I confess that I have not always been precise. Sometimes I have used the term gender orientation when I meant sexual orientation and failed to use the right term when I meant gender expression.
In 2003, a full ten years ago, Virginia Mollenkott wrote a book, perhaps ahead of its time, entitled Omnigender: a trans-religious approach. Following her taxonomy I want to put this down in black and white:
Sexual Orientation There are at least seven: heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, autoerotic, asexual, pansexual, and pedophiliac (Mollenkott, p. 70), “with many more if we were to include fetishes.” These terms describe patterns in the narratives of people about their yearnings, preferences, satisfactions, activities (and the psychological results of those activities), hopes, etc. “Sexual orientation is an enduring personal quality that inclines people to feel romantic or sexual attraction” says the Wikipedia article on sexual orientation. Some scholars use the term “sexual preference” but that suggests an amount of choice which other scholars deny. Kinsey avoided the whole idea of attraction or preference and just investigated actions and experiences as being more reliable indicators.
Gender Identity It is the “core feeling of maleness, femaleness or otherwise.” Mollenkott offers the opinion that “most lesbians, gay males, and bisexuals feel comfortable identifying with their birth gender, although there will be degrees of ‘masculinity’ and ‘femininity’ in their gender expression” (Mollenkott, p. 71). I haven’t the statistics to quibble about the word “most”, but I want to assert that there are katoeys in this country who are quite sure they are females in male bodies and are not at all comfortable with the bodies they were born with.
Gender Expression The way people present themselves, most of the time or just some of the time, at that time is their gender expression. It tends to be male, female or androgynous. It can change as occasions arise. It can be quite exaggerated as well, suggesting that ironically the opposite is actually true, or it can be understated and a little vague. On the whole it takes several female gender indicators to overcome a major male indicator.
Mollenkott avoids gossipy talk about who does what to whom and how. Slang tends to slide these insinuations into such distinctions as “kings and queens”, “tops and bottoms”, and the Thai favorite “man and gay” which are the same as the first two pairs. In any case, Mollenkott was making a case for doing away with the binary theory, which is rigid in the religious sectors which she was addressing. She coined or used the non-pejorative term “omnigender” whereas we are now rehabilitating the word “queer”.
The Kinsey scale of heterosexual to homosexual, 0 to 6, was flawed because it had no place to list those who only want to have solo sex with themselves, those who genuinely never want to have sex, those who are eager for sex outside the human race (with sheep or watermelons, for example), and those who can only be sexually aroused by the notion of sex with or between children. Kinsey also missed those who have transformed from one physical sex to another to conform to their true identities.
Rev. Dr. Kenneth Dobson posts his weekly reflections on this blog.