sex and gender

Gender non-conforming people have always been with us and yet it was only really beginning in the 20th century that we began to try and truly attempt to analyse what made them tick. This began with the work of people like Alfred Kinsey and Magnus Hirshfeld as well as Harry Benjamin who tried to put some form of scientific rigour and categorization to try and explain behaviour that had existed as long as people have been on this planet.

The results were mixed and what we ended up doing was akin to putting a harness on a wild stallion. The lack of scientific evidence for an origin of the desire to express one’s gender in opposition to one’s birth sex led to dead ends everywhere. However what we also discovered is that the range of expression was actually more varied than we had imagined. Kinsey found much the same thing when he began to study the sexual tastes (through very private questioning) of people who on the surface looked to be normative in every sense. Behind closed doors, people were doing all kinds of things proving that the range of human sexuality was more expansive than first imagined.

As a result of the Kinsey work, we began to see how gender variance fit into the picture in that people who identified as neither, both or the opposite gender struggled to find their place in a world that only valued hetero normative sex and then only for the purposes of procreation.

As western society became more sexually liberated in the 1960’s we began to see more concrete evidence of the tastes that people held but the question of gender variance remained more of a taboo subject. Even as we saw cases like Lile Elbe, Christine Jorgensen and April Ashley transition, the world still saw these people more as rare anomalies rather than as the more extreme cases of a spectrum that was larger than generally suspected.

Males were exposed to such extreme scrutiny that secretive societies were formed in order to express even the most basic forms of gender variance. This would not have happened if the social malleability existed that would allow them such expression. As a result such activity for outsiders became associated with schizophrenic and abnormal behaviour when in fact it was just a safety valve for men who felt otherwise completely repressed to display their femininity.

Virginia Prince and other activists would attempt to show that these heterosexual men were in every other way normal. They were your banker, your doctor or your milkman and in fact they were. It’s just that they had no other outlets. Some were just happy donning dresses and performing menial tasks that they saw their own mothers do; all in the aim to express something almost primordial in their psyches; something which is to this day still not fully understood.

With the loosening of gender restrictions we are seeing the behaviour in the pure light of day and we see that it is no more bizarre than that of sexual practices of everyday people. The myth that everyone has heterosexual intercourse in the missionary position for the sole purposes of conceiving a baby has been essentially wiped out and the next frontier will now be gender identity and expression.

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