It's imperative for business leaders to know the difference between gender and sexuality
Sometimes it can seem like the landscape of sexuality and gender is like an ever-changing and expanding map – one that can feel daunting to navigate. Never fear – two gender identity experts and the trusty research and statistics of HR Grapevine are here to help.
There are a lot of differing viewpoints about both gender and sexuality – two different things, which may be in the same realm, but have very little to do with one another – but the facts are that there have been more than two genders throughout all of human history, and as many types of sexual attraction as humankind can conceive.
As researchers at America’s Public Broadcast Station (PBS) explains in their anthropological resource map on gender identity, “On nearly every continent, and for all of recorded history, thriving cultures have recognised, revered, and integrated more than two genders. Terms such as transgender and gay are strictly new constructs that assume three things: that there are only two sexes (male/female), as many as two sexualities (gay/straight), and only two genders (man/woman).”
As scholars from the University of California explain that, just because the concept of same-sex orientation and of gender fluidity are only recently beginning to be accepted in the West doesn’t mean they’re new – it just means we’re behind – by at least a few Millennia.
“Although contemporary culture likes to position gender non-conforming people as a new phenomenon, history shows otherwise,” explains Lanna Urquhart. “Anthropologists have long documented cultures around the world that acknowledge more than two genders. There are examples going back 3,000 years to the Iron Age, and even further back to the Copper Age.”
In terms of sexual preference/orientation/attraction, well, it should be able to go without saying that all sorts of preferences have been part of cultures across geography and history since the advent of human bodies.
Male homosexuality has been found as far back as the Mesolithic period (that’s the 100th century BCE) and famous queer leaders include England’s Edward II, the Roman Emperor Hadrian (he of the wall fame) and of course, Socrates, who, along with Aristotle, is often hailed as one of the founder’s of Western philosophy.
Freedom of thought and expression, and respect for an individual’s right to identify as whoever they are, is key
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