Problems of Gender and Sexuality
By Mwizenge S. Tembo, Ph. D.
Emeritus Professor of Sociology
Sexuality and gender have been understood to have a binary or two category definition during the last fifty thousand years. The binary definition of sexuality is deeply imbedded in the 72 indigenous Zambian languages by the existence of such binary terms as in Tumbuka; mwanakazi (woman) and mwanalume (man); in Chewa; mkazi or mai (woman) and mwamuna or bambo; in Bemba; umwanakashi (woman) and mwaume (man). Human beings evolved to survive from small bands of hunters and gatherers of as few as 30 people to tribes, kingdoms, and societies with thousands and millions of people.
During this period, gender and sexuality have been understood in strict binary terms; females, girls, and women contrasted to males, boys, and men. Females and males were the biological sex definitions with obvious universal corresponding external and internal anatomical parts. Girls, women, boys and men were the cultural and social constructions or definitions of what we call gender. This discussion should emphasize that Christianity and other major world religions may have dramatically different explanations of how this binary gender and sexuality happened among all human beings.
Sexual attraction or orientation is the type of gender any person may be sexually attracted to. As human beings migrated, randomly biologically reproducing all over the earth over the last fifty thousand years, they produced over 8 types of varieties of sexual attractions or orientations among themselves.
A heterosexual male is a boy or man who is sexually attracted to someone of the opposite or female sex. A heterosexual female is a girl or woman who is sexually attracted to someone of the opposite or male sex. A homosexual is someone who is attracted sexually to someone of the same sex. Intersexual are people whose bodies (including genitals) have both female and male characteristics. Hermaphrodite is an original Greek term which refers to intersexual people who have both female ovary and male testis. Transsexuals are people who strongly feel they are one sex (male or female) even though biologically they are the other sex (male or female). Transsexuals experience the serious tension of gender dysphoria which describes a sense of unease and misery that a person may have because of a mismatch between their biological sex and their gender identity. Bisexuals are people who have sexual attraction to people of both sexes. Asexuality are people who lack sexual attraction to people of either sex.
How did only heterosexuality or the sexual attraction between men and women become extremely dominant and common in virtually all societies? There are two major factors; first fifty thousand years ago the only way humans could reproduce and survive was sex between males and females. Second, it made very crucial survival sense for human groups to create a very strong culture, including marriage and religion, that encouraged and reinforced heterosexuality. Some of those small groups of humans fifty thousand years ago may have gone into extinction if they did not reproduce in large enough numbers. This is not the case in 2023. All of these over 8 different sexual orientations may have existed over thousands of years among humans even before there was a Zambia. It is just that many were oppressed and marginalized.
Fifty thousand years later in 2023, humans have improved their lives through advances in science, education, technology, medicine, agriculture and improved nutrition, understanding human anatomy and physiology, and the biology of reproduction and human sexuality. The LGBTQA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Asexual) groups and individuals always existed in human societies over thousands of years. The reason these people were not known or heard about as we lived in tribes and villages is they were suppressed, oppressed and repressed and could not express and understand themselves and celebrate and express their sexuality openly and publicly as full and feeling human beings. They were regarded wrongly as freaks.
Why are we singling out and having so much conflict, hate, discrimination, resentment, legislative persecution against LGBTQA today? We humans always are very afraid of what we don’t know or understand or what appears new and poses a threat to the status quo or what we have believed for so many hundreds of years. Some of the ideas I have described are from Darwin’s Evolutionary Theory. When Darwin proposed the theory in 1859 there was an uproar of opposition in Europe especially from those who held strong Christian religious beliefs which were virtually all Kingdoms and highly respected people. Scientific Creationism and Intelligent Design (ID) are competing theories that may explain gender and sexuality differently.
If you are someone who is deeply religious, do you believe that God would have biologically created LGBTQA people only to condemn them to a life of pain, suffering, suicide and even death since they were not heterosexual and therefore, they cannot express and enjoy their sexuality? Do you know if LGBTQA people exist in Zambia?
We humans have a terrible and tragic history of how badly we illtreat, torment, torture and even kill groups and individuals that we single out for discrimination, hatred and resentment. Think of the historic ill-treatment of women. Think of the Europeans enslaving of over 12 million Africans from Africa to Caribbean Islands and the United States and the lynchings because of the worthless European or white anti-black racism. Do you and I want to wrongly do the same vile things against LGBTQA because they threaten us heterosexuals who are in power? We need to treat them with kindness, respect, and dignity as our fellow human beings. If there is anything that makes us afraid, let’s work through the problems and disagreements.