sex_and_gender

Sex and Gender

(Topics: Society & Culture | Back to Home)

Just recently, I saw an albino squirrel darting across a fence line. The creature itself is not rare, but the complete lack of pigmentation is striking. Where we expect to see a brownish coat with dark eyes is instead replaced by bleach-white fur and piercing red peepers. It is a sight to behold.

Nature, as is all of life, is filled with lots and lots of specimens, almost all of which fall into predictable categories. Most animals, for example, are the colors we anticipate. But once in a while there is a striking, beautiful exception.

The variations in the natural world are sometimes readily visible. On rare occasion one can find a a four leaf clover. Sometimes a dog will have one blue eye and one brown eye [1]. At other times, these exceptions cannot be seen. There are extremes in people's senses and mental faculties. And, the natural world extends from chemical and biological processes all the way up to behaviors and cultural trends. Most people enjoy chocolate, for example, but not everyone. The cause of this may not be entirely clear, but no matter what mechanism is at work, it is a variation.

And it should be no surprise that there is also a spectrum with regard to our relationships to others. Most people (but not all) are interested in intimate, sexual relationships. Most people (but not all) perceive themselves as one of two, common gender identities (man or woman). Most people (but not all) were born with and embrace a collection of physical, social, and mental characteristics associated with one of two sexes (male or female). That other variations exist is completely predictable, just as it is predictable that a small percentage of the population is allergic to nuts.

But that doesn't make it easy to understand. If all you've ever known is world that you personally experienced, then anything outside that can feel strange and perhaps questionable. But variation exists, and we live in a culture that is increasingly okay with people being different.

Sex and gender may not be as simple as you thought they were. But neither is almost anything else. And that's okay, as long as we keep talking about it, try to understand eachother, and make decisions together about what is best.

It's not easy. In fact, it may be among the most difficult things we have to do. Because it requires that we listen more than we speak.

Which may be the most important lesson for all of us to learn.


[1] It's called heterochromia.


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