Gender and Sexualities
Everyone has an opinion on what the word gender means to them. Some believe male and female are the only two genders, with strict beliefs on each of these genders’ rightful roles in society. Others believe gender is just a social construct, with each individual having the right to identify as either masculine, feminine, or in some cases, neither. Because of this long-standing debate between definitions of gender and the contexts of sexuality, this remains a sensitive subject while the LGBTQ community persists for universal acceptance—with opposition, none the less. This paper will examine gender roles in society, how these roles are changing as they affect the lives of many, and inequality issues within the LGBTQ community.
To first understand the full meaning of gender from a sociological perspective, one must look at the way sociologists define it. It is no secret that there are undeniable differences between men and women. Society associates some things like video games and trucks with boys while shopping and makeup are associated with girls. Even certain colors are gendered, as blue is typically used for boys and pinks for girls. However, all of these things that society often holds as truths are just socially constructed. This is where sex comes into play. A person’s sex, not gender, is determined by the biological anatomy they were born with and even sex is not always so black and white as an individual can be born with both male and female characteristics, or intersex. With this being said, these differences are overly exaggerated in society’s institutions through stereotypes and institutions. The problem with stereotypes in society and gender roles is that people are often at risk to living up to their negative stereotypes, also known as the stereotype threat. For instance, a woman with aspirations of becoming a professional boxer may fail to achieve her goals if males in the industry are telling her that women cannot be boxers. This is how stereotypes create an environment prone to gender roles and sexism.
The way gender roles have different expectations and create different opportunities for women and men often creates a system known as Patriarchy. Patriarchy is more than just sexism, because it is the concept of a whole society where men are the leaders and hold the power, whether it comes to government or the household. In a system where men hold all the power, toxic gender inequalities are birthed and carried out. Patriarchy maintains the idea that men are innately better than women. Therefore, they should be offered the job, pay more, and be in higher positions. The “gender pay gap” refers to the average pay off all women versus the average pay of all men who are working the same jobs, with the same hours, and are of the same age. Teaching, secretary work, and nursing have been considered traditional occupations of women in the past, especially in the early to mid-nineteen hundreds. However, over the years women have increasingly received better education, thus integrating themselves into the male dominated workforce. In the late nineteen hundreds, women passed men as the sex earning the highest number of college degrees per year. This could be due to the fact that throughout history, women have typically seemed to do better in school and care more about academic performance than men, as well as having less behavior performs. Thus, when women started receiving equal rights, this sparked a certain liberation and determination within women to excel in power, leadership, and typically male dominated areas. When the Civil Rights Acts were passed in the sixties, it became illegal to refuse anyone of a job, whether it is on the basis of race or sex. While this improved a lot of discrimination when it comes to hiring, society has not yet seen the death of all discrimination in the workforce. The Equal Pay Act was established in 1963 but in today’s world, women are still paid less than men in some instances. This could be because pay is based on who has been in the company or position the longest as well as who has the most experience and many women take off time after childbirth to stay at home. However, more women today are continuing to work even with a small child at home, meaning dual earning families are on the rise. Sometimes employers simply just prefer men for positions because of a subconscious bias, which is still a form of workplace discrimination. Overall, the progress of shrinking the gender pay gap and occupation segregation has slowed over the past couple of years.
The integration of women into the male workforce is one of the many aspects of the Gender Revolution, but it is not confined to just liberating women in today’s society. For instance, the idea of gender being binary that has been so ingrained in society can be especially toxic for men. In a society where men are associated with masculinity and set with so many expectations to fit the mold of being strong, any show of vulnerability or emotion is often considered as showing weakness. When young boys are set with these expectations that society has made for them, this can often lead to aggressive and delinquent behavior, emotional disconnect, and sexual harassment towards women, which will further be discussed in the following paragraphs. That is why the gender revolution is so critical for not only women, but in liberating the gender confine’s that holds all of society.
The gender revolution is also detrimental for the LGBTQ community. In the past, any deviance of what was expected from gender roles-such as crossdressing, or any homosexual activity-was punishable by law. The beginning of awareness for acceptance and rights for the LGBTQ community did not come to light until the late nineteen hundreds. Since then, there have been multiple movements for the freedoms for this community, such as the movement for marriage equality, the gay liberation movement, and LGBT rights movement. These movements set in place the foundations for the eventual Supreme Court ruling in 2015, Obergefell v. Hodges, that marriage for same-sex couples was a fundamental right. Even though there has been immense progress since the late sixties for gender equality, many LGBTQ people still experience violence and harassment in their everyday lives.
Sexual orientation is a complex term, as Alfred Kinsey suggested over fifty years ago when he said that a person can fall along many stages of this continuum, not necessarily just being confined as heterosexual, homosexual, and bisexual. As seen with sexual fluidity, sometimes the sex that a person is attracted to can even change throughout their life years. As stated earlier, these peoples’ sexual preferences do not conform to what has always been deemed the norm in society so sociologists refer to them as sexual minorities as not only are they in the minority of Americans from a statistical point of view, but they are also susceptible to ridicule and harassment. To better understand the oppression this community faces, one could possibly say they are comparable to racial minorities that have experienced inhumane acts of prejudice over the course of history. As the LGBTQ community can exercise greater liberties today than ever in history, yet they still face harsh discrimination, one must beg the question of why people are so deeply rooted in their beliefs against homosexuality and surgically changing sex, or more simply put, homophobic and transphobic. Some people have been raised with conservative, Christian beliefs and values that have been passed down from generation to generation. Others live in baseless fear out of simple misunderstanding or lack of knowledge about trans and gay people. In some cases, people externalize homophobia because they are experiencing same-sex attraction themselves and are trying to either conceal or stifle their own attractions.
No matter the reasons, all discrimination towards the LGBTQ community is downright inhumane and can take many forms. One of the most disheartening ways sexual minorities experience discrimination is through the loss of emotional support or financial support from family members, friends, and loved ones. When a person tells friends and family that their sexual orientation is not heterosexual-also referred to as coming out-this can create major tensions and distress within the family and within friend groups because of the way society is conditioned to heteronormativity. The saddest part about this harsh reality is that many sexual minorities, especially those who are young and vulnerable, become homeless or even commit suicide after facing rejection from loved ones. Another major problem young sexual minorities face is harassment within the school system. The harassment they face from bullying ranges from verbal mockery, embarrassment in front of others, to even physical abuse. Because of this, many schools have begun to set strict anti-bullying and discrimination rules that can result in expulsion if one were to break them. Unfortunately, the violence doesn’t stop within just the school systems. Three years ago, an American citizen who pledge to ISIS killed almost fifty people at a gay night club in Orlando, FL. Even though not always on such a large scale, hate crimes like these happen to the gay community on a day-to-day basis. One theory for hate crimes against the LGBTQ community is that as acceptance for the community becomes more widespread, those who are homophobic become more prone to act out on extreme levels. Another widespread form of discrimination sexual minorities face is institutional discrimination. Institutional discrimination is any form of discrimination by the institutions of society such as denial of service in a store based off of someone’s sexual orientation.”