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Down with the Binary

🕔 Monday, 3 Jul 2017 om 07:37

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Suriname, like many Caribbean countries, is a heteronormative and patriarchal society. Heterosexuality is the norm. It’s the default, acceptable thing to be and it perpetuates the dichotomy of “heterosexuality to homosexuality”. This is noticeable by the reactions of people when they see men being feminine. A couple of weeks ago my newsfeed was filled with people commenting about “men wearing” rompers. I kept hearing even my pro-LGBT friends saying that it was unflattering and ridiculous. Why are so many people unsettled when others go outside socially constructed notions of what’s “manly” and what’s “womanly”. If anything, I think it makes more sense for men to wear rompers than for women. At Least, they don’t have to take everything off when they go to the bathroom. 
Times are changing and so are the views on sexuality. There’s less talk about a binary and more about a spectrum. There’s more awareness and representation in the world when it comes to the fluidity of sexuality and gender. Unfortunately, in Suriname, there’s still so much to be done. Especially, when it comes to understanding gender and sexual diversity. For some, LGBT is still such an “unnatural” and “queer” concept. So here’s a primer on LGBT in Suriname and why thinking in a binary is problematic. 

Gender Binary 

“the classification of sex and gender into two distinct, opposite and disconnected forms of masculine and feminine”

Many societies find it easier to view sexuality and gender as two-sided because it makes things easier. However, this limits human expression and pushes people into boxes they don’t feel comfortable in. Sexuality and gender can be very complex things, a person can identify as straight, but still, display sexual or romantic interests for the opposite sex. A man, for example, can still identify as straight even if he has, at one point, had sexual intercourse with another man. Sexuality is not a phenomenon you can stow away or push in a neat box. Refusing to understand something central to human nature gives way to ignorance and hate. That’s why, while many are more supportive of homosexuality, there’s still a stigma and misconception about other orientations and gender expressions. People think a person is either gay or straight and assume straight as the natural default. This kind of reasoning is false and lazy. 

Bisexuality and transsexuality

The LGBT movement in Suriname is making progress when it comes to public awareness. This is also possible because of changing attitudes toward LGBT issues in the world. Being gay is more acceptable now and more people are aware and understanding of LGBT issues. This is sadly only limited to people who are gay or lesbian. Bisexuality and transsexuality are still met with stigma, a general non-acceptance and ignorance. Bisexuality is often not accepted as an orientation and transsexuality is often seen as a mental disorder. For example, a person attracted to both sexes is labelled promiscuous while transgender persons can be met with negative comments on their appearance (gender expression). 

This is partly due to binary thinking, thinking that a person can either be two things: gay or straight, man or woman. This way of thinking is problematic because it allows for generalization and it keeps social constructs about sexuality and gender in place. It limits the way we think and makes us closed off for anybody who does not fit into these predetermined boxes. This is why it’s important to think of sexuality as a spectrum with heterosexuality on one end, bisexuality in the middle and homosexuality on the other end. Of Course, the middle place isn’t held only by bisexuality, the middle of the spectrum is a grey area where a person either strongly feels sexual or romantic attraction to another person or he does not. This is where you find other orientations like asexuality, which is defined as a person who experiences little to no sexual attraction or pansexual, who feel attracted to others regardless of sex or gender identity and several other orientations. This is a good example of how complex sexuality is and how trying to push it in a box only stigmatizes and hurts people who don’t fit into the binary. 

LGBT+

LGBT is an umbrella term and sometimes other acronyms are used like LGBTQI or LGBTQIA+. You can also file it under GSD for Gender and Sexual Diversity. People like to argue a lot about why it’s important and why it’s ridiculous to advocate for adding letters or thinking of new labels. In actuality, I’d say it’s very important. Representation matters, feeling included and having your sexuality, your identity validated matters. Especially, in a society that makes you feel like you’re “other” for not being straight or acting according to male or female gender roles. Understanding gender and sexual diversity is important, especially in Suriname. Especially, when politicians refuse to advocate for LGBT citizens, where transgender persons get harassed and ostracized and where kids get shamed or bullied for not fitting into their “roles” as men or women. This oversimplified way of thinking makes us lazy and perpetuates a culture where we exclude and dehumanize people, who are just as worthy of the everyday rights and privileges we take for granted. Take down the binary.

Thanx for reading! Let me know what your thoughts are on the changing attitudes towards LGBT issues and your thoughts on the gender binary (in Suriname).

HAPPY PRIDE 

Disclaimer: this is a simple thought piece on gender and sexual diversity; there are a lot more orientations and concepts that were not mentioned. 
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