Safe spaces for identity

The Internet has given people the ability to find safe spaces. I don’t mean impotent bigots who group and commit violence. I mean people who would typically be abused or killed for being “different.” Many distinctions are not “new”; they have just not been as repressed in the last 30 years.

A prime example is terminology around gender and sex. Binary simplicity is not natural. It is just all some of us learned as kids. No one likes feeling like an idiot, so here are some terms to help go through the mental adjustment privately without having to defend what was socially accepted when we grew up, nor a need to attack the “new” concepts.

Sex – This is body parts. This is not binary. About 1.6% of people are born with some kind of combination. Some is visible, but some is not. Genes, environment, and random chance all have complex effects. Some people even change parts naturally when they go through puberty! This is not unique to humans.

Gender Identity – This is in the mind. Maybe machismo, or maybe delicate behavior. Maybe things match the body, and maybe they don’t. Just like you have a preferred name, and sometimes people call you the wrong name, people have an internal identity that may or may not match external expectation or physical traits.

Gender Role – This is the part you play in society. It may or may not match the above two. This can be complex. Even as simple as liking the outdoors, or not, can be seen as somewhat gender aligned. “The Man” or “The Woman” of the house are common, simplified terms.

Orientation – Who and how you like people. The social expectation is a pile of traits for one gender, and a different pile of traits for the other, with both only being attracted to the polar opposite. In reality, it’s much more complicated, and both personal and social barriers affect the expression of this. Some people have only emotional intimacy, but no romantic or sexual intimacy. Some people are attracted to people more or less like themselves. Etc etc. Any combination is possible. This can absolutely encompass any kind of relationship, but typically is used to address people for whom you have extra appreciation or affection beyond casual acquaintance. This can be as simple or complex as required.

Someone’s identity should never be a threat to you. If you are confused or threatened, consider why, and sort out how to be a nice person about it. Asking questions can be okay if you are genuinely concerned for your own comprehension, but not if you are spiteful or dismissive, or trying to trap or demean someone for not meeting your expectations. A religion is NOT a valid excuse to treat people with hostility nor deprive them of rights for being different.

This is by no means comprehensive. This is more than enough to get some gears turning.

As Star Trek says, there is “infinite diversity in infinite combinations”.


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