Friday, November 12, 2010

More sex, Gender, and sexual orientation Identities- A Reality

More sex, Gender, and sexual orientation Identities- A Reality

Social science claims that the sex, gender, and sexuality of human beings have been constructed throughout the history. Sex identities of male and female are assigned at birth based on biological genitalia and the identities of gender are constructed by giving different colours of cloths to each sex, pink for girls and blue for boys (Lindsey, 1995, p.109). Subsequently, the social institutions do control and condition human behaviour, emotions, and feelings in every step of their life which forms their gender identity (Segal, p.442-444). However, many people do not fall into the prescribed gender norms: there are many individuals who have visible and invisible biological and psychological differences and exist in the societies. Their identities are different from the constructed male and female identities such as western transgender, Brazilian travesties, Indian hijras, Xanith of Oman and Philippine’s bakla, or eunuch (Uregui, 2006, p.96). In fact, there is a controversy between the norms of social construction and deconstruction of sex, gender, and sexuality because of these different sex and gender identities (2006, p.95). Hetero normative society claims that sex, gender, and sexuality are natural and if anything is wrong in it then it should be treated. However social science argues that hetero normative identities and behaviours are constructed and it should be deconstructed.

Social construction of identity begins at birth by looking at our genital parts (2000, p.121) and since then, we have been recognized and identified as either a man or a woman by ourselves and the outside world (Rubin, 1984, p.308). Then, as we grow up, we have been trained and behave according to assigned behaviours based on our sexual bodies such as either masculine or feminine (Passer, Smith, Atkinson, Mitchell, & Muir, 2003, p.489). Afterwards for reproduction but not for our sexual pleasure, we are directed to reach out to the opposite sex and therefore, identifying ourselves as heterosexual because all other sexual relations and behaviours are prohibited, and made illegal and against moral values (Rubin, 1984, p. 270-276, Baird, 2001, p.104). All of our identities we have recognized because we are living in a society where everything about sex, gender and sexuality is mostly constructed as opposite identities and characters such as for sex as male or female, for gender as masculine or feminine, where as sexual orientation connects these opposites as heterosexual (Grant, 2006, p.968). These are constructed based on social beliefs and myths without any scientific reasoning and followed and imposed by social institutions such as medical science (doctors), family, religion, education, and culture (Passer, 2003, p.489).

Foucault also supports this claim by saying that, “the sexuality of children becomes a primary site in the exercise of power. The bodies of children are controlled (socialized) by parents as well as by a host of institutions” (Muszynski, 2000, p.124). Similarly, the video, “Tough Guise” by Jackson Katz, one of America's leading anti-sexist male activists, an educator, author and filmmaker (Katz, 2009), also proves how cultures, peers and other institution construct and condition human identity by repeating the assigned identity and insulting and offensive against different identities and behaviours (Coinlin, 2009). That’s why in the normative society boys and girls are not allowed to wear the dress of their opposite sex/gender. If anyone does, society and peers call them tomboys or sissies (Baird, 2001, p.104). These are some of the many ways in which social constructing happens in society. However, these social constructions contradict reality because of different individual human beings who do not fall into these normative social categories of sex, gender and sexuality. On the other hand, knowing how social constructions happen in societies is a way to deconstruct these normative identities.

The individuals who are born with or without both sex genitals and behave with a unique or opposite character contrast to their assigned gender. Anne Fausto Sterling, Professor of Biology and Gender Studies at Brown University in the USA, says an individual’s internal organs and hormones can differ from assigned gender for each individual. These individuals may also differ in their desire and behaviour to have sexual pleasure with either the same, different, or opposite gender (1993, p.170-172). Also, even earlier there is a possibility, because biological research says that the human embryo develops in its own environment which is in women’s womb and therefore it can be affected by that but not with genes (Passer, et al. 2003, p.461). This means that the biology and psychology of a person can also be determined by the environment of the women’s womb, other than gene heredity or effect. Therefore, there are many factors which decide an individual’s sex, gender, and sexuality other than genes.

The fact is that there are individuals who are born different compared to hetero normative social construction of sex, gender and sexuality. Hence, these individual identities could contradict the normative social construction. Therefore, human beings who differ from the social construction deny and suppress their real identity and pretend that they are like purported normal people. That’s why Foucault says, “If power affects the body, it is not because it was first internalized in people’s consciousness. There is a network of bio-power. That is itself a network from which sexuality is born as a historical and cultural phenomenon within which we both recognize and lose ourselves” (Muszynski, 2000, p.123). The bio powers like, “bio-chemistry, embryology, endocrinology, psychology, and surgery” control the sex of an individual through their developed knowledge (Sterling, 1993, p.170). Hence, the normative societies are made of heterosexual men and women with masculine and feminine identities. Other identities, relationships, and behaviours fall into third sex/gender which is excluded from the normative. However, in reality many individuals do not fall into prescribed gender norms because there are other categories which are considered abnormal like herm, perm, homo (1993, p.172). That is why, there are, “studies that focuses on femininity [and] analyses of masculinity challenge researches to interrogate the multiple identities of gender...” (McPherson, 2003, p.6). These make it clear that all of these power relations and institutions reinforce their hetero normative ideas over individuals when they are born. However, social science identifies gender differences and their uniqueness and challenge with hetero normative societies’ construction of sex, gender, and sexuality.

Patriarchal societies separate and divide natural qualities and behaviours of a human being such as laughing, crying, soft, strength, passive, and aggressive based on gender binary social system. Then the societies assign these separated qualities and behaviours to individuals based on their sex. However, by doing this they succeed in constructing two opposite sex and gender identities and also put those in an order where power play a role (Grant, 2006, p.969). We can see these separated qualities and behaviours in individuals around us in our everyday life. Also we can notice that men have more power than women and when anyone behaves against hetero normative identities and behaviours, we look at them differently.

Judith Butler makes it clear by saying that “conceptualization of gender along the lines of sexuality, religion, and philosophy” (Rubin, 1984, p.270). Moreover, women also have seen as imperfect males (Muszynski, 2000, p.121) by these patriarchal societies. Muszynski states according to Kessler, “the non-normative is conversed into the normative and the normative status is considered as natural” (2000, p.121).
Therefore, hetero normative society’s beliefs are not natural, but constructed as a binary sex and gender identity. Nature is beyond binary systems because nature has multiple sex, gender identities and sexual behaviours. Also most individuals have masculinity and femininity together or beyond or combined with different percentages.

This society does not have any name even for third gender identity or pronoun. Then where do we to go for more than three identities? Even the languages are constructed and do not have a word at least for a third sex or gender because it is limited with only he or she. However, lack of this social definitions and language cannot deny that there are different sexes and genders. Therefore, Sandeep Bakshi says that social construction of sex, gender, and sexuality is a controversy in social science (2004, p.221, Segal, p.444). The existence of many different unique sexes, genders identities and sexual behaviours confront with hetero normative societies and sustain these controversies in social science.

Third sex and gender individuals feel that their sex and gender different from normative definition of sex and gender. Sometimes they like to change or transform their sex body parts such as sex organs or genitals which they were born with to assimilate with the society or to affirm their uniqueness. Another confirmation about third sex because they are not like “normal” individuals and have extra genital part or have not genital part. This can happen by birth or surgery.

Social science is a way to research how norms are constructed in the hetero normative society and how to deconstruct these norms to treat everyone equal. It is a part of the responsibility of the researcher to determine what is constructed and how. However, this is a controversy in social science because, “liberal and socialist feminist argue for a social construction of gender, [and] post-structuralism and post- modernism [and queer theory] argue for deconstruction not only gender, but also sex and sexuality”( Muszynski, 2000, p.119). However, Social scientists are working with medical science and psychologist to overcome these issues because it is their social responsibility.
Sterling is discussing and proposing new thoughts about sex and gender identities, in her essay, “The Five Sexes: Why male and female are not enough”. She explains:

European [and American culture] is deeply devoted to the idea that there are only two sexes. Even our language refuses other possibilities such as s/he and he/r denote individuals who are clearly neither/both male and female or who are, perhaps, both at once. ...but if the state and legal system has an interest in maintain only two sexes, [but] our collective bodies do not. ...while male and female stand on the extreme ends of a biological continuum, there are many other bodies such as fems (people with testes, xy chromosomes, and some aspects of female genitalia), herms (people with ovaries and testes), and mems (people with xx chromosomes and some aspects of male genitalia). (as cited in Sterling, 1993, p.166-168 )

Post-structuralism and post-modernist analyse and criticise normative social conditions and the definitions of sex, gender, and sexuality and how they are constructed in the societies. Even though they have different points of views, they agree on one matter that old construction of identities have to be deconstructed (Muszynski, 2000, p.119). The deconstruction of old definitions of identities may find real identity of human beings. Also new definitions will accommodate all varieties of human beings without discriminating against any one. As a result, it will lead to accept their rights and equal status like other human beings in society.

In conclusion, individuals are born with natural and unique identities, characters, and behaviours in society. However, the power of the hetero normative society redefines and constructs their identities, characters, and behaviours of individuals according to their hetero normative social systems and beliefs since the birth of individuals. But in reality not everyone falls into these normative social categories because they are different and like to be that as natural as they were born. They are another category of sex/gender and different in their body, character, and behaviours. Therefore, their sex and gender identity has to be accepted, respected and legalized with full social rights. In the same time, deconstruction of traditional values of social construction such as sex, gender, and sexuality has to happen by social science. Then, it will open for more sexes and genders come in to real life from their hidden life style. However, it should be a freedom of choice of an individual. If a person wants to change or transform or being as s/he already is, then their sexuality should be sanctioned by the laws. Only this will protect their rights and pay the way to live as they are which are different from normative society. Ultimately it is an individual freedom and society does not have any rights to interfere in with the individual body. These genders have been recognised and legalized through the Canadian charter of rights and freedom in Canada.

Raising the voices against any kind of discriminations is the only way to move forward little fast. However, it is better to ask the question and to know, why the hetero normative social power wants to keep just two sexes and genders?, who benefits from these sex and gender division?, why restrictions and prohibitions are against other sex and genders? and finally, why human beings need sex and gender identity?. The answers to these questions will layout the path to deconstruction of hetero normative sex and gender. Then, we can have a society where all kinds of sexes and genders have their full social rights with equal status and mutual respects between them.



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