This is the first blog post that I am shamelessly stealing from my academic pursuits. This is something that I am working on a the moment, and I always find that drafting things in a “blog” format is easier than drafting things in an academic format. So, I am going to go through the process of drafting a piece that I am working on, publishing it here, and editing it to make it fit the more academic format that is required of it. I do hope that you enjoy!
Please remember that this is a first draft!
“Gender-blind,” as it sounds, is a term that is used to describe a person, policy, or service as being blind to the gender of others. In this, the person, policy, or service attempts to communicate an unbiased reaction on the basis of gender identity or gender expression. However, this disinterest towards gender comes across very differently based on whether it is a person or service which claims to be gender-blind.
Gender-blind as Identity
As an identity, the term “gender-blind” lies somewhere between the notions of pansexuality, or panromanticism, and pomosexuality. This is because, much like pansexuality, describing oneself as “gender-blind” acts as a way to tell others that one is sexually or romantically interested in people of all gender identities or gender expressions. However, where pansexuality explicitly allows for sexual relationship with members of all gender identities and expressions, being gender-blind claims to be unaffected or disinterested by the gender of their potential partner, implying an allowance for relationships with members of all genders.
As these terms are so close in their meaning, it is common for people who identify themselves as pansexual to also describe themselves as gender-blind. This is not to say that these terms are simply interchangeable, however, as one could be gender-blind without identifying with pansexuality or vice versa. This is exactly the case with aromantic asexual people. For people with these identities, there may be a disinterest demonstrated towards gender expressions and identities of potential sexual and romantic, but only because of their lack of desire in having romantic or sexual partner at all. Further, those with demiromantic or demisexual identities may also endorse being gender-blind, whether or not they have also endorsed a panromantic orientation.
Likewise, gender-blind, as an identity, overlaps with pomosexuality, or the “erotic reality beyond the boundaries of gender, separatism, and essentialist notions of sexual orientation” (Queen & Schimel, 1997). This deconstruction of the assumptions of, and around, gender boundaries is something that is inherent within the concept of gender-blindness. People with this identity often question the relevance of the gender divide in many aspects of life. This especially true with regards to sexual realm, but some may also find it pertinent to support gender-blindness in policy and services as well.
Gender-blind as Public Policy
From a public policy and social service perceptive, gender-blindness takes on a slightly different reality. Rather than being about opening oneself up to the possibility of having romantic and/or sexual partners of many different gender identities or expressions, gender-blind public policy seeks to remove gender from the determination of provision of services. To this end, gender-blind programs attempt to provide services to the population without regards to the gender of the recipients of said services.
This type of formal equality (treating all people the same, regardless of circumstance) is not typically a problem when there are few barriers to people of any gender accessing said services. However, as the number of barriers to access increase, so does the potential for gender-blind services to neglect the needs of people of a certain gender identity or expression. While this may sound straightforward in theory, in practice, it usually is not. This is because, often, barriers to accessing services are not readily apparent or readily connected.
Take, for example, the complex issue of access to healthcare. In countries without socialized medical systems, the largest barrier to accessing the healthcare that one requires is their access to the finances to pay for this treatment. However, even today, this economic freedom is not afforded to men and women equally. This is especially true considering that women are still disproportionately taxed with the costs of money and time to raise and care for children. These additional costs place women at a disadvantage when it comes to accessing healthcare services, and preventative services in particular.
Further, healthcare services often completely ignore the experiences of people with other gender identities or expressions. This leads to doctors who lack the knowledge or the comfort level to deal with these patients appropriately or adequately. This makes it hard, if not impossible, for these patients to access the healthcare that they require.
Perhaps the European Commission (2013) on gender equality summarizes it best:
Gender blindness is the failure to recognise that gender is an essential determinant of social outcomes impacting on projects and policies. A gender blind approach assumes that a policy or programme does not have unequal (even if unintended) outcome on women and men.