When it comes to both sexual identity and gender identity, it’s not uncommon for people to say “I was born this way.” However, while both same-sex attraction and gender non-conformity are indeed linked to various biomarkers, the way people come to adopt specific identities is far more than just a simple function of their biological makeup. Identities are socially and culturally constructed. As a result, sexual and gender identities vary considerably across time and culture. It’s important for us to recognize that our way of thinking about sexuality and gender isn’t the only way, so that’s what we’re going to be talking about today. We’re going to explore sexuality and gender in cross-cultural perspective.
My guest is Dr. Paul Vasey, a Professor and Research Chair in the Department of Psychology at the University of Lethbridge, who conducts cross-species and cross-cultural research on sexuality and gender. Some of the topics we explore include:
- The third gender category of fa’afafine in Samoa. What does this term mean, and how does it relate to the Western concept of transgender?
- Does gender dysphoria exist in cultures where more than two genders are recognized and accepted?
- Same-sex attraction exists in Samoa (as it does everywhere), but almost no one there identifies as gay. How is same-sex sexuality expressed in Samoa instead?
- Outside of the West, do sexual and gender minorities band together? In other words, does an organized LGBTQ+ community exist everywhere in the world?
- Cultures like Samoa where third genders exist are seen by some in the West as gender utopias. But should we be romanticizing the way that Samoa and other cultures approach gender diversity?
- The broader role that social and cultural environments play in shaping our own personal understanding of our gender and sexuality.
Check it out!
Thanks to The Handy (thehandy.com) and the Kinsey Institute (kinseyinstitute.org) for sponsoring this episode!
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Credits: Kane Power (Podcast editing) and Shutterstock/Florian (Music). Image created with Canva; photos used with permission of guest.