Mylin posed several very interesting questions in his presentation this week. A question that I found particularly interesting was how/when does gender identity develop. Gender identity is believed to be a socially constructed concept. So at what point does an individual begin developing an understanding of what role they are expected to fulfill by society, and how that aligns with how they actually feel? In our society, this process starts at a very young age. Immediately after the sex of the baby is determined, parents are socialized into treating the child differently based on whether it is a boy or a girl. The color used to decorate a newborn babies room as well as the type of clothing and toys that are purchased for the child are among some of the early steps taken that begin to differentiate males and females. These decisions are made even before the child is born. After the child is born, these differences continue. The way the parents treat the child, the type of activities the child is encouraged to participate in (ex. Boys play with trucks, girls play with dolls), and even the way you chastise or punish the child are often different for boys and girls. In our society, people often subscribe to the ideology that there is an ideal way to raise a boy and an ideal way to raise a girl. This is where I feel a child’s gender identity begins. Once a child becomes aware of the behaviors and activities that they are expected to fulfill (by parents and peers) and starts to realize whether or not their interests or behavior align with those expectations, is when a child develops gender identity. It brings my mind to the nature vs. nurture argument. Both factors play a major role in development gender identity. It would be impossible to determine exactly when this realization occurs because it varies so much across individuals, but exploring how it comes about and what factors play a major role would be very interesting.
Another question that Mylin brought up was, “Why do we assume homosexuals aren’t masculine/feminine as heterosexuals?” This question is directly related to the issues that I am looking at for my final project. I believe this assumption that there is a connection between sexual orientation and gender performance stems from societal ideas about the gender binary. A lot of people are uncomfortable when individuals deviate from the gender binary. I say this because the sexuality of men/women who fit into the ideal performance of masculinity/femininity is rarely ever brought into question. However, when a man behaves in a feminine way or a female behaves in a particularly masculine was, there is often an automatic assumption made about their sexual orientation because they interrupt the hetero-normative gender binary . This ideology is far from true because I’m sure most of us have encountered or seen contradictions to this way of thinking (ex. Clips that Mylin showed from the movie Broke Back Mountain). In the past the representations of homosexuals in television and film were generally very limited (ex. the typical “hyper-feminine gay male” or the “androgynous butch female”). This lack of diversity can be tied to why there is this stereotype about how homosexuals aren’t as masculine/feminine as heterosexuals. We often subconsciously subscribe to this common image/representation of homosexual men and women. In recent years, however, I do believe that more diversity has been presented in media, which is the first step towards changing overgeneralizations about the LGBQT community.