Lessons from My Equity Reading

I LOVE that one of my books for school actually correctly differentiates between sex and gender. I get so frustrated when even professors and other academics conflate the two. So, for everyone’s benefit ( I don’t want to assume that those who find/read my blog know this), here are the definitions I ascribe to (pulled from the UC Berkeley’s Gender Equity Resource Center website):

Sex:

“A person’s sex refers to one’s biology – specifically, one’s chromosomes, external genitalia, secondary sexual characteristics (development of breasts, pubic hair, etc.), and internal reproductive system. Sex is a term used historically and within the medical field to identify genetic/hormonal and physical characteristics that are used to classify an individual as female, male, or intersex… Sex is a legal assignment at birth. How sex is determined is socially constructed and historically and culturally variable.”

Gender:

“Gender is a set of socially constructed, assigned behaviors and identity patterns which are often perceived to be intertwined with and/or equivalent to one’s sexual biology. In fact, gender is constructed and fluid, having multiple meanings across cultures, geographies, communities, and individuals. Although society promotes the dualistic concept that people are either a woman or a man, there are more than two genders… Gender can be understood as having several components, including “Assigned Gender,” “Gender Expression,” “Gender Identity,” and “Gender Role.” “

A lovely sentiment from my book about the interplay between sex and gender: “Shortly upon receiving that information [of sex], the culture surrounding each human begins to construct the roles of gender on the scaffolding of biological sex” (Brown, 2008, p131).

Here are some other points from my reading I thought were worth sharing:

“Exclusion is not necessary when inclusion is not protected” (Brown, 2008, p176)- in reference to sexual orientation trauma

“Even nondisclosure can have negative outcomes arising from the strategies of distancing and disengagement from families used by many LGB people in attempts to conceal their sexual orientation from family, something Pharr (1988) referred to as ‘internal exile'” (Brown, 2008, p171)

[I know about that for sure. I am glad, on the one hand, I came out to my parents because I had certainly grown distant from my keeping our relationship and my sexual orientation a secret. The same had happened with J’s parents. But now we have the ambiguous/sort-of-weird situation that arises when my parents know, but don’t really want to know about my life. Such as when I informed them I am going to HUMP this weekend. Their shock and embarrassment tells me they don’t really want to know about the sex positive community I associate with.]

“…considerable scholarship would suggest that even good parents who are themselves traumatized may have difficulties in parenting their children in such a manner as to offer sufficient support in the development of self-capacities. Parenting is an excellent example of a normative developmental milestone that can be compromised by earlier trauma exposures. Clinically, as adults these children may present with very different sets of concerns. When the traumatized parent has conveyed to the child her or his lovability and can assist the child to cognitively appraise that what is happening with the caregiver is not the child’s fault, outcomes are best, and it may require careful history taking by a psychotherapist who is aware of age-related trauma dynamics to uncover the possible contribution of parental trauma to a now adult’s difficulties with normative developmental strivings. This appears to be a more common result of situations in which a functional caregiver-child relationship is disrupted midway by a trauma such as a natural disaster or social upheaval that temporarily impairs the adult’s caregiving capacities but does not affect her or his basic love for the child or awareness of the child’s developmental needs…Somewhat more problematic appears to be parenting in which the caregiver is affected by trauma in her or his own history that has not been adequately dealt with by the caregiver” (Brown, 2008, p122-3).

[Long quote, I know, but related to my own musings about the intergenerational transfer of trauma that, in my opinion, inevitably happens, even when the previously traumatized parent has healed from the trauma. I think it can be immensely comforting to recognize that we are not born and evolve in a vacuum, but that we develop in the midst of complex family stories and narratives and we don’t have to take on the family’s burdens all by ourselves. For me, this is related to the sexual trauma my mom and her siblings endured, how that has been transferred to my sister and I, and how I have mediated that trauma in my own empowerment framework of sexuality to reclaim my sexuality.]

2 thoughts on “Lessons from My Equity Reading

  1. Congratulations on your new site! It’s painful to hear sex/gender conflated, especially in important news articles which reach a larger audience.

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