Wednesday 26 October 2016

Vive la difference - but it all does get a bit confusing...

Published 20/09/2015 | 02:30

A participant takes part in Sydney's colourful gay Mardi Gras. 'It is only right that more people feel comfortable in defining their sexuality'
A participant takes part in Sydney's colourful gay Mardi Gras. 'It is only right that more people feel comfortable in defining their sexuality'

The wonderfully powerful thing about language is that it is effervescent and ever expanding. From time to time, word combinations evolve in the language which clearly encapsulate the zeitgeist, thus affording us a short cut to what it is we are trying to say. For instance when we first heard the word, 'omni-shambles' or 'photo bombing', new incarnations of old words made perfect sense. Other words and phrases transpire but instead of providing convenience - only lead to enhance the confusion, like 'conscious uncoupling' for example.

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Last Saturday morning, I received a slightly unnerving early morning wake-up call from my 70-plus-year-old mother (who is probably more open minded than she should be). "Good Morning Dear, what is gender fluidity?" she asked.

Fearing the worst, I experienced my very first flush of sympathy for the Kardashian clan. I wondered if this meant that I would have to go shopping for a brand-new wardrobe with my mother in Louis Copeland.

Bleary eyed, I endeavoured to elucidate what I thought 'gender fluidity' meant. I quickly realised that I actually had no real clue.

I explained (pointlessly) that I suspected it was a term to allow people to be either male or female, and that individuals who use it should be afforded freedom to feel comfortable in both scenarios.

There was silence.

Eventually, as I blathered on about social acceptance, my mother arrived at her own tangible understanding and triumphantly declared: "I see . . . so you mean it's cross dressing."

Protesting that 'gender fluidity' was something more emotionally deeper in the psyche was futile. She was gone, safe in her new understanding and armed with a new phrase to inflict on everyone.

At this stage, you are probably thinking, my mother just doesn't understand; it's a generational thing. But on this one, I am with you Mum.

The discovery of yet another new term to understand left me slightly disappointed with myself, and slightly annoyed that there is another new social concept that I have to get my head around. I cannot keep up.

Having heretofore considered myself extremely erudite and urbane and perhaps even part of the inner circle when it comes to terminology that is de rigueur, I suddenly felt like an outsider looking in. My complete ignorance of an entirely new phraseology around the transgender social issue left me deflated and sent me scurrying to the internet in search of answers. Mon Dieu, I only found even more questions.

The passing of the Gender Recognition Bill this summer has seen the transgender community flourish. Good for them. Having lived behind the closed doors of social acceptance for so long, it is delightful and only right that more people feel comfortable with defining their sexuality or gender status publicly.

Those of us who campaigned for equality in relation to the same sex referendum may have a lot to answer for, as new definitions and terms continue to pop up all over the place. For instance, cisgender, genderqueer, intersex, transgender, transsexual, pansexual, gender non-binary, and 'demi guy' are, to name but a few, terms I found on my search.

Honestly, it is all getting very 'People's Front of Judea'.

Did you know that the term LGBT an acronym that stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender community, has now changed to LGBTQ. To some, the additional new 'Q' stands for queer (which I thought was now offensive) and to others it stands for questioning. And well it might, I have another one for you boys and girls - WTF?

I get it, honestly I do. Homosexuality, cross dressing, transgender, all of it, I love it. Good for you. But please stop coming up with new ones I don't understand.

It is not a politically correct thing to say and I am in acute danger of being 'cyber bombed' or 'trolled' or something unpleasant, but I no longer care.

I do not consider myself a liberal but rather someone who believes in equality, something that I believe supersedes and also encompasses liberalism. But even the most liberally minded among us are trying to get our heads around this one.

As I now understand it, the question of gender fluidity does not relate to how one appears but rather the emotional state of mind at any given time. Fluidity relates to the point on the spectrum between which you feel like a male or a female. Right.

I cannot profess to understand it because I have not experienced this feeling. Although there have been times that I have certainly wished I was a man (but only ever in a professional capacity because they get away with murder for more money).

Having advocated and supported the quest for equality for so long, I am finding it hard to get my head around the term 'fluidity'. The clamour to define one's identity is perhaps understandable, in my eyes the fight for equality was about making everyone the same, not about creating more and more sub groups.

The emergence of differing terminologies are an anathema to the initial objective and essentially a contradiction in terms. Having fought so hard for equality, is it necessary to crave even more definition by seeking to be undefined?

We are all the same. Although sometimes I still wish I was a man.

Irish Independent

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