The Queer Atmosphere: Sexual/Gender Identities on the Internet, in the 21st Century

Posted: February 24, 2012 by globalsexandsexuality in Uncategorized

The Queer Atmosphere: Sexual/Gender Identities on the Internet, in the 21st Century

Christopher Patterson

Introduction

As I have come of age in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, I have seen a trend which makes me want to be educated further. I am talking about the issues of Gender/Sexual Identity.

Background

             It is hard to think about my upbringing without including an obvious queer narrative into it. You could say (and I often do) that I grew up knowing I was different, that who I was, was not something considered commonplace and “normal”. It was further complicated by my inclusion into a Judeo-Christian atmosphere, which had little, if any, tolerance on things not biblical. This included feminist concepts, queer and transgendered identities. It wasn’t until my 21st birthday that I decided I would not ‘closet’ myself or my feelings; I would actively explore what I wanted, and I would educate myself on topics which I were ignorant about. Such topics I was ignorant about pertained to various identities, which deviated from the ‘traditional’ ideal of heterosexuality, masculinity and femininity.  I only thought in terms of either/or and black/white. Meaning that in terms of gender and sex, I only thought in the heterosexual/homosexual and male/female binaries. This mindset proved to be so un-inclusive and so limited that in retrospect, I have to shake my head at the ignorance. What’s scary is so many people think like I did, and they continue to do so, thinking that’s how the world is and how it should be.

Sex=Gender?

 

Once I began to educate myself, I learned there is a difference between what sex and gender is. Traditionally, the associative factors between sex and gender were as such:

Male=Masculine, Heterosexual, Maleness, Man, Hard, Father.

Female=Feminine, Heterosexual, Femaleness, Woman, Soft, Mother.

 

Knowing I had never felt like I belonged into the Male category, and that I always had or incorporated characteristics from the female category; I took to the Internet.  The Internet; despite the distraction factor it provides, is an invaluable tool in researching this anomaly I saw in myself and in the world around me.  For years, I assumed that both sex and gender were these two “things” that were symbiotic in a way. If you were assigned male at birth, that meant you were born with a penis, assigned male on your birth certificate and you identify as a man per your upbringing and socialization, and you had to be heterosexual. Same as the notion of woman= Vagina-Female-Woman-heterosexual woman. Obviously, I now know that is completely false. What has aided me in my education of all things sex and gender (besides books of course) has been a little social networking site called tumblr. When I joined tumblr I found a wealth of knowledge unlike anywhere else in the world. I began to follow blogs created by people of every ethnicity, gender identity and sexual orientation. Not only did I become more aware, but also it helped me to discover not only my own gender/sexual identity, but traditional delineations from this binary of sex and gender.

 

Global Sex & Gender Revolutionaries

 

             Dennis Altman briefly touches upon the concept of what would be considered ‘queer’ identities in traditional societies

. He introduces specifically the South Asian Hijra, and the Native American Two-Spirit.

These two identities, in my opinion, fall into what I would call Genderqueer identities. They are mixed gender roles, in which the individual who fits into these identities move through the male/female ‘binary.’ People within the Two-Spirit generally dress in a fashion usually considered for the opposite sex, as well as performing other social expectations. For example, a Two-Spirit who may have been born ‘male’, would wear women’s clothes and perform duties usually reserved for males. Similarly, the Hijra are individuals who were born male but have a gender identity that is feminine. Some members undergo a ritual in which their male genitalia is removed. (nirwaan). The concept of the Hijra seems to lack a discernible western counterpart, however a similar identity is found in Thailand as a Kathoey, or what we know in American and in mainstream pornography as the “Ladyboy”. (Or what’s known as a Transsexual Woman or the pejorative term Shemale/Tranny)

Tumblr & Me

 

            I explained earlier that tumblr had a positive effect on my education in terms of sexual and gender identities, and in my own identity. I feel I should elaborate on that a bit. I had always known that I was not heterosexual and felt that a “Gay” identity didn’t completely fit with how I felt. As I began to learn more I came across the term Genderqueer, a word I used to describe the Two-Spirit people. I found out that Genderqueer is a catch-all term for people who may identify as both male/female, neither male nor female, as a whole separate gender (Third Gender). I began identifying as Genderqueer because I acknowledged that I exhibited both characteristics common to males and females. As I began to feel comfortable with my gender identity, I sought out

websites/blogs on tumblr to supplement my queer education. I found it refreshing that I could read information on queer issues written by people across the globe; bringing to the table diverse experiences and perceptions.

What Does This Have to do with Global Sex?

 

                 I chose this particular topic as an overarching theme from the book because not only does there need to be more exposure and education about topics such as these, but because Altman writes from the perspective of an LGBTQ activist [?] point of view, and I felt had someone who was not a advocate or LGBTQ identifying individual wrote this book, it would have come out differently. I think that it is important to recognize one’s own identity in terms of gender and sexuality because whether or not we can see it; it does have an effect on how we view the world and how we view other individuals, governments, nations and organizations.

 

 

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