GENDER – A Social Construct

Gender, as a social construct is about learnt behavior, and it is culturally and socially determined. Society dictates what is female and feminine or male and masculine. Certain tasks and behaviors are considered appropriate for a person’s biological sex e.g. women should take care of the household and be the main caregiver of the children. Often male children will/would hear: “Big boys don’t cry”.  Where the sex of an unborn baby is known prior to the birth, everything (usually) will be made pink, in the case of a girl, and blue in the case of a boy.

Many societies, consider men to be superior to women and their roles dominant. In these so-called patriarchal, heteronormative societies, males’, ‘masculine’ characteristics such as rationality and competitiveness and roles assigned to men are considered superior and valued above those of females. Those characteristics considered ‘feminine’ such as emotionality and nurturing, would be assigned to women. Gender and gender roles are, however, not fixed as society (and the various cultures) are forever changing and evolving.

Heteronormativity is the cultural bias in favor of opposite-sex relationships (of a sexual nature) and against same-sex relationships (of a sexual nature). Because the former is viewed as normal and the latter not, lesbian, gay and bisexual relationships are subject to a heteronormative bias.
Examples of heteronormativity might include the underrepresentation of same-sex couples in advertising and entertainment media and religious bias against same-sex couples. Heteronormativity, like racism, sexism, and heterosexism, is a bias that can only be eliminated culturally, unfortunately not legislatively.
The notion that there are only two genders is challenged by the term transgenderism – an umbrella term for transsexuals and transvestites.

Now, gender identity is how someone identifies with women or men, i.e. a person’s sense of being either male or female. While most people’s gender matches their biological sex, this is not always the case, for instance, someone may be born biologically male, yet have a female gender identity.
It is important to understand gender presentation in this context. Most biological males (sex) identify as men (gender) and females identify as women. However, there are people whose gender identity can not be classified as the above.

Transsexuals are people whose gender does not match their sex. A person who is biologically male but feels like a female. Transsexuals often have a feeling of being “born in the wrong body”. The terms used in this context are MTF (male to female) or FTM (female to male).

Transvestites

refer to men, usually heterosexuals, who enjoy wearing female clothes and adopt traditionally female character traits for personal satisfaction, which may take the form of sexual arousal and/or gratification, but may just as easily be of a non-sexual nature.

Transvestites generally self-identify as men and have no interest in being women.

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