Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The H Words

Hetero- and Homo- sexual. Where did these words come from? People have always had same and opposite sex relationships and sexual relations but have there always been heterosexuals? The short answer is no, in fact there haven't.

The word heteosexual was actually first used on March 7, 1892 by Dr. James G. Kiernan of Chicago. In his context, heterosexuals were defined by a mental condition, "physical hermaphroditism" where people had a inclination to both sexes. These heterodox sexuals betrayed inclinations to abnormal methods of gratification, which was pleasuring themselves without procreation (aka having sex just to do it). He also used the word homosexual whose general mental state is that of the opposite sex, so homosexuals were defined by their deviance from a gender norm - they displayed a double deviance from both gender and procreative norms.

Later that year Dr. Krafft-Ebing book Psychopathia Sexualis was translated into english where he used hereo-sexual in the modern sense, referring to an erotic feeling for a different sex. He also used "homo-sexual" referred unambiguously to an erotic feeling for a "same sex." Only gradually did doctors agree that heterosexual referred to a notmal, "other-sex" sexual desire. This idea of heterosexuality as the master sex from which all others deviated was deeply authoritarian.

So why do I bring this up? Well first, as we can see, the words hetero and homo sexual were created very recently. It wasn't until just over 100 years ago that these words came to be. So why do we put so much emphasis on the meaning of these two words. The hetero/homo divide was not nature's doing was it? We invent these categories to classify objects and force facts into separate categories.

Some of you have probably heard of Caster Semenya - the female runner from S. Africa that had to undergo gender testing because of her super fast times. Tests are still pending exact results but it has been found that she does have testes inside of her body. So is she a male? Is she a female?

It is a good example of how things do not need to be classified into discreet categories.
So think the next time you say something is so gay or so straight - is it really?? Or is it inbetween?

Stay Sexy Michigan

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