Gender Identity

We commonly differentiate ‘sex’ as biological identity, from ‘gender,’ which is the cultural, social, and psychological differences between males and females.  Gender then refers to the patterns we associate with men and women in a cultural context.  The relationship between sex and gender often seen as direct or compulsory, but is socially constructed.  As I’ve previously posted, the Gender Unicorn illustrates the difference between gender identity, gender expression, sex assigned at birth, physical attraction, and emotional attraction. 

Some other cultures have historically included gender identities outside of the male / female binary.  This recognition of identity does not necessarily mean that they do not face discrimination

Recently, Germany has recognized a third gender for intersex people.  As I’ve previously posted, intersex people “do not fit the typical definition of male or female… biological characteristics.”  Theorist Judith Butler argues gender is performative in that it “produces a series of effects” that “consolidate an impression of being a man or being a woman.”  We are not born as men and women, but that it is in social interaction that gender identities are reproduced.

Other terms that have entered the general vernacular around gender include ‘cisgender’ and ‘transgender’ people.  Cisgender people are those whose sex assigned at birth does correspond with their gender identity.  Transgender people are those whose sex assigned at birth does not correspond with their gender identity.  Because transgender people encounter intolerance and violence, gender performance can be complex.

It is becoming more common for young people to identify as gender ‘non binary,’ meaning they do not identify as male or female, or ‘non conforming,’ meaning their gender expression does not correspond with the cultural expectations of their respective gender.  A study recently found that 27% of teenagers in California are gender nonconforming.  In Oregon and California, residents can legally identify as non binary on drivers licenses and state documents.  In 2017, a baby in Canada became the first to have the gender status of ‘unassigned’ or ‘undetermined’ on their health records.  Some celebrities, such as musician Sam Smith and actress Amandla Stenberg, have also come out as gender non binary.    


Structure v. Agency and Aboriginal People

One of the core questions raised in sociology is are we determined by society or do we determine society?  Comedian Tom Ballard interviewed journalist Stan Grant on his podcast Like I’m A Six-Year-Old.  In the second half of this episode (122) arguments of structure and agency arise around Aboriginal people’s rights and treatment in Australia.  Within the interview the two also discuss assimilation, defining a nation’s history, and the role of media in politics.

like i'm aimage from Tom Ballard’s website

The episode can be found at the above link or here: 122 – Stan Grant (Live At Yack Festival) Pt. 1

The Gender Unicorn

“The Gender Unicorn” is a visual depiction that clarifies and distinguishes various aspects of individuals’ gender and sexual identity.  Its predecessor “The Genderbread Person” is considered by some to be inaccurate and possibly plagiarized.  

gender unicorn.jpgimage from

Ancestry and Social Construction of Race

Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., Director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard and host of PBS program Finding Your Roots, discussed ancestry and the social construction of race with Trevor Noah on The Daily Show.  The clip can be seen here.
Finding Your Roots has courted controversy in the past for acquiescing to celebrity Ben Affleck’s request to exclude information about his slave owning ancestors.  The program also garnered attention for research into actor / musician Fred Armisen’s past, whereby they discovered that his ethnic heritage is Korean and not Japanese as he believed.

Rise Like a Pheonix

In 2014 the Eurovision Song Contest was won by Conchita Wurst from Austria.  Conchita Wurst is the drag persona of Tom Neuwirth.  “Conchita” is Spanish slang for vulva / vagina and “Wurst” is German slang for penis.

The Eurovision Contest is known for its eccentricity and gay representations are not new, but Wurst’s performance was particularly unique.  Though wearing long, curled hair, full makeup, and a beautiful gown all culturally signifying female, she also had a full beard, a secondary sex characteristic associated with males.

The song “Rise Like a Phoenix” holds additional meaning when sung by Wurst.  The lyrics “Peering from the mirror  No, that isn’t me  Stranger getting nearer  Who can this person be  You wouldn’t know me at all today” and “Once I’m transformed  Once I’m reborn I rise up to the sky  You threw me down but I’m gonna fly  And rise like a phoenix” can all be read as referencing gender ambiguity or transformation.  Neuwirth has stated “Conchita Wurst” is his drag persona and he does not identify as transgender, though, like many drag queens, uses ‘she’ pronouns when in character.  Wurst’s genderqueer performance was attacked by the Russian Orthodox church as an “abomination” and Vladimir Putin as “aggressive” because non traditional gender identity was “put…up for show”.

In her acceptance speech, Wurst stated “This night is dedicated to everyone who believes in a future of peace and freedom.  You know who you are.  We are unity and we are unstoppable.”

Kink Camp

The most notorious episodes of the Risk podcast are probably the ones where host, Kevin Allison, talks about kink camp.  

In number 229 “Kevin Goes to Kink Camp 1” and number 230 “Kevin Goes to Kink Camp 2” Kevin walks the listener through his first experience of kink camp and what it is like to be a gay man at a primarily heterosexual orgy.

In episode number 828 “Make Believe,” Kevin tells a story called “The Whiz Kid” about his return to kink camp where he participated in “water sports” or urine play.