And just in time for #NationalComingOutDay
Growing up, we were taught either by nature or nurture that there is only boy and girl, man and woman or, male and female. From boys are tough to girls like pink and a favorite anecdote from my youth, “ang bote ay hindi para sa bote at ang takip hindi para sa takip,” sexuality was a topic barely talked about and generally avoided. To put my anecdote into context, it simply means a bottle cap is made only for the bottle.
But wait, we’re not bottles. There’s so much more we need to learn and discover about sexuality, including our own. For one, it’s not solely based on anatomy. Sexuality is made up of one’s biological reproductive organs, identity, orientation and expression. In my case, I am biologically female and I identify as a woman. My preference is to be with a woman (making my orientation lesbian) and I choose to express myself in feminine style.
It’s a lot to take in or understand, especially since many of us were raised to believe that a man should like to wear pants, only women wear makeup and only a man can lay with a woman and vice versa. Media does little to help the cause; adding a gay character for comedic effect or putting a tomboy as lead that later turns straight because she met the “right man.” How then do we learn?
Listen. Keep an open mind. Accept that you may or may never understand but that’s okay, you don’t have to. Respect and let others live the life they are meant to.
Herewith, an introduction to gender etiquette:
Kren identifies as a (transgender) man. “As a kid, I grew conscious thinking I have a penis. My parents had to teach me to sit down on the toilet. My family pretty much knew from the beginning.” Meanwhile, Jeb came to the realization that she identifies as a woman during her fourth year in uni. “[I] only started my transition in 2016. It was like a second coming out to my family. First telling them that I like men and second that I am a woman. It was a long process but they’re getting around the idea now.” Janlee shares a similar experience with Jeb, saying, “I told my friends casually and my family over dinner with a whole lot of explaining.”
But while kin may learn to accept and understand, others remain a work in progress. Of the three we’ve talked to (and agreed to take part in the discussion), the most common question they are often asked that make them feel uncomfortable is, “What’s between your legs? Have you undergone sex reassignment surgery?” Unless you are closely acquainted, such inquiry is reserved for intimate conversations and not icebreakers.
But perhaps, the most heartbreaking and unsought remark they’ve received is different incarnations of, “There is no such thing as being transgender because my gender identity is just in my head and I’m probably just making things up.”
Well, just as you are the expert in your sexuality, other people are probably the expert in theirs. That’s what Sex, Y, Z, a web series that explores and demystifies sex and sexuality, attempts to validate. In the series’ school of thought, one day labels will no longer be necessary and people can just be the gender they are meant to be. But until that day comes, please mind your manners and stop asking about people’s genitals.
Art Alexandra Lara