Thursday, 27 October 2011

Asexual Visibility Week 5: Asexuality and Gender

Blogger tells me that yesterday’s post didn’t actually go up yesterday. Oh well. You get two posts from me today, you lucky people. Since yesterday, I remembered what I actually wanted to talk about in that article. No, I’m not going to change it. The idea of going back and changing the record of what I said disturbs me somewhat (I will do it occasionally, but if it’s anything more than adding a footnote or correcting a grammar error, I’ll mark it). By happy coincidence, gender also happens to be the subject of this month’s carnival of aces. A fact which I found out literally today.

Sexuality and gender. I don’t actually have that much hard evidence for what I’m about to say beyond my own experience, and the impression I get on AVEN, but I’ll do my best. Somewhere around twenty percent of the asexual community identify as transgender. At least ten percent definitely identify as a gender other than that which would normally be associated with their biological sex. Obviously, that’s rather higher than in the general population. Some of this, of course, is due to links between LGBT and asexual communities – transgender people are probably more likely to know what asexual means, and asexual people are probably more clued in about what it means to be transgender.

However, the statistics I’ve found for number of transgender people in the overall population put it at somewhere under one percent. That means that asexuals are out from what we might expect by an order of magnitude. And I’m talking about statistics with numbers of subjects in the thousands or millions. I can’t be bothered doing the maths, but simply from approximate use of a binomial distribution in my head, the odds of that happening purely by chance are so mindboggling that I can’t even think of an appropriate metaphor to explain to you how mindboggling they are. And the skew is way, way too big to think of as just coming from the factors I mentioned above (especially since I don't think you get the same results from the gay community). Something else is needed.

I’m going to make a massive assumption here, and assume that most asexuals think vaguely like me. This probably isn’t true, since I’m reliably informed that noone thinks like me, but I don’t exactly have a lot of other models to work with here. In which case, I’m going to say that it’s probably a lot easier for asexuals to identify as in some way transgender than for most sexuals. Not simply because we’ve already questioned one aspect of our sexual identity, so we’re more likely to be open to questioning others, but because I suspect that sex and gender might matter to us somewhat less. Obviously, since I’m heteroromantic (as far as I know), sex/gender* must matter to me in some subliminal way, but I really couldn’t tell you how. Over time, my current attitude to sex/gender has developed as follows: When in a group with at least one cisgender female, the subject of sex is less likely to come up**, which is good. Furthermore, women tend to have nicer outfits than men, although this is not an absolute rule. Basically, I (and I suspect quite a lot of other aces) don’t care as much about gender as sexuals do. Shorn of the sexual aspects to them, gender and sex are basically purely social things, like the distinction between goths and preps, or footballers and trekkies***. And for someone who genuinely thinks of gender as purely social, it becomes a lot easier to move between man and woman. The divide becomes a lot less important. There are definitely some aces who just genuinely don’t care.

So there’s my conclusion. I think that aces are likely to see gender more in terms of society than in terms of natural biology, so we’re more likely to take a pick’n’mix approach to it. I’d love to see statistics for the bisexual/pansexual community, because if I’m right, the same effect should apply there (definitely for pansexuals, and probably for bisexuals). Unfortunately, I can’t find any. [ADDITION] Another thing I can't find is something I saw once saying that homosexuality was actually allied to transexuality in some way (being homosexual is a minor form of transexuality, I think it said). I can't find it at the moment, but if it were true, it would probably apply to asexuals as well. I'm not making any statements as to the veracity of that claim, and if that were true you'd get the same results from the homosexual community, and, as I've mentioned, I don't think you do, but I thought I should mention the existance of such a view [/ADDITION].
I hope I got through this without accidentally offending anybody with my wildly unjustified assumptions. Tomorrow, for the end of asexual week (it goes on another day, but Saturday’s going to be slightly different from what I normally do) I’ll be talking about how to deal with a friend (or acquaintance) who is, or who you suspect might be, asexual. That I should be able to talk about with some authority.

*Can’t really say which one in all honesty, since I’ve never yet had a romantic crush on anyone who wasn’t cisgender.
**Except when random men who neither of you know start asking for hugs from the girl you’re talking to. That was slightly weird.
***And for those people who’re thinking that there are actual biological differences between the sexes, there are quite possibly biological differences between footballers and trekkies, probably bigger than those between males and females. There are probably a lot of trekkies who couldn’t be footballers if they tried – I’m not exactly a trekkie, but I’m definitely a nerd, and I certainly couldn’t be on the football team. For genetic reasons, no less. Why give extra prominence to the presence or absence of a Y chromosome, compared to all the others?

1 comment:

  1. I actually got some responses to this, which I'll now reply to (and explain) here:
    Firstly, yes I'm aware that if I'm attraced to a particular sex rather than a particular gender, I'm panromantic. I claim to be heteroromantic mostly on the basis of Occam's razor.
    Secondly, the study I mention in the addition specifically claimed that homosexuality (and by extension probably a/bi/pansexuality as well) was actually a form of GID. I can't really comment one way or another until I find the survey again, so I'm just putting it down as a view. I'll also mention that it doesn't really make any difference.
    Third, and this gets a little long, as we had rather a debate. Here's a summary:
    Him: Gender identity is fixed, so social influences are irrelevant.
    Me: I'm pretty sure gender CAN change over time (the rest of people's personalities can), and gender is basically just a social construct anyway. Personality is influenced by society, so although I'm not saying that people can become transgendered if they hang out with people who are transgendered, someone who's on the edge is more likely to develop towards another gender if they have a lot of contact with LGBTAQA than in 'normal' society, especially if they don't have the whole 'sexual desirability' influence most people have.
    Him: Gender identity is internal rather than social.
    Me: I'm pretty sure that some Native American tribes, for example, had a different conception of gender identity. What exactly about gender identity is inherant?
    Him: We have a little voice in our heads saying what gender we are. We are what gender we believe we are. This has nothing to do with our personality traits.
    Me: Gender is, by definition, a social construct. Not everyone has that voice, and my experience of people with nonstandard genders is that they don't automatically know, they slowly work out what they feel they are, and where they fit better - what side of society they 'should' be on. Besides, even if outer personality has no effect on whether you ARE transgendered, someone who has difficulty fitting into their assigned gender role is probably more likely to think about others. Doesn't make them more likely to BE transgender, but makes them more likely to identify as it, and since the statistics can only really include people who've come out...

    I leave it to the reader to decide which of us is right, or to draw their own conclusions.