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.    


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

Some Pre 1980 Songs Referencing LGBTQ

A not – exhaustive list of some songs before 1980 that reference LGBTQ people and issues. (*Needless to say, these should all be contextualized for their relative milieu.  Some are direct in their topic, others oblique.  These are not necessarily advocacy or activist related songs and can contain tokenizing and stereotypical characterizations.)

Gene Malin – “I’d Rather Be Spanish than Manish,” 1932

Troy Walker – “Happiness is Just a Thing Called Joe,” 1962

Van Morrison – “Madame George,” 1968

Lou Reed – “Candy Says,” 1969 

The Kinks – “Lola,” 1970

Madeline Davis – “Stonewall Nation,” 1971

David Bowie – “John, I’m Only Dancing,” 1972

Jobriath – “I’m A Man,” 1973

Chris Robinson – “Looking for a Boy Tonight,” 1973

The Miracles – “Ain’t Nobody Straight in LA,” 1975

Valentino – “I Was Born This Way,” 1975

Rod Stewart – “The Killing of Georgie,” 1976

Sylvester – “You Make Me Feel Mighty Real,” 1978

The Village People – “YMCA,” 1978

Tom Robinson – “Glad To Be Gay,” 1978

Bonus spoken word:

Rae Bourbon – “Let Me Tell You About My Operation,” 1956

Perfume Genius’s “Die 4 You”

In the androgynous / queer music video for “Die 4 You,” Perfume Genius uses erotic asphyxiation as a symbol of commitment and devotion.

Lyrics from

Limit every second left
Until I’m off balance

Oh love
I’m there in spirit

Each and every breath I spend
You are collecting

Oh love
See it through
I would die 4 you

Each and every breath I spend
You are collecting
Limit every second left
‘Til I’m off balance
Each and every breath I spend

Oh my love, oh my love
Take your time
Oh my love, take your time
Oh my love, oh my love

Oh my love, oh my love
Take your time
Oh my love, take your time
See it through

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.