I was confused when I first began to go through the readings for this week’s topic on “Sexuality.” As a Christian, I was raised in a conservative environment with a clear foundation of belonging to a category called heterosexuality. I am thankful that my mind has been introduced to many different kinds of thought this past week on sexuality, gender, and sex. In order to understand the definition of sexuality, I want to further explore how sexuality is interpreted differently by various societies and cultures in regards to claiming their sexual orientation (or not claiming any category).
For me, it was first important to clearly define sex, gender, and sexuality in a comprehensive way. Society associates certain biological traits with being male or female which we categorize under the term “sex.” The cultural meanings attached to masculinity and femininity that influence personal identity would be “gender.” However at its core definition, sexuality is about sexual attraction, identities, and sexual practices. Many professors and researchers today are in agreement that gender and sexuality are not the same thing but do intersect in quite significant ways. Gender refers to the roles assigned to men and women based on their presumed biological sex (Namaste, 4). Sexuality, in contrast, refers to the ways in which individuals organize their erotic and sexual lives. It is generally categorized into three separate areas: heterosexuals—individuals who have sexual relations with members of the opposite sex; homosexuals—those who have sexual relations with members of the same sex; and bisexuals—people who relate erotically both to men and to women (Namaste, 4).
Once I could distinguish the difference between sexuality and gender, I could then explore how sexuality was perceived and received within certain cultures and societies. As Margaret Andersen pointed out in her anthology, ten years ago in the United States people tended to identify as either homosexual or heterosexual. Other cultures have not distinguished between these two sexual orientations (Andersen, 3). In the year we live in today, modern society is slowly learning to be more inclusive with other sexual orientations that people can identify with. Some have been quick to criticize the portrayal of the LGBTQ movement today in the media. In a poetry slam hosted two years ago, two women recited a poem that relayed the frustrations of the less-privileged community that were not white, gay, and wealthy men raised in the western world. Their poem spoke in outrage at the injustices of those who had no voice in the LGBTQ movement. Media continues to perpetuate a plethora of social scripts about the sexual roles of men and women. It is clear that some individuals, who do not identify with the traditional sexual orientations of homosexual or heterosexual, seek the reconfiguration of gender policies to reflect lived realities. As one individual’s testimony states, “I don’t believe in an inner ‘essential’ gender, only in shifting strategies contingent upon time, place, who I’m with and how we are able to find and connect with each other through the power structures of patriarchy” (June, 9). To be honest, I was a little surprised to hear that these types of stigma have existed within western societies like the United States. Julia Serano even stresses the fact that trans women as a group have been systematically pathologized by the medical and psychological establishment and marginalized by mainstream lesbian and gay organizations (Serano, 1).
Interestingly enough, other cultures have embraced different sexual orientations in comparison to some western societies. In Thailand, 1% of the population is “Ladyboys,” men who use surgery and hormonal drugs to become biologically female. Many of these individuals face unequal rights in Thailand but there are some who have found success in celebrating their identity as a Transwoman. Poy is one such Ladyboy who has found great success as a brand-name princess and winner of several national/international beauty pageants. Her success has influenced the inclusion of transwomen into society’s norms and culture in Thailand.
Baker, Therese L., Margaret L. Andersen, and Patricia Hill Collins. “Race, Class, and Gender: An Anthology.” Teaching Sociology 23.2 (1995): 190. Web.
http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCoryoWDNgkQHwcYFFme64aQ. “Ladyboy Celebrities Part 4 of 4.” YouTube. YouTube, 2013. Web. 18 June 2016.
Lewis, Vek. “Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity. By JULIA SERANO.” Hypatia 24.3 (2009): 200-05. Web.
Namaste, Ki. “Genderbashing: Sexuality, Gender, and the Regulation of Public Space.” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space Environ. Plann. D 14.2 (1996): 221-40. Web.
“Not Trans Enough! Zine.” Not Trans Enough! Zine. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 June 2016.