gender identity

All posts in the gender identity category

Men

Published June 24, 2011 by Michael C Leeson

I recently had correspondence with @GoodMenProject  a magazine site whose stated aim is to start a conversation about what it means to be a good man. The site seems open to feedback from readers however, the content seems mainstream with increasing number of articles relating to minority masculinities. You could call it a work in progress however the name confuses me good men, what does this value-laden label infer to the reader.  All I can go on is site content, which reflects a mainly white, middle-class, heterosexual, able-bodied version of manhood.

In my opinion for what it is worth this conversation is long overdue however, I find this goal both exciting and intimidating as others may.  My enthusiasm for these types of opportunities is to engage with men in making sense of what it means to be a man. However, what often happens is that a minority hijacks these occasions to promote and perpetuate their political agenda either to reinforce the idealized masculinity or stereotype  and/or men’s rights rubbish. These situations are not conducive to a frank conversation, as men learn from birth not to question masculinity even if they spend the rest of their life trying to make sense of it.

This is why men rarely speak with each other about meaningful issues and are more likely to hide behind the stereotype or to engage in combat. Men do not talk to men about men’s business because they should already know the answers to their problems. A number of articles on Good Men demonstrate this with sensitive issues written by women and general articles by men have stereotypical themes like politics, sport and virility. The question here is where this conversation starts with a critique of masculinity, discussion of issues men face in their life, sharing stories of their lived experience to demystify what it means to be a man or something else.

In the Shed

Published June 5, 2011 by Michael C Leeson

Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.”

John F. Kennedy

This is a cautionary tale of conformity by men to the narrative of the idealized masculinity, which requires some to find sanctuary in the closet or shed, As men, we seemingly adhere blindly to this myth as if some article of faith and in turn readily impose it on all. It is the root of all oppression, discrimination and subjugation in society.  The previous post concluded by drawing an analogy between the closet representing the oppression of queer men, and the shed of heterosexual men. This post provides some reflections the premise here is that one man’s closet is an others’ shed and sometimes you might find a closet in the shed. While both represent a prison, they also provide a sanctuary through a weird sense of anonymity.

The issue to free men from these sanctuaries or prisons means we have to challenge the need for their very existence. During the 20th century, masculinity faced a crisis its status as a sacred cow downgraded through critical inquiry by its detractors i.e. cultural diversity, women, and queers. The outcome of this inquiry masculinity is found wanting, more bravado than substance that actively seeks to maintain Anglo-European heterosexual able-bodied male individual, collective and institutional privilege.  Even in the diverse reality of their lived experience, men and their allies still hold doggedly to the fraudulent idealized model of manhood.

The question here is

Reform or Revolution

Coming out of the Shed the road towards a new way of

Knowing and Doing Manhood?

NO

Published June 5, 2011 by Michael C Leeson

#no2bullying #no2homophobia #no2suicide

On the news of another teen suicide due to homophobic bullying, it seems appropriate to make some comments. In clarifying, it is not clear whether the teen involved identified or not and no assumptions or implications are being made here. This is about our business in enabling kids to be who they are, unlike our detractors wanting to indoctrinate them through cohesion in conforming to some dated concept of gender identity.  We know the issues for the Rainbow Nation our susceptibility to bullying, mental health issues, substance misuse, and suicide.

Kids (25 & under), it matters not how they identify LGBQ, TT, I, SSA or Str8, that is not our business keeping them safe is our business. The point here is that all kids experience homophobic bullying no matter their gender identity and/or sexual ordination . This situation exists because of the narrow conceptualisation of gender or more precisely privileged masculinity as the default, which enforces compliance to  a specific set of social norms through bullying.

We know this from our individual and collective stories, this abuse in all its forms (i.e. physical, psychological and social) and the lingering deep emotional pain of rejection. Our expertise lies in the lived experience of bullying because of who we are young people seem more vulnerable to this violence. At a time in life full of discovery, confusion and contradiction, they face the excoriating pressure to conform or suffer social sanctions  and possible marginalisation.  In this time, some feel so isolated and disempowered they choose to act on their thoughts out of desperation resulting in their suicide.

This situation is not acceptable if we stand-by and let another young person bullied because of whom they are and is murdered because of the dysfunctional nature of gender. At some time as a society we need to draw a line in the sand and say enough is enough what do we value more an insipid idealized masculinity or our children. As a community, the Rainbow Nation has a greater stake here in addressing bullying, homophobia and suicide equally, because they represent our oppression, persecution and marginalisation. As individuals, we have a duty to make this a better place than when we arrived, to stand up against injustice, be a good neighbour and keep people safe.

Please if you are, experiencing suicidal thoughts or feel emotionally unwell follow this link  or call Lifeline on 131114 (in Aus).

The Shed

Published May 30, 2011 by Michael C Leeson

Men’s shed focus is on promoting men’s health and wellbeing through engaging them various actives including information provision, socialisation and handicraft.  All good and well, as I support the need for men to engage in men’s business however, I am not convinced that the men’s shed concept is the most appropriate vehicle for this to happen. My reservations come from the perspective culture of this organisation dominated by mainstream concepts of masculinity; it seems to be more about reinforcing stereotypes rather than starting a new conversation. This is no more evident than the men’s rights spectre you catch glimpses of in the language used.

Men need to have an open and frank conversation with each other, one about the very nature of masculinity at this time in history. Men have an opportunity to engage in a conversation using the Feminist critique to help them make sense of their experiences .It is time to stop smarting about the social changes of the past 60 years that shock the heteronormative Anglo-European model of masculinity to its core. This is about men acknowledging and celebrating the rich diversity of their gender identity rather than adhering blindly to some idealized model. It is time to come out of the shed and start that conversation with each other.

As a man I know the fear of social sanctions for those who do not conform to the model, as a queer I know the sanctuary of the closet. It seems heterosexual men also share these same fears and security as men confined to the shed. This might be the first challenge for men who find sanctuary in their shed or in their ways of knowing and doing masculinity to venture out. I never thought in my whole life that I would be offering words of encouragement to heterosexual men to come out of shed and claim their masculinity. However, that is exactly what my plea is here for your own health and wellbeing to join the conversation so boys can become healthy self-confident men without the anxiety and guilt of previous generations.

Masculinities

Published May 30, 2011 by Michael C Leeson

Boy stands in front of mirror and asks what man am I

Mirror mists over and a voice responds

You are son, brother, father, uncle and grandfather

You are student, sometimes & teacher other times

You are friend, worker, professional, colleague, & team member

You are Black, Brown, White

You are bi, gay, straight, same sex attracted, pan & asexual

You are trans

You are leader sometimes & follower other times

You are athlete sometimes & spectator other times

You are Wise sometimes & foolish other times

You are brave sometimes & cowardly other times

You are caring sometimes & insensitive other times

You are giving sometimes & mean other times

You are committed sometimes & apathetic other times

You are joyous sometimes & sad other times

You are well sometimes & unwell other times

You are innocent sometimes & guilty

You are a dreamer sometimes & realist other times

You are friendly sometimes & violent other times

You are tolerant sometimes & narrow-minded other times

You are spontaneous sometimes & serious other times

Your creative sometimes & destructive other times

You are spiritual sometimes & secular other times

You are strong sometimes & weak other times

You are curious sometimes & indifferent other times

You are industrious sometimes & indolent other times

You are everyman & every human

You are you a man shaped through your life experiences

IDAHO

Published May 17, 2011 by Michael C Leeson

Today is IDAHO  Day or the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, to highlight “that in reality it is homophobia that is shameful and must be deconstructed in its social logic and fought against openly”. We need to be mindful that while our communities experience homophobia it is not our issue alone, it is that of a society which labours under the weight of heteronormativity, a political lie. Heteronormativity, a “concept that reveals the expectations, demands, and constraints produced when heterosexuality is taken as normative within a society”. Therefore, by default labelling all non-conforming representations  to the ideal  sex, sexuality, gender identity, and gender roles i.e. LGBTI as deviant and legitimate targets for social sanction.  The principal example of a social sanctions here Homophobia, a penalty to ensure compliance by all not just our communities to the norm.

While the Rainbow Nation champion’s action against homophobia, two barriers remain for us to overcome this root of all discrimination and persecution.

  • How can we argue against homophobia when we may discriminate against for example effeminate men, people who identify as transgender and/or bisexual?
  • We do not tend to embrace the full diversity of the Rainbow Nation rather we tend to engage in similar normative themed arguments as our detractors.

Whether I was born this way or not

Accept me

AS I AM

LGBT suicidality

Published May 10, 2011 by Michael C Leeson

Suicide and Suicide Risk in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Popula tions: Review and Recommendations Article (HTML) “Journal of Homosexuality” Jan 2011

When I first saw this article, I thought something new that somebody has realised that the LGBT communities face a higher risk from suicide. The acknowledgement by this panel of academics of how social factors like stigma and discrimination contribute to suicidality or suicidal behaviours of people who identify seems refreshing. In so much as it validates our experiences that these factors detract from our individual and community wellness.

Such as

  • Rejection or abuse by family members or peers
  • Bullying and harassment
  • denunciation from religious communities
  • individual discrimination
  • Discriminatory laws and public policies have a profound negative impact

Their Recommendations include

  • LGBT organizations to lead efforts to encourage early identification of mental health issues
  • Push for the development and testing of a wider range of culturally appropriate mental health treatments and suicide prevention initiatives.
  • Revision of diagnoses pertaining to transgender people in the 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (due out in 2013) to affirm that gender identity, expression and behavior that differ from birth sex is not indicative of a mental disorder.
  • Improving information about LGBT people by measuring  sexual orientation and gender identity in all national health surveys in which respondents’ privacy can be adequately protected, and encouraging researchers to include such measures in general population studies related to suicide and mental health.

Criticism

Social factors trigger LGBT suicidality these recommendations do not seek to address the issue but at some level manage the symptom.  The symptom being suicidality the issue here is stigma and discrimination experienced by people who identify as LGBT and their communities. It is not a pathological process but a social issue requiring a political intervention not a clinical one. While the later may assist the individual in developing personal resilience, it is a bandaid measurer. A political side step, which focuses on the victim rather than critically responding to the underlying issue