Discussion / Event

Published: 04/03/2011

The theme of Kamisan (Thursday) Discussion on March 3, 2011 is Gender and Diversity of Sexual Orientation. Sex, gender and sexual orientation in society is not only attached to the relations between men and women or masculine to feminine as what is constructed. Through this discussion we will look at some of the facts of sexual orientation and its positions in the Indonesian society. The speaker of this discussion is Agustine (Ardhanary Institute).



  1. Sex refers to biological organs that have been determined since one’s birth through social institutions. The concept of hetero-normativity, which has been deeply rooted in the society, creates a condition where sex has been largely accepted as two types only: the vagina for female and penis for male.
  2. Sex is different to sexual orientation, which refers to a person’s attraction to another person with certain gender or gender role. The sexual attraction, which is generally accepted through the system of binary opposition that becomes the referral norm in the society, is heterosexual attraction (male-female). Homosexual attraction is considered a defiant behavior and, therefore, tends to be discriminated against.
  3. Sexual identity determines a person’ sexual orientation because sexual identity is about someone’s ability to identify his/her self in relation to his/her sexual orientation and behavior.
  4. Sex, sexual orientation and social identity are parts of human sexuality, which basically is socially constructed. As a social construction, sexuality should have been liquid and subject to change (dynamic).
  5. The groups of LGBTQXYZ are groups that have been systematically silenced by norms applicable in society due to their courage to express the diversity of their sexual identity and norms. It is done through controlling and dominating discussions link to sexuality issues, which eventually created taboo in re-questioning sex and gender issues.

Presentation Summary

  1. Sex, sexual orientation, sexual identity will influence a person’s gender identity and expression in society. Gender identity refers to the way a person identifies his/her self as male or female or others while gender expression is about the way someone express his/her self as masculine or feminine and/or both.
  2. Gender is a social construction developed in the society that links to a person’ social roles. There has been gap between social roles of male and female due to the patriarchal system’s domination that has been internalized in the social institutions and continuously constructed and reconstructed in the society.
  3. Feminist criticism to sexuality, e.g. the theory of Essentialism, has been launched since it observes sexuality through Hetero perspective, which considers sexuality as something “Given” or natural, unchanged or a fate from God that could not be changed. “Given” sexuality constructs male as individuals who are more active, rough and wild sexually while female are individuals who are passive, soft and powerless. The patriarchal-dominated hetero perspective considers female’ powerlessness as sexual eroticism. Therefore, should one female take the active, rough and wild roles, she will be considered a wild and not-a-good woman.
  4. The theory of Essentialism develops binary opposition patterns that have been institutionalized in human’ consciousness space. It means, in the process of thinking, human often use certain identities that function as “different factors” to differentiate them with other identities. The forms of dichotomy pattern are basically attempts to categorize something “normal” versus “abnormal”, “normative” versus “non normative”. Therefore, something that is considered not normal and different must always be positioned as “enemies” that must be eliminated.
  5. The silencing of someone’ sexuality is done through controlling and dominating talks and discussions so that the issue could not be discussed and re-questioned in open forums. The purpose is to burden different thinking patterns with stigmas, which have been dominated human being to the very corners of their consciousness space in a bid to make the issues unknown and not subject to study. Eventually, it creates a situation where all of us agree to accept it as “not normal” situation and that it must be eliminated. The reproduction and reconstruction of negatives senses have been continuously created by the mainstream thinking over different thinking products.
  6. Due to the gap of power relations in society stemmed from the patriarchal system, women are actually never born as “female subject” but their presence (bodies, thinking as well as their rights and obligations) have been socially constructed. This thesis has been offered by Simone De Beauvoir in her book “The Second Class “ and has served as a critique to biological determinism, the theory of which eventually formed the gender theories.
  7. The hetero-normativity system, which have been deeply rooted in the patriarchal societies, only accepts sexual identity or gender expression that are considered “Given” or fate from God since someone’s birth: the masculine male and feminine female. Therefore, the presence of the groups of LGBTQXYZ (which have non-hetero sexual relations) has been negated. In fact, social reality reveals that sex, sexual orientation, gender role and expression that become someone’ identity is not limited to two (female or male) as there are 48 (and perhaps more) gender types and varieties of human gender as shown by the matrix of gender variety and identity.
  8. The groups of LGBTIQXYZ, in their position as groups that have interests to re-construct the patriarchal discourses, define sex, sexual identity, sexual orientation or gender identity and expression based on the groups’ own thinking. These groups also reject the mainstream hegemony of identities that become normal referral norms in society. In an attempt to contribute to female movement, it takes a standard definition to serve as an operation tool to be used against oppression and discrimination.
  9. The forms of identity and expression for those who are different in sex and gender, such as tomboy and sissy, have been labeled and stigmatized as something negative. The negative label and stigma could be countered by continuously socialize about the diversity of sexual form and identity of sex and gender to educate people about the fluid nature of sex and gender.

Question & Answer

(Q) What does sex mean and what is its difference to gender?

(A) The LGBTIQXYZ groups define sex as biological organs. Sex has been determined since a person is born and it links to the norms applicable in society. However, in reality, there are only two sex, if one is born with vagina, womb and breasts, the person’s gender is female, otherwise if a person is born with penis and sperm, the person’s gender is male.

(Q) Why is sex considered fluid?

(A) The concept of “sex is fluid” develops because sex is subject to change in line with the development of science and technology at the moment through surgery, injection or acupuncture. The change is not only physical as masculine and feminine hormones are also subject to medical change. The psychological change is also possible through reconstruction and reproduction of a person’s gender expression and identity through his/her surrounding and self-internalization.


(Q) Why does tendency to dichotomize the concept of masculine as the prerogative of male and the concept of feminine as the prerogative of female remain?

(A) The concepts of masculinity and femininity are actually identification and self-recognition of self to sex and gender as well as a society’s identification to someone. When one is able to define his/her self, one has in fact been influenced by values and norms of the society where he/she belongs. The concepts of masculinity and femininity have actually dependent on the process of inclusion and exclusion, that is based on one’s awareness and identification to his/her self and norms applicable in his/her surrounding.


(Q) What is expression of sex and gender? 

(A) Expression of sex and gender links to subjectivity and identification to one self. Expression is subject to change in line with individual expectation and is actually a construction of society that has been internalized in his/her self.


(Q) Why is there absolute thinking of someone’ sexual identity and orientation?

(A) Absolutism attitude of thinking has been very subjective. There is nothing absolute in the world; one individual could be having not only one sex, gender identity and expression. History shows that every thinking always attempts to become a mainstream that eventually become the stream of hegemony as the ultimate truth that must be followed without “question” and rejection. This kind of absolutism thinking is elitist in nature because it tends to be shared by dominant power, which serve as “the only interpreter” to reality. Those outside the mainstream are considered rebels that must not be recognized and followed.


(Q) Why is the issues link to LGBTIQ considered born within the patriarchal system? 

(A) The context of patriarchal culture has been really disregarding other sexual identities (aside from male and female). The patriarchal culture has been perpetuating the system of hetero-normativity and binary pattern just because it recognizes single sexual identity and negates the groups of LGBTIQXYZ.


(Q) How could women movement accommodate the groups of LGBTIQ?

(A) Women movement through feminism revolves on disassembling and reconstructing binary opposition pattern between male and female. Feminism is a movement that aims at identifying problems faced by women that occur because of men. Through the feminist movement in Indonesia, the interests of the groups of LGBT have been expressed and fought for. The groups of LGBT are also those who are discriminated against and become a main subject of violence by the patriarchal system applicable in the society. The lesson learnt is that we could not simplify and mono-politicize issues link to sexuality due to the diversity of sexual and gender identities.



The issues of sex, gender and sexual orientation in society are not only about the relations between male and female, or masculine-feminine (e.g. what is constructed through a system of binary oppositions in the hetero-normativity). Instead, it is very diverse and fluid. The identification of sex, gender and sexual orientation is a process that is formed through experience and can be determined by one self or constructed internally by its surrounding environment.