Where Gaynip Watches a Documentary

Last night I was feeling kind of guilty for not going for a walk because I got cornered in the hallway for an hour talking to my neighbour Bob.  He’s a nice guy and I haven’t seen him in a while.  Word got around the apartment building that I might be moving out.  I thought it was only fair to give Henri a preemptive warning.  I can’t believe I haven’t seen Bob in over a month.  “Your hair!!”

I feel sorta bad for him.  Things aren’t going well with his lady, she’s bipolar and apparently burning through his pay so fast he can barely scrape the cash together for lunches and gas to get to work.  He wants to break up with her, and buy the house his ailing mother lives in, but she’s attempted suicide 28 times.  Yeesh.  Tough spot to be in.  On the one hand, I’d had to be “responsible” for someone’s death.  On the other hand I think I would hate it much more to be tied to someone forever out of fear.  Rock.  Hard place.

Maybe I’m insensitive.  I’d probably still leave.  I’d call her family, get someone to come stay with her.  Give an extra key to a friend.  Something.  But I’d probably leave.  Does that make me a monster?  Probably.

Anyway…after the chat with Bob, it was too late/dark to go for a walk.  I decided to watch a movie, and in the interest of at least expanding my mind if I was going to let my ass expand too, I watched “Middle Sex: Redefining He and She“.

It’s a Channel 4 (UK) documentary that discusses gender and the need for that label, and how we treat it.  I didn’t know this, but apparently hermaphrodites used to have their genitals referred to as “ambiguous” and that doctors would make a decision right away on what gender a child was and perform surgery.  Lots and lots of surgery over the span of a lifetime.  This one fellow, Max, had the surgery done and grew up a girl.  A lesbian girl.  Didn’t feel right about being a woman though, so had the G.R.S and became a man.  And seems more like a man than he ever did a woman.

There’s a good bit about transgender and transsexual.  Amazingly, in Thailand, there is something called a “katoey”.  A m2f, sometimes referred to as “lady boys”.  Within the culture of Thailand, this is completely acceptable.  It’s only a problem when families are poverty stricken and the G.R.S. is difficult, or they need the boy/man to take care of the family.

Meanwhile, over in India, it’s culturally “acceptable” for boys to have their first sexual experience with a boy.  According to the documentary, “male bonding” is very normal.  You may of’t see two men holding hands, hugging, dancing erotically together (normally at weddings) and so on.  Some men lead double lives, because they are pressured by their family/society to marry a woman.  They also have a group called the “hijra”, where men sacrifice their sex organs to become women.  They are not respected, and may beg or “do business” in order to keep from starving.  What’s interesting is one of the hijra they followed had an IT degree but it was absolutely useless as he is now a she.

The thing I found most interesting was the Dutch conducted studies about transgender brains and found that while a body may display certain characteristics (IE male sex organs or even DNA!) the brain developed female.  When we’re born, we don’t have a fully formed brain.  I’ve read that it isn’t until your early to mid 20’s that the brain is fully formed!

Did you know that 1 in 100 people don’t have “normal” sex organs?  So in a city like Atlanta, there are 4,000 people who fit that bill.  I had no idea it was so common!  Did you also know that the term hermaphrodite isn’t used anymore?  Intersex is the term.  Much better, methinks.

Another  interesting part of the documentary was a study done on homophobic men.  A group of men were given a survey and based on this survey separated into two groups.  Those not threatened by the sexuality of others, and those who were.  They were then brought into a room, and introduced to a piece of equipment that was worn around the penis that could measure when the penis was becoming, basically, erect (be it not at all, a little, fully).  They were then shown homosexual pornography and asked if they were aroused and how aroused on a scale of 1-10.  If I recall correctly, all the homophobic men registered some arousal, but denied it.  The video didn’t come out and say “They’re homophobic because they hate the gay in themselves” but it’s an interesting connection.

Several of the doctors in the film say that gender and sexuality is rainbows within rainbows within rainbows.  That even somewhere accepting like Thailand, many of the katoey have different ideas about what makes them that way.  That some have full surgery, some half a bit and some have none.

It would go on to point out that humans are the only animals on Earth where we feel the need to strictly adhere to gender labels.  There are around 300 species of animals who display homosexual activity.  There are some species of animal that bond for life and others who do not.  But it is only humans who give themselves these cut and dry roles.

The only real “problem” I had with the documentary is that it covered male to female but nothing on female to male.  I would have been very interested in knowing how culture views that.  Is it less prevalent?  Is it more socially acceptable because we live in a male dominated society?  Certainly it’s okay for girls to be tomboys but it’s not okay for boys to be effeminate.  Seems unfair.

After I broke up with Johnny, my cross dressing then-boyfriend, he lamented to me about how unfair it was that I could wear all the boys clothes I wanted.  I could wear pants, boots, men’s shirts.  I could wear men’s underwear or be male in my hobbies and habits but that it was not okay for him to do things as girls do.  I didn’t see anything wrong with what he was doing.  I liked hanging out with him when he was Johnny or when he was Alys.

For me, I think this was a bit eye opening.  Granted in the past few years I’ve become much more relaxed about my ideas on gender, gender roles and sexuality.  I’m still figuring a lot of it out.  I noted with Ilanikhan that “Mrs. Doubtfire” was pretty out of date by today’s standards.  Court ordered psych test for a dad who dresses like a lady?  Psh.  “Woman” who can pee standing up?  Not weird.  ‘Though she was quick to point out that my circle of friends changed what’s “normal” for me.

Perhaps not so oddly, I have always struggled with gender.  Even before I realized that I didn’t like boys, I didn’t do what was considered hetero-normative.  I played with Ninja Turtles, Lincoln Logs, Transformers and wore Mr.T A-Team jammies.  My hero was She-Ra because she was a girl with a sword and didn’t let the boys have all the fun.  If we played house, I was always the husband (whether I chose the role or was elected to it).  I wasn’t much of an athlete but when my sister joined Guides, I was playing baseball.  I did soccer.  I rode my bike all the time.  I fell down, scraped myself and thought the scars were cool.  Plus, there was that whole attraction to girls thing going on.

It would be fascinating to find out that I had a male developed brain all along.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. cloves
    Jul 11, 2010 @ 18:05:56

    i love, love, love reading your blog. love it


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