Queer Eye | Issue 05
All the Sex(es)
Today we are continuing our 101 of queer identities by looking at sex. Not the sex that you do but the sex that you have been assigned. Confused? Well, let us begin with some baby-making.
People make babies. They make them in a whole lot of different ways, but what they have in common is that they used sperm, eggs and a womb. Then after much pushing, sweating, cursing or surgery, that baby is born. Medical professionals then assign them a gender (sex) such as male or female based on physical attributes such as genitalia and hormones.
Not all babies neatly fit within this sex binary. Somewhere between one in 100 and one in 2,000 babies are born intersexed. This is an umbrella term for a range of conditions that lead to people not neatly fitting what medical professionals define as male or female. This may result in external or internal differences which are usually identified early in someone’s life, although can also become evident during puberty or when someone tries to reproduce. If you want to know more check out www.ianz.org.nz
Once a baby is born, its parents and wider society set about imposing gender norms on it. This might include blue and pink decor, boys’ and girls’ toys, gendered clothes, etc. We will look into gender construction in a later column, but it does raise the question: what would the world look like if we didn’t impose socially constructed gender norms on a baby just because of their birth sex? Or to quote Monty Python, when someone asks “is it a boy or a girl?” maybe we should reply, “I think it is a bit early to be imposing roles on it, don’t you?”
The fact is that we don’t live in a vacuum and it is therefore very difficult to discern how much of our own sense of gender derives inherently from our birth sex or how much is a result of our upbringing and wider social narratives. What we do need to do is to critique that social narrative where it is too restrictive and causes harm.