Gender dysphoria: Blurring gender lines

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Andreja Pejic (left) and Erika Linder

Danielle Rhye Avrahamovic discusses the myths of gender roles and sexual identity.

Andreja Pejic (left) and Erika Linder
Andreja Pejic (left) and Erika Linder

‘Gender Dysphoria’, (Dis-Fo-Riya) etymology:
Gender Dysphoria is an experience which Trans, Genderqueer, and Non-Binary people have. It describes discomfort, loathing, anxiety, and depression revolving around one’s social gender role and/or physical sex characteristics. It’s a very serious experience that leads to larger anxiety, depression problems, depersonalization, thoughts of suicide, social withdrawal, self harm, etc. (Urban Dictionary, 16 January 2014)

At the tender age of 16, I was naturally and delicately exposed to avant-garde versatility and glamorous fine-dining parties, thanks to my Mom, a philanthropic entrepreneur with an eccentric philosophy derived from her exciting associates in Texas.

While deliberately attending corporate parties, I enjoyed seeing upper-class women of all ages dancing outrageously, tiptoeing their designer stilettos to the rhythm of Cindy Lauper’s ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’. The way they carried themselves fascinated me.

I thought they were too beautiful to be left partying alone while their wealthy husbands were busy generating wealth from multibillion dollars worth of assets abroad. My naive perception was that glamour and luxury only belonged to Women and Men. I never realised that among them, there was another class: the Third Gender.

I would classify the Third Gender as linked to the etymology of the word hermaphroditism: individuals who reside in a metaphorical realm of Gender Dysphoria “in a non-conforming psychological state to either identify themselves as feminine or masculine; and one who sees his or her spirit occupying both genders”.

As far as I can remember, I might have been either gender-blind or unconcerned about gender identities. I have always been fond of the well blended feminine-masculine demeanour and beauty. But then again, among these ordinary Women and Men, I captured a sense of the majestic beauty that has revolutionised my ideas and perceptions of gender identity and sexuality forever. Androgyny holds the supreme embodiment of the extraordinary Third Gender.

The worldwide debate on whether gender identity is either biological or environmental and whether a person’s sexual orientation is fixed upon birth is truly paradoxical; the jury is still out.

I believe gender-assigned identity is a myth because the survival of androgyny up to this modern age confirms it. As part of the natural order, human beings evolve within a complex momentum which is aligned with human emotions. The evident physical imageries portrayed by androgynous individuals who dedicate their creativity and artistic personification as gender preferences also validate the idea. Androgyny reflects majestic beauty because of its rare presence.

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In this day and age, the forms of feminine or masculine roles tend to be restricted to either one of both genders. Does this suggest that the majority of heterosexuals on this planet still linger in their heterocentric ambience? Androgyny seems offensive to many because it is an unusual personification of abstract expression. Often, the strange ones are either threatening or eccentric in the eyes of society.

‘Women and Feminity’, ‘Men and Masculinity’…?

Since the time of ancient human civilisations, the heteronormative concept of beauty has been synonymous with one sex, the female. The more feminine a woman behaves the more desirable she becomes; therefore, females are generally assigned ultra-feminine roles. Women carry the burden of societal expectations that make it ialmost obligatory for them to appear physically feminine. As for males, only when uber masculinity is shown, will they be considered Alpha males.

These man-made ways of thinking practised by our rulers were designed as a comfort zone to domesticate the masses. Hence, the term ‘Queer’- Abnormal  originated from this notion and produced from it the idea that gender-neutral individuals were not equal to the traditional sex, female and male. Androgynous queers were regarded as outcasts.

Gender identity does not determine a person’s sexuality. Gender “doesn’t define who you are”, said 23-year-old Australian supermodel of Eastern European (Bosnian-Croatian) descent Andrej Pejic, now known as Andreja Pejic.

Born a male, Andreja remained gender-neutral from the age of 14 onwards and started creatively experimenting with gender through physical appearance, complementing his androgynous temperament. Self-taught by his own artistic appearance, which has always been naturally feminine, he did not feel the need to heavily fabricate or overwork his demeanour.

Andrej has walked for international runways, serving numerous haut couture shows for notable designers. He appeared in high fashion editorials between 2008 to 2013 and identified himself with both genders, until mid-December 2014. That was when Andrej declared his sexual identity as female, announcing on instagram that he had undergone sexual reconstructive surgery, commonly practised in the transgender community.

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Early this year, Andreja, known for her mysterious, reserved gestures and soft, calming voice, introduced various campaigns online dedicated to fighting for the rights of gender-neutral individuals mainly in the LGBT community. She has shown love, commitment and support in raising public awareness.

Andreja, when asked of her sexual orientation, then confessed to being “attracted to both genders”, previously dating butch female model Erika Linder. At other times, Andreja remains secretive when refering to her private affairs.

For centuries, we have been academically and culturally indoctrinated with blind knowledge of gender identity and its connection with sexual orientation. As for the ‘Transethnic’ community, they are not seen as either beautiful or ugly, but ‘honoured’ as Dyke or Tranny instead.

Many females who are butch in appearance are accused of being lesbians. An effeminate male whose androgynous features come off as offensive, simply because he has chosen not to appear masculine, would be accused of being gay.

The majority of the non-queer population do not recognise the existence of the Third Gender; instead, they co-exist with these non-gender-conforming individuals without failing to deal with their own heterosexual resistance towards homosexuality or the ‘LGBT’ community alike, thus displaying irritatingly homophobic behaviour.

The universal perception of gender identity, its roles and sexual orientation has been rationalised by both the ruling elites and our submissive, law-abiding society. The socio-political terminologies which are used against these vulnerable minorities are paralleled by theological ideologies where bigotry plays a part, triggering assumptions and prejudice towards queer minorities.

There are, however, a number of supportive groups of activists who are against the conservatism and anti-progress outlook of patriarchal authorities.

The mainstream media also play a huge role. Advertisements are powerful enough to influence and shape certain theories and beliefs. We have witnessed how society depends on mass media and like-minded peers who strongly support and share the same views. Ignorance breeds ignorance. Ignorance is not some trivial weakness; it infects and spreads its viruses, corrupting the majority.

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Why does gender identity matter so much? Is it entirely religious, political or enforced by the psychology of the human stigma? I strongly believe that it is all three factors.

I believe all humans are equal and they are governed by free will; hence, the ridiculous act of segregating human beings based on their physical eccentricity and unconventional sexuality has created some sort of a hierarchical status between the ‘Third Gender’ and ‘Binary Gender’ individuals. Undoubtedly, this is primitive and archaic.

In this troubled world, we should be more concerned about poverty, famine, plagues and epidemics, human rights violations, organised crimes, children and their lack of access to education, and war. Shouldn’t we focus more on the problems which humanity is confronted with, rather than condemning certain groups because of what they choose to wear or who they wish to love.

If we were to compassionately defend another person and champion humanitarian causes without discrimination to create a better world, regardless of political or religious or philosophical beliefs, we would have a better chance of saving more souls – including those who have previously been condemned.

What’s your stance? Mine is Solidarity, Justice and Freedom. For all.

Danielle-Rhye-AvrahamovicDanielle Rhye Avrahamovic is the pseudonym of a flight attendant who considers herself a free spirit: she writes, composes songs, plays the guitar, paints and collects rare masterpieces wherever she travels. Familar with the underground subcultures of her hometown, Ipoh, she finds her playground in jamming studios and alternative music stores in the midst of old-town shophouses and abandoned colonial mansions.

Danielle recently participated in Aliran’s Young Writers Workshop on Good Governance, Gender and Vulnerable Groups held in Ipoh with the support of the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives.

“It was truly an amazing journey, being guided and taught extensively by highly experienced and knowledgeable facilitators; I couldn’t have asked for better,” she says. “As a young writer who still has so much to learn, I am grateful that Aliran has given me this life-enriching experience. I hope there will be more of these liberal movements to ignite social awareness that writing is part of human nature…”

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