I’m taking a course on human sexuality this semester. I figured any issues I had with the course be would due to my ace-ness and sex repulsion, but I was wrong. By far, the things that have bothered me the most relate to my being trans. The textbook is more than a little bit cissexist.
The chapter on gender identity and gender roles is especially problematic. I don’t think I even want to get into the details. Suffice to say that they talk about intersex and trans people in a way that is very othering, if not downright dehumanizing, and they thoroughly invalidate trans identities. They even describe trans people’s sexual orientation in relation to the sex they were assigned at birth. No. Just no. They also have a section about third genders in other cultures, which is also highly othering and even blatantly disrespectful at times. Because apparently the authors are super ethnocentric and think that their culture’s gender construct is obviously the way gender really works, even while they’re writing about various different cases where it really doesn’t work.
Fortunately, my professor actually cares about respecting people. The actual class session on gender was pretty okay. I was uncomfortable the whole time, having learned from previous classes that people being introduced to the idea of trans and intersex people existing, and sex and gender being different things, tend to say some really ignorant and/or shitty things. But on the whole it was more or less okay. And no one said anything as memorably horrible as that one time in my sociology class.
Aside from that one section on gender with its very specific issues, there is one issue in particular which has just been continuously bothersome, and that’s when anatomy is conflated with gender. When we talk about a “female reproductive system” or “female anatomy” or talk about cervical cancer as if it is only relevant to women. I know the English language isn’t so great for talking about reproductive anatomy without conflating anatomy and gender. But does the damn textbook have to throw in the words “women”, “she”, “her”, “girl”, and “female” at every possible opportunity? Not everyone who has those parts is female! And having various parts of my anatomy be referred to as female about 150 times in a single chapter turns it into a practical lesson in dysphoria and invalidation more than a lesson on anatomy.
Although the chapter on anatomy is the worst in this regard, this is something that happens in pretty much every single chapter and every single lecture. I don’t see an easy way to completely solve this issue without inventing a bunch of new words, but would it be that hard to just say “people” every now and then? Fuck. It is just so tiring to put up with this so frequently for such an extended period of time.
Another thing I noticed because of my class is that there is fuck all information available about birth control for trans people. This an important issue, especially for trans men taking testosterone who still have a uterus and ovaries. You can still get pregnant while taking testosterone. I have no idea how common or rare it is. It is also possible for a trans woman on HRT to get someone pregnant. I have no idea what the chances of that are, either. Like I said, there is fuck all information available about birth control for trans folk. Presumably, condoms are a good idea for any potentially procreative sex, including for people on HRT. As for the various hormonal contraceptive methods, which generally use estrogen and/or progestins? No idea how those would interact with testosterone. A copper IUD would probably work just fine, since it isn’t a hormonal method (the copper kills sperm), but it can cause heavier menstruation. I have no idea how that would interact with testosterone, either.
It would be really nice if there were more (any?) sex ed courses and textbooks that didn’t make trans people feel invisible/erased/invalidated/dehumanized. That applies to LGBQ and ace people, too. The assumption that a person will have a partner of the “opposite” sex is still very prevalent, and the textbook for my class is certainly no exception. The assumption that everyone is going to want/have sex is super prevalent, too. My textbook actually has a whole two paragraphs about asexuality… and then spends the rest of the book assuming that everyone has or wants partnered sex.