Table of Contents
- Beliefs on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity: Interview Analysis
- The Biggest Challenges of Same-Sex Individuals
- Works Cited
When I came to the topic of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity for this essay, I understood that many of us as individuals may be able to agree that it is in fact a radical and highly debatable issue. The most accurate definition of Sexual Orientation is that it is an enduring emotional, romantic, sexual or affectional attraction to another person. It can be distinguished from other aspects of sexuality including biological sex, gender identity (the psychological sense of being male or female) and the social gender role (adherence to cultural norms for feminine and masculine behavior). We currently live in a time within society where the rights and acceptance of same-sex couples as well as transgenders have entered into a revolutionary transition. What may have once been considered traditional some thirty, forty or fifty years ago is no longer customary today. More and more individuals are finding the strength to come out to accept their gender identity and sexual orientation. In history, homosexuality was heavily persecuted and branded as taboo, leaving those that were in fact of that culture hiding deep within their shells.
Of course, in certain cultures throughout history, differences in sexual orientation and gender identity have been known to be encouraged and recognized. Morris, of George Washington University wrote in his topic of “History of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Social Movements” that most historians agree that there is evidence of homosexual activity and same-sex love, whether such relationships were accepted or persecuted, in every documented culture. We know that homosexuality existed in ancient Israel simply because it is prohibited in the Bible, whereas it flourished between both men and women in Ancient Greece. Substantial evidence also exists for individuals who lived at least part of their lives as a different gender than assigned at birth. The evidence behind the social issues that have always plagued the LGBT community leads the source of the issue which is one of two things, Denial and Acceptance.
This is the source of the constant battle within same-sex and transgender issues, including the diversified population with their own unique perspective of sexual orientation and gender identity. Individuals that are directly affected by this lifestyle are forced to go heavily against society’s ideals and beliefs of what is has always been the traditional opposite sex union and single sex identity. Many individuals find this truth to be a hard pill to swallow and live their lifestyle according to family, cultural and religious beliefs and traditions. Essentially, there is no doubt that there is number of Americans living what one would call a double-life or living a lie for the benefit of the peers and society that surrounds them.
The truth is, this may seem like the better option to many individuals living in denial that they are in fact, attracted to the same-sex and or identify as a different or alternate gender group. This denial is as a result of the human fear of shame and being rejected by society in the same category as a minority. We live in a technological age of which has shed a more positive light on the LBGT community, allowing for today’s American citizens to open freely to their true sexual orientation and identity. There are of course individuals or role models of the LGBT that embrace acceptance with open arms and express their identity and orientation without the fear of what society believes or thinks about them. As a result, in recent years, there have been many political figures as well as public ones that have led the LGBT movement with great strides and positive progress on same-sex rights as well as legal complications involving gender identity.
Beliefs on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity: Interview Analysis
The three interviews consisted of questions formulated by New York City as well as from the sociological perspective in regard to how society views individuals that choose to live a lifestyle of a very distinct nature. Two of the three interviewees are directly related as aunt and niece and the third interviewee being the life partner to the niece. We will name the aunt Gabriela, the niece Audrey and her life partner Kelly. Gabriela is a senior award-winning journalist, international author and educator award living in New York. Audrey and Kelly are joint real estate and insurance business owners of early middle age living in South Florida.
All three of these individuals were asked the same questions and everyone had a unique and sociological perspective regarding the transition of their experiences. One of the questions asked, since Gabriela and Audrey are related, were if they had the belief that sexual orientation and gender identity was in fact genetic and or a choice. Gabriela agreed that it was something that was both genetic and a choice. That the social issue regarding this would be more a personal conflict for the individual facing the issue. Audrey truly believes that it is in fact predetermined and that if it is a choice, it would be of an artificial and forced nature in effort to live a traditional lifestyle.
Kelly described the process as more of an ongoing transition, that the matter of sexual orientation and gender identity is something of constant discovery and evolution occurring within the individual. All were asked if a person’s sex and gender are mismatched, some may identify as transgender. Sex is predetermined by anatomy. Gender is perception and sentiment. If they identified as not transgender, as a man, or in some other way. They were also asked if they identified as Straight (Heterosexual), Lesbian, Bisexual, Asexual or Unsure. All answered that they identify as Lesbian and did not consider themselves transgenders. Gabriela and Kelly openly expressed their sexual orientation pridefully, Audrey however disliked the term “Lesbian” as it was considered categorized as one of society’s labels.
Another question asked was if an individual’s appearance, style, dress, or the way they carry themselves affect an individual’s perception – to describe how they believe they were being perceived and if they felt safe in light of their gender expression. In Kelly's process to discover herself she the necessity to be a little more feminine, due to peer pressure from her family members as well as society. Frequently, she would be questioned by relatives regarding her less feminine wardrobe choices and her lack of makeup usage. Kelly describes her style as individualistic, athletic and simple. She feels that she can be feminine during special occasions. Since her coming out of fifteen (15), she has not felt the pressure to wear makeup and conform to societies exceptions. How others perceive her, she states that many might view her as a tomboy. She in facts feel safe considering her gender expression as acceptance is something she openly embraces.
Audrey does not believe herself to be ultrafeminine but does enjoy dressing up for appropriate occasions. However, she prefers clothing of comfortable and stylish nature, feels that no aspect of her femininity has changed since her own coming out four (4) years ago. She does not carry herself with a strong sense of gender expression. Not due to the fact she is ashamed of her gender expression, but to the nature of her personality. She feels safe considering her gender expression and sexual orientation and is more satisfied with accepting her identity.
Gabriela describes herself as an intellectual, how she is perceived depends on the individual and what that relationship may be. She is mostly defined by most people as an independent woman. What she is concerned about however that the radicalism of the gay movement that has pushed a political agenda that threatens to regress the positive perception achieved in the near past. That this radicalism has in fact divided our community and thus those of the LGBT community who aren’t radical will go back to the closet. That unfortunately, the uncivility showed by extremists will bring an unneeded backlash against the LGBT community.
The Biggest Challenges of Same-Sex Individuals
Another inquiry made was what same-sex individuals viewed as their biggest challenges, whether it be in their personal life or within society. To describe this issue from experience or from a sociological perspective.
Audrey knew since she was a small child that she had always had an attraction to the opposite sex. The topic of regarding same-sex relations was never spoken about in her upbringing as it was not considered a cultural normality in her home country, Colombia. The type of person known to be involved in a same-sex lifestyle would generally be a local hair stylist. She knew she had this feeling but did not understand it or pay much attention to it while growing up due to misunderstanding her own personal inner conflict. She would have boyfriends that she would really admire even being an adolescent in Colombia despite her aversions.
When she came to the United States as a young teenager, it was the first time she was exposed somewhat to the openness of what was considered some of the early LBGT community. However, this was still not considered a cultural norm. She did meet her daughter’s father in the United States and felt it was the right thing, to be married and have a child. What was considered the expectations for women in any traditional marriage and family. Living her life to conformity made it obligatory to set her deep-seated feelings aside and closed away in a metaphorical black box for many years.
The physical attraction for the opposite sex would always be there, but the emotional attraction for the opposite would be non-existent. Within her marriage, she also felt that there was always an aspect of her life that was incomplete. Before being able to discover a cultural norm for the same-sex, Audrey would face issues regarding her residency upon high school graduation. Her boyfriend of some time had suggested they get married, by the age of nineteen (19), Audrey would be married to her daughter’s father. She states by the time she had discovered her sexuality, her daughter had already been born, a home was purchased, and their families were very deeply interwind.
The main challenge that she faced was the obligation of the image and lifestyle she had to maintain for the sake of her daughter. Audrey did not want her daughter facing cultural indifferences while she was in school out of fear for her being bullied and judged. There would however be a separation after nearly twenty (20) years of marriage due to emotional disconnected, also having been described as one of Audrey’s challenges, when her daughter was finally on her way too college, she would finally rediscover herself with a new-found sense of identity and gender expression. At this point, she does not feel the peer pressure from family member regarding her image. The overall challenge would be towards acceptance.
For Kelly, she felt that the transition was more complicated for women than for men. The reality that men can keep up a machoistic image compared to the difficulty of some women expressing what is considered a normal level of feminine in their own appearance. She also explains how within society it is considered a more acceptable practice when women flirt with one another; But men flirting with one another, is not considered as acceptable by society.
Emotionally, women are customarily much closer than men to one another, allowing for the experimentation of curiosity within same-sex relations.
She states that the biggest issue is within individuals facing their own sexual orientation and or gender identity crisis. The self-realization of her true sexual orientation occurred for her later in her life. Kelly would have boyfriends, go on to get married and almost have children, but she describes herself as always having had feeling of having something missing. When she went through her first experiment, it was compared to the demolition of the Berlin Wall. From that experience on, she opened up and accepted her true orientation and gender expression.
Gabriela has always accepted her identity but that the biggest challenge has been to realize that there are tremendous issues in the LGBT community. That there is grave hostility in many gay individuals, and that this reflects in the high rates of alcoholism, drug addiction, domestic violence, loneliness, suicide, prostitutions etc. The causes of these problems are many, but the worst part being that the leaders within society are not facing them or looking for solutions to resolve them but have now started to accept them as the norm without fully protecting the rights of the LGBT community. This is a huge disservice to its members. In general, the LGBT community needs to address the psychological issues.
Everyone was also asked about how their families react to their current sexual orientation and gender identity. All stated that their families eventually accepted their lifestyle, with lingering factors that involve religious beliefs. Audrey struggles mildly with how comfortable her daughter and mother are about her lifestyle change, but they accept it overall. Kelly claims that she did not feel any sense of distaste from her family members, that she was able to transition more smoothly. Gabriela states that her family is civil and seem to accept it. Although some members seem to believe religion opposes homosexuality, but she is convinced it does not. The three found a resolution to their conflict by ultimately embracing their acceptance and no longer focused on what society traditionally demanded of them.
The concluding question that would be asked is if the public opinion about LGBT behavior and issues had become more positive in the past few decades. In Kelly’s own experience, she has always experienced her transition as something more positive. She does not feel odd within the work place, in public and or with friends and family. She believes that most of the society has grown to establish an acceptance for individuals of the LGBT community. She does not parade her gender expression; however, she has no issue sparking up a conversation and mentioning her life partner.
Gabriela does not believe public opinion is becoming more positive towards the LGBT community. Possibly friends and relatives have become accustomed to viewing it has normal. However, most of the public is seeing mainly the worst behavior. That the LGBT community has become less and less civil. She believes if the LGBT community are to gain full respect that they should stop defining themselves by their sexual preference.
Upon conclusion of the analysis of all three interviews, the social perspective that has had the most effect was of a functionalist nature. The functionalist perspective is summarized as to how our culture upholds a social stratum. That society has a strong influence on individualized behaviors. Our sexuality is controlled by what is considered normative between genders. Functionalism refers to this as as institutionalized heterosexuality, the philosophy, societies, and peer to peer relations that outlines heterosexualism as the standard and dictator of sexual orientation and gender identity. (Lind, 2004), (Guerro, 2008).
We are in a sense, forced to go against anything considered as cultural abnormalities within society. The normality has always been to eventually get married and have the traditional family. In contrast, this is not the case with many individuals in today’s more open-minded society as there has been a stronger sense of liberty within the LGBT community and the way it is now perceived by today’s more modern-day society.
Political views have changed on the same-sex topic simply due to the now more cultural norm that is experienced within society. Politicians take a more radical approach to their campaigns in order to get votes and this means securing support from a large LGBT population that is actively fighting for their civil rights. Individuals are no longer as fearful of society’s perception of their sexuality and gender identity. The overall social issue comes down heterosexual and LGBT culture facing the denial of their differences. The solution to the social problem is the acceptance of the person conflicts facing individuals within the LGBT community and within overall society. Overall debates on sexual orientation and gender identity remain radicalistic in the send of the functionalist perspective.
- Bonnie J. Morris, P. (n.d.). History of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Social Movements. (George Washington University ) Retrieved from American Psychological Association: https://www.apa.org/pi/lgbt/resources/history
- Guerro, A. L. (2008). Sage Pub. Retrieved from Sexuality: https://www.sagepub.com/sites/default/files/upm-binaries/23974_Pages_108_111.pdf
- Human Rights Education Associates. (2003). Sexual Orientation and Human Rights. Retrieved from University of Minnesota Human Rights Library: Sexual Orientation and Human Rights
- Lind, A. (2004). Legislating the Family: Heterosexist Bias in Social. Retrieved from Western Michigan University: https://scholarworks.wmich.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.google.com/&httpsredir=1&article=3024&context=jssw
- The Official Website of the City of New York. (n.d.). Respectfully Asking Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) Questions. Retrieved from The Official Website of the City of New York: https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/acs/pdf/lgbtq/Respectfully_Asking_SOGI_Questions.pdf