Wouldn't stop picking at it

Gender, sexuality and biology – some thoughts

Tilda Swilton, actress

Tilda Swinton

I finally understand why I love Tilda Swinton. Apart from being an exceptional actress, style icon and performance artist, Tilda Swinton is a strong indication of how we are evolving as a species.

More precisely, Swinton defies rigid labels and sexual roles. She simultaneously embodies the feminine and masculine parts of her identity (both physical and gestural). She is simply, Tilda, and we love her in every incarnation.

I believe she represents how each of us will experience gender and sexuality in the future. Not as it is today - a rigid biological classification elaborated by socially-dictated behaviours, customs and expressions – but as a spectrum.

Darwin proposed that diversity is key to survival of the fittest, so our evolution hinges on biological diversity, as well as the emotional, sexual and spiritual diversity of every individual.

Diversity on the outside and on the inside too, do you feel me?

This idea of the spectrum has been circulating for years (think of Kinsey’s scale) and artists have been playing with gender and identity for longer than that. But as the cornerstones of our current societal model (black-and-white notions of marriage, gender, etc.) continue to crumble, this blurring of rigid lines will only accelerate.

The physical body will become less a determinant of identity and more emphasis will be placed on the energetic and emotional body. It’s already happening. Think of the growing visibility of transgender people and attempts to define a language that better reflects gender ambiguities (intersexual, pansexual, genderqueer, etc.). Think of Justin Bieber, who, despite being an adult male, still sports an almost girlish, clean-shaven face, and even the women on the Lesbians Who Look Like Justin Bieber Tumblr site, who have leveraged the rise of the Beeb to celebrate their more masculine aspects.

Hagia Sofia, Istanbul

We are increasingly more fanned out on the spectrum. Think of your own constellation of family and friends. Chances are, most of the people you know don’t live at the extremes of the spectrum. Does every straight man you know speak with a deep voice, or every gay man speak with a higher tone? Does every woman you know wear lipstick? Are all of your sporty girlfriends only into other women?

Nature has made us diverse and yet, we keep trying to draw lines around who we are, forcing our behaviours into claustrophobic little boxes that keep us in imaginary alignment with the rest of society.

Think about yourself. How easily do you fit into the socially-defined behaviours for your gender and sexuality? For example, I am a cisgender; that is, my perception of my gender matches the gender I was born with. I am also your average, garden-variety heterosexual; I have only ever been attracted to men. That is my place on the spectrum. However, understanding that you fall in love with a person, I have never discounted the possibility that I might one day fall in love with a woman. Also, I can install a light fixture like a boss!

As Walt Whitman said, each one of use contains multitudes, so why limit ourselves to mere biological classification? Or use biological labels to discriminate against those that don’t fit neatly into one of two boxes? We chop our selves into increasingly smaller pieces so that we won’t stick out from the crowd, but truth is, we are all vast and indescribably diverse underneath the surface. None of us fit into the rigid social structures that have been constructed, because our nature is too great to be contained. This is the truth that unites us.

And then what? Wider acceptance of the spectrum could lead to more tolerant and inclusive attitudes. The falling away of harmful hierarchies could lead to greater understanding of one another as equals. Once we stop thinking in rigid little boxes, the possibilities for change are endless.

2 comments for “Gender, sexuality and biology – some thoughts

  1. Francyne
    April 21, 2013 at 9:03 am

    J’aime et je partage: laissons tomber nos ”normes” étouffantes mais surtout réductrices.

  2. ad
    April 21, 2013 at 9:17 am

    Merci, Francyne! Even if I had gender and sexuality in mind when I wrote the blog post, it’s an idea that can be applied to every aspect of life.

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