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Thursday, 6 November 2014

Gender and Sexuality

''That's not very lady like''                                                                                         ''Feelings are gay''
               ''Are you a lesbian then?''                                       ''He's really emotional, it's weird''
''She was probably the hottest girl in the year but then she got her hair cut like a lesbian.
She looks like a boy now''

Those are just a handful of the comments I've received and heard in the last few years.

I'm going to dissect these small quotes to show what the individual saying them is subconsciously (or possibly consciously) saying.

''That's not very lady like'' - Regardless of the fact that biologically you are a women and that without your consent and a long transitioning procedure you remain a women, if you do not adhere to your specific gender roles you are not 'lady like.'

''Feelings are gay'' - The idea that showing any sort of emotional vulnerability is an automatic admission of your sexual preference. That to be a 'real man' you must hide any kind of emotion including love, feelings, sadness. You must be 'macho' and 'strong' and showing emotion contradicts that. It also reinforces the idea that the term gay is an insult and a derogatory phrase, which it is not.

''Are you a lesbian then?'' - The automatic response to an admission of physical or emotional attraction to the same sex (in this case a female.) Stresses the idea that if you find someone of the same sex physically attractive you are automatically sexually attracted to them rather than just appreciating your admiration of their appearance. Doesn't consider the concept of pansexuality, bisexuality or the idea that sexuality is a spectrum rather than a black and white thing.

''He's really emotional, it's weird'' - The idea that a male showing emotion is abnormal and additionally should be frowned upon. Does not consider the fact that as a human being if one gender has the capacity to show emotion and vulnerability so does any other. Reinforces gender roles and that the sexes are separate and isolated from each other.

''She was probably the hottest girl in the year but then she got her hair cut like a lesbian. She looks like a boy now'' - The idea that although she was the most physically attractive girl this person had met the result of cutting a few inches of hair off has now made her appear to have changed genders, regardless of the fact that she remains to facially look the same and have the exact same fashion sense. Portrays the idea that a simple act of cutting ones hair is enough to determine their sexual preference and additionally change their sexual preference and sex.

All these quotes are based on such old fashioned ideals. We're instructed to take on the role of a specific gender just because we were born with certain sexual reproductive organs, despite the fact that realistically the roles are largely intensified.

I'm aware biologically the different sexes tend to naturally have some different roles ie the woman is more maternal whereas the male is physically stronger. This doesn't mean that a woman isn't a woman if she doesn't have a desire to have children or a man isn't a man because he prefers the arts to sports and science.

It also doesn't require that the sexes must conform to certain physical characteristics. If a woman wants short hair and to dress more typically 'masculine' that doesn't mean she's a lesbian or wants to be a boy, she's just dressing the way she feels comfortable.

This applies to emotional attributes as well. If a male feels more comfortable  when he is able to show his emotions and tell others how he feels it does not mean he's gay or weak.

The idea of masculinity and femininity to me seems like a way of separating man and women and is an additional way to reinforce patriarchy even though at times it can suppress men too. Just like sexuality, gender is a spectrum. Men aren't naturally emotionless, they are taught to suppress they're feelings to appear dominant and strong. Women don't have a natural desire to wear makeup and be excessively feminine, they are taught to. We are all taught ways to conform to our gender roles from the day we are born, whether it be through the colour codes of our baby grows to the toys we were bought as we grew up.

Sexuality is the same. We are lead to believe that you're straight or you're gay. Bisexuality is acknowledged but the stigma surrounding the label is one of doubt. Many believe it's a coward's label, an attention seeker's label, a commitment phobe's label. However it's just as much of a spectrum as gender.