I regularly refer to women and men in public talks or men, women and children or all sentient beings.
I recognise the limits of stating such identities in the first two examples above. For more than 2600 years. Dharma teachings have included frequently the term all sentient beings since other beings besides our species know the experience of love, suffering and pain.
The Identity, Gender and Latent Prejudice
Dharma teachings offer a depth of exploration of the condition of the self around identify (meaning the I making an entity of an identity).
Dharma does not reject the plethora of views around identity and gender – male, female or otherwise. Teachings examine the suffering through clinging to any identity or using identity of skin colour, gender or age to undermine, blame or attack another or others.
Those of us who have a modest role in public life can find ourselves facing hostile stereotypes about ourselves with little or no relationship to an issue spoken about.
To take a personal example. I refer to an issue, social, political or environmental. A listener disagrees with me and wishes to communicate directly to me their views.
Tension and anger bring out the ugly in people. The person states “Well, you said (whatever) because you are white, male and elderly.”
Holding to self-righteous views of another person, the person expresses a crude stereotype. In my view, the person reveals more than stereotype language. The self of the person reveals he, she or other a tendency towards being racist (white), sexist (male) and ageist (elderly) – without realising it. The latent prejudice becomes a crude strategy to put down a person.
A person may find themself on the receiving end of prejudice from a person who, themselves, has suffered prejudice due to skin colour, gender/identity or age. The person who projects onto another may not even want to hear any concern or question about the projection or needs behind the projection. A closed mind sees the projection as the truth that the state of the body (white, male, elderly) creates the state of mind.
The pain and the hurt of the person from abuse elsewhere gets stored in the mind and then released on physical features similar to the abuser(s), who perhaps was white, male and elderly. I rarely experience prejudice (I mean very, very rarely) but it is still unpleasant. I have been told that I am responsible for British colonialism, the brutal occupation of other countries and responsible for racism. Eg “You English are responsible for racism. in the world.. “What on Earth have the sins of previous generations got to do with the person sitting in front of them? Such accusations sounds like a form of racism to my ears.
What must it be like for those who endure prejudice (means prejudgement) frequently or have been wounded through the abusive behaviour or voice of one person? I ask myself or the person “What happened in the person’s past to form such views?”
Sadly, there are a few in minority groups, militant and angry, who reveal forms of racism, sexism etc at the dominant group. Putting it simply, two wrongs do not make a right.
Colour of skin, XY chromosomes/male genitalia and year of birth have no causal factor in the expression of views, skilful or unskilful. Views arise from the condition of the mind, not the condition of the body. There is nothing generational about a state of mind.
64 Different Identities (A – D) around Gender
I googled Gender and Identity. Websites can list up to 64 kinds of identity in relationship to gender and identity.
Here are the first 10 identities listed in one website.
1. AFAB. Acronym meaning “Assigned Female at birth.”
2. AGENDER. Someone who does not identify with the idea or experience of having a gender.
3. ALIAGENDER. A nonbinary gender identity that doesn’t fit into existing gender schemas or constructs.
4. ANDROGYNE. Someone who has a gender presentation or identity that’s gender-neutral, androgynous, or has both masculine and feminine characteristics.
5. APORAGENDER. Both an umbrella term and nonbinary gender identity describing the experience of having a specific gender that’s different from man, woman, or any combination of the two.
6. BUTCH doesn’t necessarily indicate the other terms that someone might use to describe their presentation, sexuality, or gender.
7. CISGENDER. A term used to describe people who exclusively identify with the sex and gender they were assigned at birth.
8. DEMIGENDER. This umbrella term typically includes non-binary gender identities and uses the prefix “demi-” to indicate the experience of having a partial identification or connection to a particular gender.
9. DEMIGIRL. This nonbinary gender identity describes someone who partially identifies with being a girl, woman or feminine.
10. DYADIC. This describes people who have sex characteristics, such as chromosomes, hormones, internal organs, or anatomy, often categorized into the binary of male or female.
Dharma practice contributes to the dissolution of any suffering around identity, dissolution of blame towards others and seeing the emptiness of clinging to any identity. Emptiness of clinging reveals a liberation from being tied down to the constructions of the self/identity and associated harmful views.
Let us use the language of gender and identity with care and sensitivity. Let us make clear our concern at crude, generalised perceptions of gender, skin, age, heritage and identity.
The recognition of identity has a usefulness in society but seizing upon an identity for oneself or others, whether long-standing or new, can lead to much unhappiness, fears of rejection or an obsessive issue.
Remember a person/people constitutes a social construct rather than a self-existing entity based on specific labels at the exclusion of all else. Dharma language described the world of name and form, such as label of object as conventional truth, as distinct from ultimate truth. We have the potential to know a pervasive liberation free from being trapped in narrow perceptions.
Difference between Sex and Gender
Sex refers to the biological aspects of maleness and femaleness. This is determined by our hormones and secondary sex characteristics, such as genitals.
The three main categories of sex:
• Male: a person with XY chromosomes and male genitalia
• Female: a person with XX chromosomes and female genitalia
• Intersex: a person with differences in sexual development, such as hormones, genitals, and chromosomes.
Doctors assign sex as male or female at birth, though there is current criticism developing on this viewpoint. An estimated 1.7% of people are born with intersex traits.
Some people say their sex does not align with their gender. They may identify themselves as transgender or non-binary. In the socially tolerant world of the Buddhist tradition, such as in Thailand, there is acknowledgement of non-specific gender of people involving sex (biological/physical characteristics and identity. Such people are less likely to be viewed as weird. The tradition knows neither gender, nor sex, as binary.
Physical appearance does not confirm identity. We need to be mindful of this.
Respect for Rights of All Sentient Beings
Human beings often fail to recognise the place of sentient beings, so they become marginalised or ignored, as if they did not matter. The recognition of diversity of identity of gender still carries a certain narcissism when animals, birds, fish and other creatures face exclusion from diversity.
Regularly, I say such words at the end of talks as May all Beings live in Peace and Harmony. It is not bland rhetoric but stated with sincerity. Sadly, many of those who identify their gender as women, men or otherwise, often prefer eating animals, birds and fish instead of giving recognition, inclusion and support for the feelings of non-human creatures.
As humans, we go on and on about our rights while ignoring the suffering due to human treatment of creatures in the wild, factory farms, laboratories for animal experiments, domestic abuse and more. You might get the impression that only people are entitled to rights while other sentient creatures have little or no rights.
In Private and Public Communication
After research and conversations with LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, Transgender, Queer and more), I opted to use spoken and written language simply stating
women, men and others.
I considered women, men and rainbow coalition or women, men and queers but this language did not sit well with everybody.
We need to break out of our self-ascribed notion of self-importance as human beings and expand consciousness to include and respect the needs of all sentient beings. Creatures have rights, too.
That is the priority.
If you have any doubt, ask the creatures on this Earth.
MAY ALL BEINGS LIVE IN PEACE
MAY ALL BEINGS LIVE IN HARMONY
MAY ALL BEINGS IN ALL THE REALMS
AND IN ALL THE UNIVERSES LIVE IN PEACE AND HARMONY.