“What if?” — Sex, Gender and Sexuality

A few weeks ago, I wanted to loosen my braids and decided to sleepover at my friend, Mofe’s place, Big mistake. She simply ignored me till I finished, but kept me company by surfing the net and reading out funny memes to me. After a while, she came across a blogpost and hissed. Curious, I scooted over and peeked from her shoulder, and found out it was a gender-based argument that was trending online, and a lot of people had a million things to say, we went through some comments, some were horrible, some indifferent, some hateful and offensive. I got very uncomfortable. Mofe, must have caught on as she suddenly turned to me and asked “Chi, what if you were transgender?” Bewildered I rashly replied. “I WOULD NEVER DO THAT!” WHAT IF! It was a harmless situation, or so I thought, but I found myself drifting back to that conversation many times the following week, I felt like I had said something wrong, but couldn’t quite place it until I eventually decided to address it with a simple logic. I call it “playing pretence.” I went “What if one day I slept as a woman, and woke up with the same feeling of being a woman but looked in the mirror and saw beards, tried to talk and discovered I sounded many octaves below my normal vocal range, with a pair of matching testicles, what would happen?” Now! I don’t know about you, but if that happened to me, I definitely would freak out, throw tantrums, call 112, declare a public holiday, and demand a press conference where I will announce a huge bounty for anyone who could fix it. By hook or by crook, I would get my body back.” Maybe not as dramatic as that, but I would definitely drive myself into depression and everything else a mental wreck could offer.

It is safe to say, I am still a woman and while the analogy could never come close to understanding a transgender, it did open my eyes to what being transgender could mean. I decided to school myself on this easily ignored minority in the LGBTQ+ community.

Sex, gender, transgender

Chaz Bono once said “gender is between your ears and sex is between your legs.” Sex is the characteristic of being male or female, routinely assigned at birth by a physician, after carefully observing the physical anatomy of the new-born. It is either male or female. Biological sex remains the same from cradle to grave, with the exception of a case where the new-born’s anatomy cannot be distinctively classified. This is called Intersex. “inter” which means “between.” Gender on the other hand, remains a daunting topic to explore as it pans beyond striking a (M) or (F) on an identity card. It is the range of characteristics used to differentiate between masculinity and femininity; it includes biological sex, sex-based social structures and gender identity. Gender identity is a personal sense of one’s gender which is often expressed as male or female (gender-binary,) in between (gender-fluid,) outside the structure of both (non-binary) and many more. Transgender is a term for people whose gender identity does not match with their assigned sex at birth. The opposite is Cisgender.

Read also: Who can you talk to about your sexuality?

Gender & Sexuality

The Transgender community is an entirely different environment in the big umbrella of the LGBTQIA+ as it includes, but goes beyond sexual identities and preferences. Does that mean it isn’t something they just wake up one day and declare it as a path they want to take? Yes! They only come to the realization of it, just like every other group in the LGBTQ+ community. Hold on, does that mean they can’t help it? Yes!… Can they be black? Yes! They can be of any colour and race! One more, can they be queer? Yes. In fact, many transmen and women at some point in their journey have once thought themselves to be gay, or lesbian respectively. Realization of being trans only came when they discovered they didn’t quite fit well into the groups based on how they felt. Gender is clearly different from Sexuality as the former addresses your sense of self, while the latter refers to how you feel sexually in relation to others. Transgender folks can be queer, straight, pan or even asexual.

Lessons learned

After schooling myself on the issue of being transgender, my respect grew for this group of wonderful people, who have fought through confusion, doubts, denial, pain, social ridicule while battling with gender dysphoria (a feeling of distress and psychological discomfort in relation to one’s assigned sex) and have decided to be true to themselves no matter what. It is safe to say I made a resolve never to judge anyone, if I didn’t understand their journey and was oblivious to their experiences. It is also safe to say, it really wasn’t a big mistake, going over to Mofe’s place that night, even though I had to loosen my braids all by myself.

*Names in this piece have been changed to protect privacy, and all images used are stock photos meant for illustrative purposes only.

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