Friday, September 11, 2009

Exploring Sexuality and Gender Identity

This is the video I mentioned in last night's class. This video is about gender-identification as much as or more than sexuality. Think about this in connection with the gender-identification reading we discussed. Does this video challenge (or trouble) the notion of gender as a social construct? And how does this relate to sexuality as "natural" vs. "a choice"? And where does this leave transgender and/or bisexuality if "sexuality" is predetermined? Based on this video (and our texts/discussions), do gender identification and sexuality have anything to do with one another? (You may use this as your weekly blog post if you only choose to do one). Leandra


Zen Lien said...

I thought this was an interesting video. By interesting I mean, I agreed with certain aspects but struggled to really believe the "science" of it all.I asked myself, are there some aspects of sexuality that are innate? Sure. Is it still possible that sexuality, like gender, can be socially constructed? Well...sure.

I think in this video, the reason trans and bisexuals were excluded is because we are confusing sexuality with gender. Sexuality doesn't always follow gender and vice-versa. This is what Michael Kimmel was pointing out in "Becoming 100 Percent Straight". He seems to have taken a closer look at his own sexuality (which he identifies as straight) and realizes it was more complex than just one or the other. He tells us a story about his childhood friend Timmy, who he now realizes he had a crush on and later rejected to maintain his heterosexual status.

While Kimmel still identifies as straight, he relates his experience to Alfred Kinsey's research. "Kinsey saw a common fluidity and changeability of sexual desire over life course" (ML 373)Homoerotic desire doesn't necessarily fit into a binary of gay or straight. There is a spectrum, and everyone falls somewhere in between the poles. Kimmel also mentions Adrienne Rich's view on how repression of homoerotic desire can have consequences "Perhaps high levels of homophobia that often endemic in boys' and mens' organized sports led me to deny and repress my own homoerotic desire" (ML 374) Ultimately Kimmel is attempting to illustrate that sexuality may have inherent characteristics. I personally agree in that we can't always help who and what we are attracted to, however, our actions upon these desire is what determines our sexuality.

So what rules our actions? Certainly not just us, society/media/peers tell us what is appropriate behavior right? So sexuality is something we can "do" as well, not just something we have.Kimmel mentions that although he was not having sex with women he was still "doing heterosexuality". There are certain behaviors we associate straight or gay. As shown in the video, a persons voice, hand gestures, choice in clothing and so on are often categorized in to straight or gay. They are also characteristics that are not attributed to ALL who may identify as straight or gay. There are homosexuals in other countries that may not display the same straight or gay behaviors as Americans do.

Americans I think, really enjoy the labels of straight or gay, because just like other categories (race,gender,class) there come privileges with being heterosexual (maybe with homosexual as well depending on how you look at it). Heterosexuality in America offers a certain sense of entitlement and power (why are people in the gay community called "queer"? Which quite literally means strange or unusual). In "Dude you're a fag" we notice boys use the "gay behaviors" to demonstrate how much it opposes their "straightness".And also how gay behaviors are considered the minority and therefore the weaker part of the power hierarchy.

We cannot deny that we are born with certain traits but I had a professor explain the relationship of inherent traits and socially conditioned ones really well, she said:
Many people have said Michael Phelps was born with a physique made for swimming (tall, strong shoulders, flipper like hands and feet.)However what would happen if he was raised without proper nutrition, no access to water to swim in etc., would he still be "born to swim"? Probably not.

Evan Wyss said...
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Evan Wyss said...

First of all, what I felt while watching this clip was a look at a scientific field that seemed to be based out of “gay shame”. It seemed as though the scientists who were interviewed were “gay apologists”; trying to find some sort of scientific answer in order to affirm that gay is OK in order to combat the constant message from society that it is not OK. This sort of scientific pursuit is self-defeating and not beneficial to queers. Unfortunately, if that societal message is internalized, no scientific discovery is going to make you feel better any about yourself. If science was truly about the betterment of humanity, these studies probably would not exist. One can only imagine what could happen to queers if a “gay gene” was found…

A basic summary of the video’s undertone could be as follows: “Some people are born as girls; some people are born as boys. However, if something goes wrong, sometimes boys are like girls, and sometimes girls are like boys.” A defining point of the clip that shows what is wrong with the binary of gender was when the two young boys asked how they would describe themselves. The more stereotypically masculine boy, with an affinity for guns the military, described himself simply as a “kid”. He is lucky enough to enjoy being a child without having to constantly define himself only in order to embrace his personality. He happens to fit more neatly into the gender identity that was prescribed to him far before he was born. The other boy, with painted fingernails and a pink bedroom, described himself by saying he was “like a girl.” Unfortunately, he isn’t allowed to be how he wants without having to compare himself to someone else. He can’t see himself simply as a “kid” like his brother, but is forced to rationalize a completely natural variance personality.

This segment of the video was shown to prove that gender is biological, but to me it really only ended up showing to normal children that had different ways of being who they are. Incidentally, and certainly not on purpose, the segment ended up highlighting how solidly planted the gender constructs that surround us are. Many people probably thought that a boy liking pink was the sensationalistic highpoint, but I think we should be asking why a child has been conditioned to enjoy weapons!