important to some and has since remained in use within the community.

“Sexual attract and romantic attract can differ for each person, and yes one can feel platonic love for one gender and sexual attraction towards another, relationships are built on understanding and various other factors, the kind of understanding one might receive from someone may not be able to experience it with another, at the end what matters more in such situations is not hurting someone in the process of identifying one’s own identity,” says the anonymous interviewee.

Is it natural?

Homosexuality is not limited to humans. It can be observed among various animals and other species as well. Nature is more accepting than the rigid societal norms of the society constructed by humans. As opposed to the common belief, there are in fact 6 biologically recognised sexes or 6 most commonly occurring karyotypes, 

  • X – around 1 in 2,000 to 1 in 5,000 people (Turner’s )
  • XX – Most common form of female
  • XXY – around 1 in 500 to 1 in 1,000 people (Klinefelter)
  • XY – Most common form of male
  • XYY – around 1 out of 1,000 people
  • XXXY – around 1 in 18,000 to 1 in 50,000 births

As per basic grade 10 science,  XX representing female and XY representing male can be found as the most common biological sex markers. As per the study by Joshua Kennon, apart from those as noted above, there are 7,000,000,000 people alive who are not the common form of male or female on the biological or natural way, therefore making homosexuality a scientific possibility[1].  The binary gender identities are based on reproductive organs and the ability to reproduce using those organs, but gender identities are much larger than the reproductive organs of an individual. It is not nature which made rigid societal norms about gender identities, it was humans when they formed human societies and it’s establishments. Any idea which is not binary is scary for people, as it deviates from the normal which is seen as a safer path. Nature is what is natural, and being homosexual, asexual or bisexual is what is natural to the members of the LGBTQ+ community, it cannot be restricted by the strict societal binary norms. It is the same society which tried to limit the world within black and white binary as well but nature is not binary, nature is diverse and it is proud of its diversity. 

While largely in the animal kingdom the strongest mate is chosen to increase the chances of baby’s survival, in human’s civil society having an offspring is a matter of choice by two adults, while many choose not to have one, others opt for options like adoption, test-tube babies, or surrogacy to have an offspring thus furthering their genes in the world. While some people from the community do not choose to have kids in any way, they still contribute to the caretaking of children through uncle and aunt relations, it can be seen through the Paul Vasey’s kin selection or helper in the nest hypothesis, which has proven that homosexual relatives give more care to their nieces and nephews than the straight relatives[2].  It was also found in a US-based study that out of the 35% of the gay couples who had babies, 60% of them were biological, thus nullifying the statement that reproduction is not possible in a homosexual relationship as reproducing in a medically advanced society like ours is not limited to binary sex reproduction.

Is it a disorder or unethical?

A disorder can be defined as “an illness that causes a part of the body to stop functioning correctly” whereas in the LGBTQ community no such symptoms have been found. Though it was listed in the DSM-I (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders volume I) as a disorder in 1952, after thorough scientific research it was removed in the year 1973 from the DSM-III onwards, and since has not been a disorder but an identity people associate themself with.

Something to be deemed unethical it has to break rules set by people. For example, doctors and psychologists follow a set of rules set by international or local regulatory bodies, such as sharing patient information is unethical as the information is confidential and cannot be disclosed without the consent of the patient. Associating with the LGBTQIA+ community is deviating from the norms of binary, and while many religions see it as a sin, it can also be seen as immoral. This deems it unethical in the eyes of religions for breaking the rules set by the religion. Certain cultures may see the community as unethical and many countries to date have outlawed them. However, the community is constantly fighting in raising awareness about the same to eradicate such beliefs.

So as it can be deferred from the above information, having any kind of sexual identity is not a disorder and nor is it unethical.

Religion and the community.

True, many religions propagate binary sex relationships, while other religions in their scripts and many tribes in North America recognise or have mentioned third genders and have at length discussed them, but yet due to societal stigma attached to sex in India such writings are not taken into account and any talks about sexuality are suppressed.

People from the LGBTQ community, when it comes to religion, as studies suggest more than double the population of the community (48%) recognise themselves as atheist or having no religious affiliations than the general population (20%)[3].

From the study, it was found that a larger proportion of the LGBTQ community chooses to be atheist due to the backlash they face from their religious groups and the religious teachings they preach. More often the LGBTQ community is found to be disappointed and disconnected with their religions but may choose to have strong faith spiritually, or in science and logic. Many LGBTQ members have been seen to face the shame spiral due to their faith and sexuality- how they deal with this dilemma is different for each person.

“If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death, their blood is upon them,” says Leviticus chapter 20, verse 13.

The above quote from the bible is interpreted as homophobic, which has made it difficult for the people of faith to accept homosexuality and also have led the people of the community especially the younger generation in a shame spiral and confusion among other things. Some people choose to believe and accept the good parts of religion and let others go, i.e. they do not have to agree with everything in the Bible or Quran, while others disown the religion entirely. More and more acceptance of the LGBTQ community within the religious groups can be found nowadays, ranging from all religions performing same-sex marriages and promoting that love accepts all.

Footnotes:

[1] Joshua Kennon. (2013, June 07). The 6 Most Common Biological Sexes in Humans. Retrieved from https://www.joshuakennon.com/the-six-common-biological-sexes-in-humans/.

[2] Moskowitz, C. (2010, February 11). How Gay Uncles Pass Down Genes. Retrieved from https://www.livescience.com/6106-gay-uncles-pass-genes.html.

[3]  Henrickson, Mark (2007). “Lavender Faith: Religion, Spirituality and Identity in Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual New Zealanders” (PDF). Journal of Religion & Spirituality in Social Work.. Archived from the original (PDF) on 8 October 2011.

References:

Abrams, M. (2019, December 20). 64 Terms That Describe Gender Identity and Expression. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/different-genders

American Psychological Association (December 2015). “Guidelines for Psychological Practice With Transgender and Gender Nonconforming People” (PDF). American Psychologist. 70 (9): 861. doi:10.1037/a0039906. PMID 26653312.

Chapter 6: Religion. (2019, December 31). Retrieved from https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2013/06/13/chapter-6-religion/.

Faith Positions. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.hrc.org/resources/faith-positions.

Gender and Genetics. (2010, December 01). Retrieved from https://www.who.int/genomics/gender/en/index1.html.

International Sociology, 1992: “All societies have gender systems.”

Joshua Kennon. (2013, June 07). The 6 Most Common Biological Sexes in Humans. Retrieved from https://www.joshuakennon.com/the-six-common-biological-sexes-in-humans/.

Moskowitz, C. (2010, February 11). How Gay Uncles Pass Down Genes. Retrieved from https://www.livescience.com/6106-gay-uncles-pass-genes.html.

Sexual Orientation and Gender Expression in Social Work Practice, edited by Deana F. Morrow and Lori Messinger (2006, ISBN 0231501862), p. 8: “Gender identity refers to an individual’s personal sense of identity as masculine or feminine, or some combination thereof.”

STOLLER, ROBERT J. (November 1964). “The Hermaphroditic Identity of  Hermaphrodites”. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease. 139 (5): 453–457. doi:10.1097/00005053-196411000-00005. PMID 14227492.


This post is the first part of a two-part article. It is authored by Avneet Kaur, a member of the Praxis education trust team as well as the mental health awareness team. 

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