Sat | Jul 21, 2018

Don't dress up homophobia as science

Published:Tuesday | June 28, 2016 | 12:00 AM


I just read Peter Espeut's article titled 'Sexual identity, gender identity' (The Gleaner, June 17, 2016) and, as a sociologist myself, wanted to edify him a bit. His views do not reflect the understanding of sex and gender among mainstream sociologists in any way, shape or form.

No half-decent sociologist believes that people are born 'male' or 'female' because of their chromosomes. That would equate (fe)maleness with a chromosome or sexual organ. I know that Espeut is a male, and I have never tested his chromosomes or seen his organs! It should be obvious from just that fact that 'maleness' is not based on those factors, but describes a series of social characteristics that we have been socialised to identify (shorter hair, more toned, less shapely, voice, etc., and, most of all, dress code!). I strongly encourage Espeut to read an article called 'Doing Gender' by West and Zimmerman.

Nonsense Argument

His argument that socialisation fails when a person who is supposedly born male identifies as a female is also nonsense to sociologists. We don't see people as failures because they do not fit into our traditional norms. A person who is a Christian in Iran is not a failure because he is in a small, rejected minority. Espeut should read Foucault's 'A History of Sexuality'.

Finally, the idea that this kind of 'post-modern subjectivism' is also wrong. Gender and sexual fluidity have been part of many cultures over history. Native Americans, for instance, recognised more than two genders. Here, 'How To Be Gay' by Halperin is a good book (it's not a manual on how to become gay, but a study of the history of gay culture).

Espeut is a homophobe. I've read enough of his stuff to know that. Rather than owning it, he's dressing up his religious intolerance in pseudo-scientific discourse. Not only are his views judgemental and reactionary to an oppressed group of people, they are also very wrong.