Singapore Writers Festival – Fringe: Gender Bender – Love in the Age of Sexual Confusion

19 Nov 2012
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euphemism [ˈjuːfɪˌmɪzəm]
1. (Linguistics) an inoffensive word or phrase substituted for one considered offensive or hurtful, esp one concerned with religion, sex, death, or excreta.
2. (Linguistics) the use of such inoffensive words or phrases

The session started with Monique Truong questioning the topic of the night – Gender Bender: Love in the Age of Gender Confusion. To Monique, she does not think that sexual attraction between the same gender means confusion. In fact, isn’t knowing what you want, the exact opposite of confusion?

I, too, wonder what is peculiar about this age that caused a gender confusion. Gender, is an age-old theme. One that has already been explored in many Shakespearean plays. Shakespeare cleverly made use of characters in disguise to push the boundaries of gender stereotypes. Disguise, is merely a motif that sets you thinking what makes us who we are? Shakespeare compels us to consider if gender is something that is set in stone, or can it be altered with just a change of clothing..? This resonates with my article’s idea that gender is a role to be performed.

Every person is stipulated a perceived gender at birth, and thereby expected to perform a certain gender role. Confusion arises when expectation from the rest of the society is not met. The person in question is disoriented because his/her values are not in sync with the social norm. (But that does not always necessarily mean it is incorrect.)

Our novelists wittingly made use of this nature of humanity, to craft their stories about or around stereotypes of gender identities. For example, in one of Tania De Rozario’s short stories, she erased the gender identity of the protagonist by using a genderless narrative voice. As the plot unfolds to reveal bits and pieces of the character, it pushes the readers to consider, and re-consider, thereby, overthrowing readers’ initial stereotypical ideas of the gender identity.

This idea resonates with my article’s definition that if gender is a role to be performed, then is it sexual desire that drives this fluidity of gender identity or is it the assumed gender role that drives the orientation of one’s sexual desire? To Cyril Wong, it is to each his own.

Cyril explores this age-old theme that has long existed in ancient Hindu texts. Some of his works employ the gender fluidity that Hindu gods and goddesses assume, allowing him to play with the pronouns used in his poems, hence the sexuality too, ebb and flow in sync with the change in the deities’ gender roles.

Monique used the word Euphemism to sum up this whole idea of gender-bending – a deliberate use of a pleasant or neutral word to avoid the emotional implications of a plain term. Indeed, the issue of gender, love and sexuality will never be simply a matter of anyone’s definition. I could assert that since one’s gender identity is a role, then it should be decidedly performed by each individual. But unfortunately, as an individual existing in a society, we are bounded by societal norms and another’s judgement, we often have to deny ourselves and become entangled in a web of emotional confusion.


Event details:
Date: 5 Nov 2012, Mon
Time: 8:00 – 9:00pm
Venue: Living Room, The Arts House