"The move toward sex education stemmed from a persistent, implicit anxiety among the educators of [blind children] that [such children] were insufficiently heterosexual and that their 'restrictive' environment was to blame."

"Why is there so much at stake for the authorities here, and why did this relatively obscure topic receive so much attention in the 1970s and early 1980s? The answer is that blindness, by its very existence, poses a significant challenge to orthodox understandings of sex, gender, and desire."

- White, Patrick. "Sex Education: Or, How the Blind
Became Heterosexual." GLQ: A Journal of
Lesbian and Gay Studies
. 9:1–2, pp. 133–147. Duke University Press, 2003.


This article, whose full title is,"Sex Education: Or, How the Blind Became Heterosexual," analyzes the ways in which blind children and adults have been affected by the pervasive heteronormativity of Western (and specifically, American) society.

The author, Patrick White, argues that this topic is relevant not just to blind people, nor just to those with interest in blind issues, but to anyone who wishes to understand how sexual norms influence personal sexuality in America. By studying the specific case of heteronormativity in blind persons, argues White, we can understand a great deal about how heteronormativity affects us all.

And by "us all," I really do mean everyone. Gender norms are tightly interwoven with sexual-orientation and other sexuality norms, such that it is impossible to extricate sexuality from gender. I offer that behavior rules about gender blend seamlessly into behavior rules about sexuality, and I view them as existing on a continuum. White appears to see it this way also. So even the reader who self-identifies as "heterosexual" can benefit from considering which parts of this identity's implicit norms were thrust upon him, and which he has chosen on his own accord. The humanities gain their practical legitimacy, I believe, in their ability to render insight into who we are, why we are here, and what we mean to each other.

Thinking about this subject, and reading this article, sent chills down my spine. I felt like I was in The Twilight Zone, because that series' author, Rod Serling was a master at composing tales in which the protagonist was the only sane person left on Earth, and even though it was everyone else who had gone 'crazy,' it was the protagonist who was labeled so. White uncovered literature about sex education for the blind which guided educators to make sure that their blind students were well-educated about gender differences, which, they should ideally, according to the literature White found, already know before their first day in school.

Blind children must be taught, apparently, the "attractiveness features" of the 'opposite' sex, and instructed that this is desirable.

Excuse me?

Um . . . if you have to be instructed that something is attractive, then precisely how is it attractive?!

I got chills from thinking about this because it made me realize the depths to which gender constructions go to ensure their continuity. It's almost as if this faceless, cultish force has taken over our species, instructing us that our genital differences are our most important feature, and, as fallaciously, that there are only two possible categories of gender, and that in those rare cases where it doesn't fit, it is the PERSON, and not the category, which must undergo change. It's SO reminiscent of the Twilight Zone to me, the more I think about it.

In the absence of visual cues to distinguish men and women, sex education policymakers instructed educators to engage in exercises focusing on other sensory differences, such as olfactory, and tactile differences. I realized as I read this article that the sex education policy manuals are grasping at straws, suggesting the exercise of having children imitate the voices of people they know (presumably of both genders), to emphasize that 'boys and girls (or men and women) are different creatures.'

And then I realize that while these specific exercises are unique to the blind-specific sex education practices of the past, they are not conceptually unique at all in sex education, nor education in general. I remember hundreds of instances of gender-code enforcement throughout my childhood, and the ways in which my assigned gender identity imposed upon me the burden of conformity despite not understanding it, nor choosing it. I am reminded now of how violated I felt growing up, knowing that although I have a penis, I was not like the other 'boys' and I didn't fully want to be, at that.

There is, of course, another way to look at this: Blind people are members of the same society that sighted people are, and therefore they must be prepared to live with the gender construction that society has carved out for them. There is no reason that the blind would be granted any special exemption from gender rules and heteronormativity. The blind would need to be indoctrinated into our gender-cult just as their sighted cohorts would. They would need to be prepared to deal with social situations in which gender plays a crucial part. It might, in this view, even be rather cruel to NOT ensure that they know about gender.

The article examines the state of sex education for the blind in the 1970's and 1980's, and I must assume that some things have changed in sex education since then—both for blind-specific sex education, and for sex education in general. Nonetheless, I have to wonder what it's like now. I feel confident it probably still needs improvement.

The (withering) practicalist in me approves of educating the blind about American gender norms based on the fact that it might be impossible for them to navigate our society otherwise.

But another part of me finds irony in the fact that blind children are prone to 'see' their fellow humans more accurately than their sighted peers do.



[Node your homework].

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