Since the early ages, gender has been an evolving sociocultural construct, a script rather, that society has forced people to act out. As a result, people are shunned or discouraged from being their true selves, and possibly even being discriminated against if they choose to live outside the gender binary. The fluctuating patterns of social trends have always intrigued me to varying extents, depending on the topic, due to the ability to examine the evolution over time (progression or regression). As for further examining my interest in gender performativity, I have realized that the starting point with the focus on social influence and gender norms began when I viewed a video within my senior English class, last school year. The video was a crash course that encapsulated a theory produced by American philosopher and gender theorist, Judith Butler, which described the negative effects of gender roles and norms. It completely grabbed my attention because it targeted and challenged well-accepted core beliefs–I needed to know more. After viewing the video, I began to research more on the topic, only to fall short handed; there wasn’t much research offered on the topic besides Butler’s. Even with Butler’s research, I still didn’t feel completely satisfied because a majority of her research was outdated–her most recent publication was five years ago. As a result, I ventured more into the repercussions of this long-lived act of conformity such as transgenderism.
When examining the topic further, I also realized that although society has shown progression in terms of accepting terms outside of the conventional ways, such as sexualties other than heterosexual, society still hasn’t become accustomed to gender fluidity or non-binaries (gender identities that aren’t exclusively masculine or feminine.). However, if the population understands the difference between birth sex and gender identity, the realization that there isn’t a direct correlation between the two will pave the way for acceptance in relativity to transgenders “coming out,” and the disconnect that is felt by the non-aligned will disappear. Therefore, the choice to opt in to not partake in the performance will lead to the unraveling of unconscious biases and the gender binary.
The moment one’s sex has been determined by an obstetrician-gynecologist, the baby has been appointed a gender that directly aligns with their sex. After the parents have learned their sex of their baby/babies, they often follow up with a pre-planned show that is part of society’s script–the gender reveal party. During this celebration, the parents follow through with a series of planned activities that result in the unveiling of the baby’s sex. With this, the sex is revealed through the stereotypical association of pink for girls and blue for boys. Furthermore, the parents have developed the assumed gender of the baby, without ever allotting time for the child to choose for itself. A very common thread that may be found between a majority of parents with newborns or children in general, are the parents often playing into the stereotypical gender roles.
The huge misconception that we are also taught at a young age, that is the gateway into gender performativity, is the need to fit in. The effect of either the desire to fit in, the hope to not be an outlier or judged altogether, or a combination contributes to this problem. Due to this need, we are discouraged from pushing boundaries or being different. However, this is not the case; instead, it is just an additional restriction that continues to withhold the population from embodying their natural instincts or true selves. If either of these issues are not targeted and effectively handled, society will not have the opportunity to progress, and the large disconnect felt within most people will remain.
The forced structure that the populus relentlessly abides by has ultimately been the demise of the minorities that chooses to not affiliate with the script of the past. This group of outliers may associate themselves with a subgroup that may be related to their gender, sexuality, race, etc. However, I would more specifically like transgenders to be my focal point because the alternate groups of minorities have made leaps and bounds of progress. In addition to this, transgenders are still facing backlash, and only take up about 0.6% of the United States population, or 1.4 million people, as relayed from federal and state data in 2016 (Hoffman). This population has nearly doubled since a previously projected estimate done, by William Institute at the U.C.L.A. School of Law, five years ago (Hoffman). The large population increase has been a result of gender dysphoria, or people’s gender identity not corresponding with their birth sex. Despite the undertones of equality to all, spread throughout the U.S., transgenders still aren’t fully accepted during this day and age. In spite of society moderately progressing, there still remains a great deal of misunderstanding and aversion to be dealt with. This clear example of disapproval and inequality starts with the government’s federal and state laws, and continues to trickle down into the homes occupied by those dearest to them.
Government’s restrictions due to gender, in retrospect, have created “…a straitjacket in which men and women dance their unequal dance,” as stated by Gerda Lerner (Rehman and Asim). A recent controversial event, as of this year, has been about the required presentation of photo ID at voting booths. As of now, seventeen out of the 50 states ask for a photo ID upon balloting. From those seventeen, seven states strictly require photo ID, and refuse to accept any other form of identification (Underhill). This translates to a large portion of transgenders being unable to vote, resulting from their physical appearance or gender identity not matching their assigned sex. This being the effects of cost, surgical requirement, or being denied from government agencies. If this mandate does not change before this next election, transgenders will not be able to fulfil their active duties as citizens to vote. Additionally, transgenders will also not even be allowed to be considered apart of the broad population surveys, as they are transinclusive (language that acknowledges that some people identify as something other than their assigned sex) and are deemed “not appropriate” (Bauer, Braimoh, Scheim, and Dharma). Transgenders altogether aren’t accepted in society, as displayed by the surrounding people within the community, and the leaders of this country as of now–making it impossible to display their political efficacy. All of these factors combined in only the “progressive” America makes it beyond difficult for transgenders to play their role in society, and live out their lives on their own terms; however, multiple countries within the world still don’t even grant as any or as many “liberties” as the U.S. does.
Transgenders have to experience the loathsome comments and discrimination from the leaders of the country, students in schools, the general public, and even from some of their families. Immediately following President Donald Trump’s Inauguration, Trump’s administration withdrew Obama-era protections, Title IX, for transgender students (Vogue, Mallonee, and Grinberg). Explicitly, this means that the rights of transgender students are to be left up for debate at the state level, which may lean in either direction depending on the state’s views. The rights of people ranging from merely children, to teenagers, and even adults are in the hands of people trying to comply with society’s framework once more. These students will now face neverending scrutiny, as they get judged by their physical appearance versus their gender–as conveyed by author, activist, and transgender male, Yee Won Chong. During Chong’s. Within Chong’s TED Talks, Chong summarizes this obstacle by stating, “To avoid the potential for harassment I would ask myself: do I come across guy enough to use the men’s bathroom, or do I feel threatened by the men in this place, that I would take the risk of being yelled at in the women’s bathroom, which happens often.” This extended amount of shaming and segregation has now taken away the “simple” liberty of using the bathroom.
In terms of possibility for progression in the near future, a look into the past would bring forth a level of perspective. Within the year of 1973, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) gathered to vote on the topic of homosexuality for the upcoming edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The group of psychiatrists came together to determine the fate of homosexuality, and declare whether or not it was a mental disorder. At the time, there was a spark of social protests, the African-American civil rights movement, and protests for the rights of women and gays, between the years of the 1950’s to 1970’s. As this happened, the general public and APA began to open their minds to the idea of homosexuality. They were able to realize that homosexuality was not indeed a mental disorder, but instead categorized it as a “Sexual Orientation Disturbance” (Spitzer). As a result of this change, homosexuality, or any alliance within LGBTQ+, is now majorly accepted by the world. Due to this, more within the alliance are openly “coming out” from hiding, and are beginning to blend in with the rest of the population. This specific situation, along with the accepting of other minority groups, may be compared and used for the future of accepting non-binaries. The contingency of further development within the realms of gender fluidity and all other minority groups are beyond certain; however, it starts in the hands of the people. Until this change begins to take place, the advancement of humanity itself will remain stagnant.
The pathway that society is currently on exhibits positive signs, and shows that there are endless possibilities for the acceptance of all and beyond. The mindset has adapted over time due to the ever changing social stigma, research, and movements, and continues to evolve as more factors emerge. With this, living outside of the box of conformity and as any non-binary or gender fluid being has the potential to become the new “norm” in the near future. The openness and willingness that comes along with this acceptance will be the key components in not only this improvement, but may also be applied in any situation for future growth.
Bauer, Greta R., et al. “Transgender-Inclusive Measures of Sex/Gender for Population Surveys:
Mixed-Methods Evaluation and Recommendations.” Plos ONE, vol. 12, no. 5, 25 May
2017, pp. 1-28. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0178043. Accessed 25 October 2017.
This academic journal that I used from Academic Search Complete offers insight on a flaw within the system of population surveys within Canada and the United States by describing the research conducted, its results, and possible solutions for future surveys. The authors further describe the issue of not providing an option for people who live outside of the binary, while pointing out the wrong in excluding this group of people from being counted a part of society. I used their claims within my report to reiterate the main idea presented, only to reinforce my claim about the negative effects of this societal construct. After reviewing the source, I began to scour the internet for claims that supported the validity of the statistics offered, only to find multiple sources that produced the same, accurate results.
“Beyond the Gender Binary: Yee Won Chong at TEDxRainier.” TED-Ed,
ed.ted.com/on/R5ScKSaL. Accessed 25 October 2017.
While searching for videos on the internet to offer additional information on Judith Butler’s theory, I only found long lectures that didn’t catch my interest. After changing the search words, I came across a TED Talks video that contained a speech from a transgender who focuses on social issues. Chong discusses the everyday issues that transgenders face, that many people fail to understand or think about unless they have been in the situations themselves. Chong offers a sense of credibility due to being a transgender himself and also being familiar with this issues from being an LGBTQ+ advocate and working with and fighting for people who undergo the same obstacles.
Hoffman, Jan. “Estimate of U.S. Transgender Population Doubles to 1.4 Million Adults.” The
New York Times, The New York Times, 30 June 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/01/health/transgender-population.html. Accessed 25 October 2017.
Hoffman’s article brings awareness on the ever growing population of transgenders within the United States by exhibiting data collected by William Institute at the U.C.L.A. School of Law and a statement from Mara Keisling, the executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. I used the information given on the population increase to reinforce the importance of learning about, being familiar with, and accepting transgenders. As stated within the other annotated bibliography that referenced the population, I used this source to gain further knowledge and understanding on its background, while using it for its credibility since the data was compiled by U.C.L.A. In addition to that, I also implemented it since it also included an important speaker and advocate who was knowledgeable on the issue.
Rehman, Shakeel ur and Asim Karim. “Interrogation of Gender Binaries in Sidhwa’s Ice-Candy
Man from Butlerian Perspective.” Gomal University Journal of Research, vol. 32, no. 1, June 2016, pp. 87-95. EBSCOhost, chaffey.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=117769154&site=ehost-live. Accessed 25 October 2017.
The concept and analyzation proposed by both Rehman and Karim aligned perfectly with the topic and stance that I had chosen, while also emphasizing Judith Butler’s ideology. In this academic journal, the authors took on different books, while analyzing the characters in terms of their gender and the misrepresentation of the correlation that society has constructed for sex and gender. Throughout the journal, the authors continued to reference Butlerian perspective, while also adding their own insight. Although the authors weren’t directly involved in this field of study, they did appear to be well-informed on the topic and up-to-date; something that anyone who takes part within society should also be able to provide the same level of awareness and understanding as well.
Spitzer, Robert. “The Diagnostic Status of Homosexuality in DSM-III: a Reformulation of the
Issues.” Information for Authors & Reviewers | American Journal of Psychiatry, American Psychiatric Association, Feb. 1981, ajp.psychiatryonline.org/ajp_authors_reviewers. Accessed 25 October 2017.
The implication of this source was used for the purpose of comparing the evolution and progression of accepting homosexuality to transgenderism. As for the past, homosexuality was considered a mental illness and that raises the question of the extent of the impact that societal stigmas have on the creation of DSM–especially in terms of transgenderism as of now. The future of people’s lives and diagnoses are within the hands of a board of people who control the world of psychology; all people who are supposed to be scholarly and non-biased. Although the idea people not being accepted for not aligning with common beliefs is difficult to accept, it does point out unconscious biases that have been in our society throughout history while showing the ability for progression and change in the years to come for transgenderism.
Underhill, Wendy. “Voter Identification Requirements and Voter ID Laws.” National
Conference of State Legislatures , 5 June 2017, http://www.ncsl.org/research/elections-and-campaigns/voter-id.aspx. Accessed 25 October 2017.
The National Conference of State Legislatures pointed out these shortcomings of the system with the motive of informing the still-present issues and overall skewing of transgenders rights. Not only does this shocking image show prevalence, especially within this past year since an election had just passed–meaning that many transgender citizens were denied their right to vote; but this problem is something that is faced on a daily basis. This doesn’t only break down into voting rights, but also driver’s licenses, passports, and more. These valuable rights haven’t been addressed very much, or at all, in recent events or ever.
Vogue, Ariane de, and Emanuella Grinberg. “Trump Administration Withdraws Federal
Protections for Transgender Students.” CNN, Cable News Network, 23 Feb. 2017, http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/22/politics/doj-withdraws-federal-protections-on-transgender-bathrooms-in-schools/index.html. Accessed 25 October 2017.
I chose to use this article from the news outlet, CNN, because of its simple delivery and explanation of the implication and effects of Title IX. This source also explained the recent change implicated by President Donald Trump and how it would change the lives of transgender students. This information is vital to my argument because it describes how basic rights are now being taken away from transgenders, and the possible, future repercussions. With this country wide policy taken away, one might question what rights would also be taken away from not only transgenders, but also groups that face rejection.