Contemporary Gender Discourse (LGBTQ+): Analysis, Appraisal and Beyond – Part I
Category : Health
(Dr Rizwan is Deputy Director, Center for Study and Research (CSR) New Delhi. Dr Alvi holds a PhD in Genetics and is interested in Bioethics and contemporary social trends. The article has been co-authored by them).

Human history has never witnessed a more open and (ir)rational discussion – with clear aims and objectives – on sexuality, pan sexuality, Same-Sex-Attraction (SSA) and sexual limitation etc. in modern terms – than there is today. Moreover, this discussion/debate was not merely a debate, but as an outcome of this debate, gender and traditional sexual binary discourse have lost their appeal at the governmental and policy levels in general, as reflected by the laws and policies that have been enacted in this regard.

Traditional sexualities and related concepts have been practically rejected by the so-called modern class of society. From judges and lawyers to the best research centres and universities, around the world, concepts of the sexual binary are not even considered as frames to deduce rulings or significant even worth researching; talking about them is looked down upon as intellectual dwarfism. In contrast, the modern sexual discourse of LGBTQ+ and its variations are mostly, publicly accepted.

In the broader public sphere, the situation is slightly more diverse. While a large population of European countries has widely accepted the modern notion of sexuality, in Christian America, that is, in all the states of the USA where the Christian worldview is dominant, the traditional sexual structures are still entrenched and traditional family norms are emphasized and widely accepted. In the public sphere, modern sexuality has not been normalized, as seen in Florida, Montana, North Carolina, Tennessee and South Dakota. In contrast, the situation in Ohio, Alaska, Michigan, etc. is in favour of the modern sexual discourse where there is legal support and public consensus for it. (1)
In the academic world, there has been immense work on pan-sexuality and LGBTQ+ discourse, going beyond the traditional sexual discourse.

The table below shows the research being done on various aspects of the LGBTQ+ discourse. It is important to note that these numbers are from the prestigious National Library of Medicine in the United States, which contains only articles published in international, peer-reviewed journals of repute. (2) 

S.No Terms/Keywords of Research on LGBTQ/Sexuality Discourse Number of research papers Year in which the terms start appearing in literature
1 Homosexuality 47384 1927
2 Gender 12155 1933
3 Gay 53762 1853
4 Lesbian 27594 1946
5 LGBTQ + 1682 1990/2000
6 LGBTQ + and Health 460 2002
7 LGBTQ + and Mental Health 360 2003
8 LGBTQ + and Violence 149 2003

The table above makes it clear that there have been extraordinary intellectual activism and academic efforts in the field of LGBTQ+ and the modern sexual narrative. There are hundreds of researchers in this field, and there are about 62 research journals on sexology alone. A point to note is that this count is restricted to the number of publications that meets the guidelines of scientific research, and beyond this, there are many others.

This discourse is not limited to academic efforts. There are hundreds of international organizations, lobbies, government and policy-making agencies, and big think-tanks that sympathize with this narrative and claim to fight for LGBTQ+ rights. Peter Paul Montgomery Buttgieg, the Mayor of the State of Indiana in the United States, is the first openly gay mayor of the state.

Vikram Seth, well-known author of the novel A Suitable Boy in India is openly homosexual, as are AIDS awareness activist Manvendra Singh Gohal and Humsafar Trust founder Ashok Rao Kavi (Humsafar is considered to be the first Indian NGO to work in connection with the rights of LGBTQ+ and homosexuals). Malayali actress Anjali Ameer (who belongs to a Muslim family) is transgender. All of them are part of a longer list of individuals who identify themselves as being on the LGBTQ+ spectrum, with the first three being cisgender homosexual men whose gender identity coincides with their biological sex, while for Ameer, there is a difference between the expressed gender identity and biological sex.

In addition, there are thousands of organizations working on LGBTQ+ and LGBTQ+ rights Branches of the famous European organization ILGA (International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex) are located in 160 countries around the world. (3) There are around 1,700 member organizations. ILGA and its affiliated organizations work in intervening within the United Nations to lobby for LGBTQ+ rights and towards creating LGBTQ+ friendly laws. In addition, there are hundreds of small and big organizations in the United States and India that are working in this field.

This makes it clear that the modern sexual narrative is not just a by-product of the lunacy of a handful of academic researchers, the manifestation of a degraded Western civilization, or some kind of disturbed psychology or extreme or unchecked lustful desires; but there is much more lies behind this phenomenon apart from these. It needs to be seriously and carefully understood and a correct opinion ought to be formed with regard to our approach. The first step in fulfilling this possibility is the need to understand this modern discourse of sexuality based on its true origins and sources.

The modern narrative of sexuality and its terminology:

Before attempting to understand what, this discourse entails, it is very important to know the terms and concepts related to it. ‘LGBTQ+’ is now a well-known term and a moral apathy (moral immunity) has now become associated with the term in both Western and Eastern societies. In other words, the disgust that was associated with the use of this term three decades ago is no longer there.

The following terms are noteworthy in the modern discourse of sexuality (4):

Sexual orientation:

Having an emotional or/and physical interest or attraction towards individuals of his own or the other gender. This can be seen as a smaller subset of sexual identity. It can involve sexual desire for people of the same sex, the opposite sex, both, or even neither (asexuality).

Sexual identity:

This is the label any individual can adopt to tell others who he or she is, sexually.

Gender identity:

Gender identity is a feeling or sensation that the individual has in relation to being a man, a woman or neither gender. This feeling goes beyond their physical markers of bodily sex. That is, a person may be physically male, but he may feel that he is female.

Gender Expression:

Simply put, gender expression is the name of all the methods adopted to express one’s gender in a particular cultural environment.

Lesbian:

Women who have sexual desires towards other women.

Gay:

Men who have sexual desires towards other men.

Bisexual:

A person who has sexual desires for both men and women.

Transgender:

gender they ‘feel’ to be or identify as and their given biological sexual characteristics. They may choose to express the gender identity of their choice through dress and speech and gender themselves in that particular way.

Intersex:

A person born with both male and female sexual characteristics. Medically speaking, it is Klinefelter’s Syndrome, wherein a person possesses one extra sex chromosome (XXY).

The above terms are not mere terms; instead, each of these terms has a specific background and origin. They evolved in a particular religious, cultural and historical context and are products of a supremely materialistic worldview. In this world-view, the sovereignty of reason – whether of an individual or a group – reigns supreme.
From these terms and their related concepts emerges a whole discourse and narrative of sexuality, including sexual variables and deviations from the traditional binary system. The fundamental aspects of contemporary discourse or narrative of LGBTQ+ can be summarized as follows:

1. Sexuality is not limited to the relationships formed between men and women, or even limited to the binary of male and female, but instead, there are many shades of sexuality, sexual pleasure and how an individual feels about sex and sexuality.

2. The traditional sexual binary is merely a cultural construct or socioreligious phenomenon. It is not right to cling unnecessarily to this traditional duality after the Renaissance in Europe and its “extraordinary” victory of reason over authority based, irrational religious beliefs.

3. The individual is free to determine his sexual identity, sexual orientation, and sexual interactions. The way and with whom he wishes to have his sexual relation and pleasure is the individual’s own personal matter. It does not require any advice or guidance, nor does any government or any institution of society has the right to interfere in his personal preferences.

The modern sexual narrative considers such binaries (including sex and gender binaries) to be unnecessary, antiquated, oppressive and backward. It emphasizes that sexual pleasure should have the following characteristics:

A. Unlimited: that is, no limit can be set. Who, with whom, where, how – the pursuit of sexual pleasure and its allied aspects cannot be shackled. Its boundaries cannot be determined by a religious book, a cultural scenario, a penal order or a system of law.

B. Unconditional: that is, the freedom of sexual pleasure should not be bound by any condition. These conditions can only be determined by the consenting individuals taking part in the practice, not society, religion or state.

5. According to the modern sexual narrative, the LGBTQ+ discourse and all affiliated forms of sexuality possess three principles to be kept in mind:

A. Being natural: that is, all variables of sexuality, be it same-sex attraction, or different orientations are natural and are supposedly determined by genes (genetic determinism). This itself is a major scientific falsity and will be detailed in the next article. So, by this logic, all sexual practices beyond the binary are natural and physical, whatever the terminology or label associated with them may be. In this process, there is no influence of the intention and opinion of the individual, there is no influence of the environment, there is no influence of the cultural conditions in which the person has reached this stage of gender identity, or of the circumstances under which he was brought up or the family whose care he has received. In essence, the entire identity is solely determined by genetic makeup of an individual.

B. Historical continuity: that is, all sexual deviations, including homosexuality, lesbianism, gender identity, and gender perceptions can be consistently seen in known human history. It is a different matter that they may not have existed with such clear terms and concepts, but references to concepts and terms similar to them are, however, present in history. It is therefore unreasonable to hate those who follow these practices, treat them with disgust, or think them of as deserving of hatred. However, this argument has its own historiographical flaws which will be discussed in forthcoming articles.

C. Presence in the animal world: The most visible deviance in normative sexual practices i.e. homosexuality can also be seen in the animal world, which is proof that it has been a special trait in the evolution of sexuality. Since it has been an evolutionary feature, it is not an “abnormal” phenomenon. But this is a far-fetched argument because in the whole animal kingdom only a couple of animal species show this behaviour albeit this behaviour is considered exceptional and unnatural.

D. Evolutionary Biology: It is also believed that Evolutionary Biology reinforces the modern sexual narrative; however, this is also a major scientific fabrication (this will be explained in further detail in the coming chapter).

6. Proponents of the concept of LGBTQ+ and deviant sexuality believe that as a result of the gender binary and the insistence on adherence to it by religion and society, it has become cemented in the moral landscape of the society, such that those beyond it are wholly unacceptable to the society. Everything outside the binary is thus criminalized and punishable and every deviance outside this duality should be punished, considered a delusion or persecuted.

Therefore, most people with an LGBTQ+ orientation are mostly self-confessedly irreligious, and they describe religion as a major challenge and threat to their community. They argue that the persecution and oppression of LGBTQ+ throughout human history is because of this traditional sexual narrative given by different religions.

7. Unnecessary insistence on the sexual binary (heterosexism) puts extraordinary psychological, social, and identity pressures on individuals who function outside it, thus making it difficult for these individuals to lead a normal life.

8. The extreme insistence on traditional sexuality or gender and the tendency to believe it to be irrevocably true robs the rights of those outside this traditional worldview. It does not give them the power to choose their own sexuality and thus violates basic fundamental human rights.

When there is a near-unanimous consensus on fundamental human rights across the world, why would those belonging to sexual orientations outside the normative prism be excluded from these rights? Why then are their rights taken away and are they treated with contempt and a sense of othering? (A more detailed exposition on individual rights and sexual rights will be forthcoming in the subsequent chapter)

9. The modern narrative of sexuality says that it is wrong to understand that LGBTQ+ and related sexual deviances are limited to sexuality or sexual pleasure or desire. Instead, and beyond that, they are about the choice and freedom of the individual and the right to live a life in which there is no discrimination. Therefore, it is not right to see it only through the lens of bodily sexual pleasure.

After the above description, it is important to trace the points of departure between the traditional model of gender and sexuality, and the modern sexual narrative. The table below shows the broad differences:

S.No Traditional Sexuality/Sexual Duality/Gender Duality Narrative Modern Sexuality and Variant Narrative
1 There are only two sexes – male and female, and only two dimensions of sexuality. It is only between these two that sexual relations are permitted. Sexuality is not a binary; on the contrary, sexuality and sexual attitudes cannot be merely categorized into boxes or labels, but sexuality is a complete spectrum with male and female at two ends and countless sexual and gender practices and expressions lying on this spectrum between them.
2 Various sexual orientations such as a man’s desire for men and similar practices within the LGBTQ+ community are unnatural, a form of a disease, and need to be treated. All sexual and gender interactions are physical and natural. They cannot be called diseases, and on the contrary, it is a great injustice to call them diseases.
3 Biological sex is the same as one’s gender identity. Beyond that, everything is additional and comes into existence because of socio-cultural milieu. Biological sex and gender identity are two different things. They are not affected by environment, family, etc., but are fixed at the level of chromosomes.
4 Sexual relations transgressing the norms of the sexual binary are illegal, immoral and anti-social. Sexual pleasure and desire are the personal right of the individual and negative interference of the law and society into it is equivalent to interference in individual rights.
5 Sexuality and all aspects related to it must be regulated under legal and social (and in some quarters, religious) principles. There is no need to regulate all aspects of sexuality and its related aspects.
6 LGBTQ+ discourse and the communities built around the propagation of this identity will have terrible practical consequences on the ground and will shatter the family system. There have been no such results on the practical and ground levels. LGBTQ+ can create their own families using assisted reproductive technologies. (ART) and may serve as parents
7 LGBTQ+ sexual practices spread sexually transmitted diseases very quickly. Sexual diseases can be avoided by using safe sex practices designed for heterosexuals
The table above made it clear that the traditional sexual discourse and the modern sexual discourse do not even have a single point of convergence, but instead, there is a sea of difference between them. But are LGBTQ+ and other variant narratives of sexuality associated with it, logical, scientific and capable of being justified? Can they be looked at in a logical (rational) manner beyond right and wrong? Can LGBTQ + and other sexually variant movements and same-sex attraction and related concepts be justified in the context of physical sciences and psychology? Which philosophy of life has a significant role to play in their base? Should the realms of personal sexual freedom prevail over social morality?

Similarly, there are a lot of discourses coming up on sexual deviations and the family structure. In some quarters, there has emerged a certain strand of suspicion regarding the established family structure as a social norm and unit. There are also some studies on the family prospects of the LGBTQ+ community that need to be relooked in this context.

Another aspect that requires the most extraordinary academic effort is religion and gender discourse, a detailed study of structured religions of the world and their interaction with the concepts of gender and sexuality, particularly religions with a clear and determined structure, such as Islam, Judaism and Christianity is inevitable as the growing influence of neo-spirituality will be seeking to settle its scores with structured religions.

This investigation, especially with regard to Islam, will help further establish the authenticity of the practical, grounded and ever-relevant social principles of Islam.

The Islamic position on gender roles and gender identity needs to be put forward in a clear and unapologetic manner, and this need has increased manifold than ever before. Islam’s principled position against homophobia (of hating the sin rather than the sinner and opposing the persecution of individuals on the basis of mere thoughts or desires) is very clear, but principled, rigorous and intellectual academic work on the Islamic position on other varied sexual practices and their relationship to religious societies remains under-explored. This will be detailed in the coming chapter.

References
1 Accessed on https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-news/the-5-worst-states-for-lgbt-people-198931/

2 Accessed on https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/?term=lgbtq

3 Accessed on https://ilga.org/member-organisations

4.Fenway Guide to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, And Transgender Health, 2015 Makadon, H. J., Potter, K. H., Mayer, K. H., & Gold hammer, N. 2015 2nd Edition: American college of physician Philadelphia Sheridan Books USA

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