Thursday, December 22, 2016

Gender and Sex (Are they the same thing?)

Words, either written or spoken, are used to convey ideas. For example, look at the picture below. What word or words come to mind?

Was it one or more of the following? Home, house, mansion, family, neighborhood. Was it something else?

Consider a moment the difference between the words “home” and “house.” Do they mean the same thing or is there a subtle variance? The answer will differ depending on who is asked.

In 2016, in America social media (and society in general) escalated the debate on the meaning of the word “gender.”

To many, the word “gender” means the same thing as the words “biological sex.” To others, the two have different meanings. Who, then, is correct?

Both, and neither.

Again, words are simply ways to put ideas into a form to express that idea. English is a living language. Sometimes, words change meaning over time. For example, consider the word “gay.”

In some Christmas songs (and even in the opening theme to the TV show “The Flintstones”), the word “gay” means happy. In 2016, the more socially accepted meaning of the word refers to a homosexual.

One person could say, “I remember my grandpa. He was so gay.” Another person could respond, “No he wasn’t! He was faithfully married to your grandma for 65 years until the day he died!”

How a person understands the idea behind a word will influence how they will interpret it in some contexts.

Who, then, is correct in how they interpret the word “gender?”

Consider the definition of the word from the Oxford English Dictionary: “The state of being male or female (typically used with reference to social and cultural differences rather than biological ones).”

Notice the difference: gender refers to social and cultural differences. Sex is connected more with the biological aspects.

To help make this clearer, consider the following: In many languages, words are either male or female.

In Spanish, for example, “la mesa” means “the table” in English. Because it uses “la” before the word, “mesa” is considered to be feminine. In contrast, “el piso” means “the floor” in English. The “el” makes “piso” masculine.

In the picture above, there is a table and a floor. Neither one of these objects has biological parts which make them feminine or masculine. Why? It is because gender is not the same as biological sex.

Here is another example of how “gender” is a social or cultural defined concept. Look below. Which color is associated with boys and which is for girls?

In 2016 in America, pink is generally associated with girls while boys are connected to blue. But it wasn’t always that way. In an NPR article on the subject, it states, “a 1918 trade catalog for children's clothing recommended blue for girls.” It goes on to state, “We think of pink as such a girlish color, but it's really a post-World War II phenomenon.”

This is another example how the concept of gender changes over the years in society.

There are many these days who do not like the current socially dictated concepts of gender. As they try to change what is the social norm, there are those who are against it for various reasons. One of these reasons is because of the confusion (on both sides) about the difference between gender and biological sex.

Case in point, look at the following picture:

Socially, gender has defined women as dress wearers and men as those who wear pants. However, this person may have something to say about that:

It’s easy to see how gender and biological sex are intertwined and connected when it comes to bathrooms—one of the hot issues with gender activities. When a sign, based on the concept of gender, is used to indicate a room based on a person’s biological sex, confusion and misunderstandings will happen.

There are those that would argue that bathroom usage should be based on gender, not biological sex. However, consider the following picture:

These urinals are clearly designed for those of a certain biological sex, not a gender. The same is true for bathrooms which contain these signs:

From a strictly logical point of view, those of different biological sexes have different body parts. Despite social or cultural views on the subject, the different body parts have different functions. Bathrooms, at their most basic, are designed around biological functions—not based on what color a person prefers to wear, or if they want to wear a dress (or any other idea which defines gender).

There are bathrooms which are designed to accommodate people of either biological sex. Yet, there are those who are hesitant to share a bathroom with someone of the other biological sex. Often, those who speak up about such reservations are labeled as intolerant or biased. Why? Because society is changing to redefine the meaning of gender—and it is gaining momentum. Media tends to lean on the liberal side which promotes change.

Ignorance of the difference between the words “gender” and “biological sex” is confusing the issue. People then go on to argue using the same words which mean different things to them as individuals.

For true understanding, and resolution to differences, to occur, the meaning behind the words used must first be established. Without that, no progress will be made as gender is redefined by society, but biological sex is not.



Saturday, December 17, 2016

Religion versus Fantasy

Darker the Shadow, my latest book, has fantasy elements. It’s not the first time I’ve included concepts and ideas which could be considered fantasy. In The Mirror of the Soul, there is certainly a fantasy element. With both books, I’ll admit I’ve been somewhat hesitant in using storylines which are connected with fantasy. Why? Because I am a very religious person.

Let me explain.

Fantasy in novels is often connected with magic—an idea that someone has a skill to do amazing things which normal humans beings lack. There are those who claim that any such skills must come from God and to not give him credit could be considered blasphemy.

Then there are others who see a distinction: religion and all things spiritual are real to them, and fantasy is make-believe. I fall into this category.

It’s the same reason I believe in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, Jack Frost, and so on. Does this mean by doing so I’m offending God? Again, some would say yes.

I am a devout member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and I believe that every human has a personal relationship with their Heavenly Father. To my knowledge, there is nothing in the doctrine of my church which condemns fantasy. After all, there are many well-known LDS authors who write fantasy.

Sadly, there are readers who will outwardly criticize a book or an author solely on their religion. Equally as sad, at least to me, are those of the same religion who criticize a book or an author because they write fantasy.

So why was I hesitant to write fantasy? It’s because of those extremists noted previously. I’ve had people of various religions tell me, “If you aren’t constantly glorifying God, you are turning your back on him.”

I disagree.

Every single book I’ve written has a moral theme attached to it. Do I bash people over the head with it? No. That would defeat the purpose of the narratives. My hope is that when readers travel along with the characters in my books, they take the time to think about what each character is facing and the choices they make. From there, I hope they consider the actions in the book in their own lives.

Yes, I wrote a fantasy book. I’m proud of it. I think the characters are interesting and the story is engaging. I also think that there is a lot of underlying elements which I hope will get people to think. Will it please everyone? No.

If you are one who thinks that fantasy books are offensive to God, I have a suggestion: don’t read Darker the Shadow. It’s not for you. 

Saturday, September 3, 2016

School Buses on the Freeway

Which is more dangerous: going too fast or going too slow on the freeway? Some would argue one side, and some the other. This question keeps popping into my mind as I drive to work each morning. 

I live about 20 minutes away from work and most of the time I travel on the freeway. The speed limit is 65 almost the whole way. On any given morning, people zip by and dodge in and out of traffic as if the freeway was their personal slalom course. That is certainly dangerous, and frankly, quite selfish.

Then there are those who go significantly slower than the speed limit. The worst culprits are school buses. I’ve noticed time and again that the slower vehicles appear to have a bigger impact on the overall traffic because those attempting to drive the speed limit have to dodge these rolling barricades, or they simply slow down causing everyone behind them to go slower as well.

Most of the time, the majority of the people on freeways are doing close to the speed limit. When everyone does about the same speed, traffic flows more smoothly. It’s a beautiful thing.

Does that mean that buses should go faster? Not necessarily. There are other roads aside freeways to get from point A to point B.

There are those that may complain that by having everyone do the speed limit eliminates individual freedoms. I disagree.

There are many different types of vehicles on the road—most of the time, people choose what they want to drive. When I’m traveling, I can listen to whatever music I choose—heck, I even get to choose what kind of clothes I wear while driving. I have a vast amount of freedom.

This overall concept has other applications. There are rules, laws, and generally understood accepted social practices. Some people don’t agree with these ideals and therefore do whatever they want (speeders). Then there are those (slower drivers) who by inaction or stubbornness impact the freedom of others who are trying to live by following the rules.

Recently, I went to a Subway sandwich shop. The woman ahead of me insisted on picking out each individual item on her sandwich. This isn’t to say she was clarifying which vegetables she wanted. She actually had the sandwich maker show her several tomato slices and then picked which three she wanted. She did this with all of the items.

The line behind her was starting to build. The sandwich maker, to his credit, hurried when he could. The lady’s response? She told him, “Stop rushing me!”

He responded very nicely, “I’m sorry. I’m not trying to rush you. I’m simply asking you questions on what you would like.”

She became very upset. She demanded to speak to the manager. She wanted the phone number to the corporate headquarters. “I don’t like being disrespected!” she kept saying.

I did my best to stay out of it. I honestly did. But after standing there for five minutes while she threw a hissy fit, I stepped in.

“Ma’am,” I said. “I have watched this whole interaction. You are the one being disrespectful. Look behind you. There is a line of customers. You are making them wait because you felt slighted. I don’t believe you were. The worker has been nothing but nice to you. Please, just pay for your sandwich and walk away.”

She turned to start telling me off when several other people in line started to clap and cheer me on.
In a huff, she walked out of the store. After she left, the worker, tears in his eyes, thanked me. He even gave me a free cookie for being nice.

Upon leaving the store, it occurred to me that the lady reminded me of a school bus traveling on the freeway.