There has been much in the news lately about so-called “Gender Reveals.” Those events where the expectant parents do ever more bold things to reveal pink or blue colored items to state they are having a girl or a boy. These are based on the results of amniocentesis (chromosomal sex), which is not necessarily even indicative of assigned sex at birth, or sonogram results, again, which may not be accurate.
They are NOT gender. Gender is an innate identity that the individual holds. A fetus cannot have gender because it is not yet sentient and cannot communicate. Until a child is roughly three years old or so, they cannot communicate what gender they identify with.
The only thing a parent can know for sure is sex assigned at birth: Male if there is a complete penis and testicles. Female if there is a complete vulva (note – not vagina – vagina is the internal canal between the vulva and the uterus; an internal exam is not done in determining baby’s sex). Intersex (IS) if they baby’s sex is anything else.
Note that many in the IS community are now uncomfortable with this name because it has become medicalized to allow for compulsive “corrective” surgery on the newborn. Most IS adults would prefer to have had the choice as to what to do, or not do, about their genitals, and so being forced into a sex not of their choosing is very traumatic. Many parents today are learning this and choosing to not have surgery on their IS newborns, and this is the best course in the long run.
The bottom line is that calling these events “Gender Reveals” reveals only one thing – a lack of knowledge. Further, there have been a number of deaths lately, as the “Keeping up with the Jonses” syndrome causes people to do ever more extreme events for these things.
The best thing to do is keep your news private until after the birth when you know for sure what the sex of your baby is. No pre-birth test is 100% accurate anyway.
As described above, the word sex in this context refers to the condition of the genitals at birth. If the person has a penis, they are assigned male at birth (AMAB). If they have a vulva they are assigned female at birth (AFAB). If their genitals are anything else, they are IS.
However, the condition of the genitals has nothing really to do with sexuality. This concept may have held when the world believed in the notion of binary identity; when people were believed to be cisgender and binary, and either heterosexual or homosexual. But we know that none of that is true. These notions were applied by the cis/het/binary community onto the queer community to put us into neat little boxes, because they did not at all understand queer theory.
As I detail in my Gender Odyssey workshop on this website, Gender and Sexuality are NOT binary. They exist in multi-dimensional space. Male and Female genders are two finite points of no dimension. Thus none of us are truly binary.
Further recognizing the reality of non-binary gender, and recognizing that there are transgender people who have not yet, or will not have gender confirming surgeries there are many people for whom their sexual identities (i.e. their genitals) do not match their gender identities (i.e. their innate sense of self, how they feel and see themselves; this has nothing to do with biology).
What is called sexuality, in reality has nothing to do with genitals. As Moir and Jessel detail, it’s all about your brain. The brain is the most important sexual organ, not the genitals.
So a person such as myself who is attracted to women but not men can be attracted to someone with a penis, and not attracted to someone with a vulva/vagina. This is very confusing to those who have not learned these things. This is the point of this reflection.
Eventually I suspect some new language may be devised, or at least I hope it will, that more accurately reflects the truth of these issues. For now though, we need to be aware that Gender Reveals, Sexuality and Sexual Orientation are misnamed by the cis/het/binary community that just doesn’t know any better.