Sunday, November 23, 2014

Gender Inequality: Societal Analogue and Gender Entitlement Notions Bolster Transgender Anonymity

Gender Inequality: Societal Analogue and Gender Entitlement Notions Bolster Transgender Anonymity

Christine Deputy

Cynthia Klein

ENG 101

6 June 2014

Gender Inequality: Societal Analogue and Gender Entitlement Notions Bolster Transgender Anonymity

While mourning the death of a close childhood friend, searching for reason and understanding beyond the KOMO News media insinuations of being transient, I peruse his Facebook final entries searching for quantification to justify the lack of due process that afforded law enforcement’s ability to use excessive force on that dreadful day of May 11, 2014 at University Place, Washington (Bowen).  In the effort to organize my thoughts amidst this turmoil, to take a stance regarding gender inequality, my thoughts continually wander back to my friend as I ask myself, “What is just?  Where was equality for my masculine, white, male, Christian childhood friend that came from an upper middle-class family?”  In asking these questions, a community of male friends wax and wane the mental images of my childhood friend, replacing his image with the understanding that it could easily have been one of my male to female pre or post-operative transgendered friends.    Ancient societies and cities, Greek philosophy, religious views of gender roles, to current heated debates regarding the Grand Old Party (GOP) stance on equal pay for women—it classifies and divides the nation from childhood education to workforce business ethics in census statistical male and female boxes.  The transgender community remains largely unaddressed in the present social norm attention except with mental illness and unchristian hyperbole, seemingly imperceptible and anonymous with similar but separate internal struggles regarding gender inequality.  Yet partially privileged in gender--as he struggles with the duality of society’s narrow opinions, whether male or female, and impacted by gender topics at school, at work and where he plays.  The battle of the sexes continues to deride impressions of gender entitlement—this subject must encompass transgender existence and necessitates acknowledgement of general human equality to enforce equal right to safety, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

In several social circles, many declare that lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender (LGBT) behavior is not normal because society embraces two distinct differentiations of male or female conduct.  It defines and provides comfort in our pronoun references of “he” and “she” statements.  Interestingly, there are figurines from periods around c9000-8000 B.C. discovered in the Middle East, depicting androgynous human images that portray a view of gender identities being flexible.  Lauren Talalay argues that the early archeological figurines may communicate a belief that gender was viewed as same-sex or cross-sex combinations (136).  Although the androgynous figurines were primarily found in graves and may depict that life after death is not gender specific, their culture embraced the concept.  What other societies embraced femininity?  Anette Olivier hypothesizes that, during the Egyptian Empire, around 16th century B.C. and 11th century B.C., the Egyptian queens ruled with as much reverence and power as the Egyptian pharaohs inferring that gender equality was not a prevailing social dispute (6).  Women were not placed into a position of power during ancient Egypt because of a necessity to express diversity for their society—civil rule was not divided by male and female concepts—rather it was a position of entitlement deemed by birth in royal bloodline.   In 2009, Dr. Irwin Braverman and company observed that the Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaten of 1377 BCE had extremely feminine qualities, including obvious breasts in likeness depictions generating reader declarations of the pharaoh’s cross-sexual nature (Braverman, Mackowiak and Redford).  Some historians theorize that Akhenaten was ridiculed because of his cross-sexual nature.  Typically, in the human emotional condition, it is not common for people to glorify in beautiful artwork something that they ridicule.  Is it possible that current cultures choose to project that Akhenaten was ridiculed because current social norms do the same?  The term berdache was commonly used by anthropologists around the twentieth century to describe men in several cultures that created three or more gender categories according to Aaron Devor’s Becoming Members of Society: 4 Learning the Social Meanings of Gender.  Devor explains that berdaches were biological males that took the social role of females; he functioned in women’s duties, had sex with, and married men.  The berdache was not socially marginalized because of his choice--quite the opposite--he was exalted in prestige (Devor 378).  By these shared historic cultural discoveries and observations, it is not a new trend or novel concept to challenge current society’s mythology of male masculinity and female femininity to accept and embrace this information. Although, doing so may threaten certain subconscious intrinsic ideals conditioned to oppress and disunite.  How did the current social factious view of men’s masculinity, or lack of, begin?  When did current male and female role mythology commence? 

In the quest for an inkling of an answer to when and where the origin of current gender perception and separation in roles began considering early ancient societies embraced a symbiotic relationship of sexes, even reveling and endorsing the ideology of different shades of gray— I realize it is no simple task to evidence blame.  Many circles passionately contend that current patriarchal trends are attributed to early Christianity influence.  It is simple to find theories, observations, and studies with factual events pointing to historical authorities similar to the medieval period as Dyan Elliot published.  It alarms as it challenges a perspective of historical revered figures such as St. Augustine.  Elliot quotes him to say, “[Demons] persuade [men]…in marvelous and unseen ways, entering by means of that subtlety of their own bodies into the bodies of men who are unaware, and through certain imaginary visions mingling themselves with men’s thoughts, whether they are awake or asleep.” (quoted in Elliott 19)  Elliot further expands that St. Augustine preached that sinful sexual fantasies existed--encouraged by demons--victimizing men by penetrating sensibility imbedding an influence in memory and senses.  St. Augustine believed that these demonic influences warranted investigation.  Stepping back from history and focusing on current social views, Devor informs us:

Just as many Americans in the past considered it ‘unnatural’ and socially destructive for women to vote or go to college, many now consider it ‘unnatural’ and socially destructive for gays and lesbians to marry, or for individuals to express a gender identity that violates conventional notions of masculinity or femininity. (378)

Although many are eager to blame early Christianity and the patriarchal enforcement, this belief leaves too many questions to be able to subscribe to that notion.  My mind wanders back to my childhood friend as I ponder this information.  As a masculine white male, what demons victimized and pervaded him to cause other males with appointed authority to brazenly perform a perceived public execution?  What was the attitude that was offensive if it was not his masculinity in question?  Ursule Molinaro portrays a shocking public execution of a 45-year-old Greek female philosopher, Hypatia, in the streets of Alexandria during the 5th-century BC era.  Her scorched and blistering body was inflamed in public view as a message to reformers and healers that she silence her knowledge if she valued her life.  Her story teaches us that the etymology of the word heresy originally meant—choice—the option of defining life as something other than the masses’ definition of normal.  In essence, the word heresy was adopted and bastardized into Christian doctrine significance of conformance and the lack of accordance was punishable by torture (Molinaro).   Many people theorize and conclude that people’s choices for their unique path of living generates consequences as several people shrug their shoulders in apathy.  In current cultures, modern civilization does not publicly torture a person because of their choice in living a life that is beyond the community’s view of acceptable uniformity—or does it?  The answer then seems to create an epiphany as I realize that my friend’s brutal civil punishment without due process can be encompassed in a single word; conformity.  There must have been an impression that his profile did not fit for a successful apprehension.  What would it have been like if this were a homeless transgender?  In the textbook Rereading America, the editors explain that our gender identification determines the societal concept of the people’s roles in common classification for rules of engagement (Columbo, Cullen and Lisle).  These rules of engagement become the baseline, which seems that, every person in society is weighed and measured to gauge the level of conformity.  As many passionately state that the origin begins with patriarchal society shifts, all circles have one common denominator that fuels most current society struggles and that is our desire to mold and form people into our perception of who people should be.  Society desires for males and females to fit into those defining categories that comfort our definition of civil uniformity and values.

Common reaction towards the homeless are often nonchalant and dismissive as many make assuming comments that those people chose to live that life.  Stacia Glenn with The News Tribune published, “It's unclear what Hillstrom was doing in the area. His last known address was in Spanaway, but Troyer said the man appeared to be a transient and had likely just moved into the area.” (Glenn) The eye witnesses in the area claim Hillstrom was subdued by the officers and relatives attest that he had a place of residence.  Then I wonder, how many transients maintain a social media page?  Some would say that not all of the facts are clear. Indeed, I would not argue that point.  My question is, was the choice to persecute him more to do with the perception that he was transient and that he did not appear to conform to the right socioeconomic norm?  If my friend were wearing the right clothes that conveyed his economical rank in the upper-middle class family, would he still be alive today?  If one were to consider how many transgenders are homeless and subject to the same potential scrutiny and brutality because he does not fit in the mold of social acceptance, his safety is precarious and frightening.  In 2011, Gary Gates published an important point regarding statistical data for transgenders.  Gates maintains that illustrating transgender data is challenging because of the complexities around sexual orientation, gender identification, variants of behavioral non-conformity definitions, and the readiness of respondents to be considered especially when there are concerns of confidentiality and anonymity.  According to the site National Center for Transgender Equality, there are one in five transgenders denied a place of residence.  One in ten have been evicted as a result of gender identity.  Of the 1.6 million youth that are homeless, around 20-40% are LGBT and 42% of the transgender people facing homelessness have to conceal what gender he may identify with while seeking refuge in a shelter (National Center).  People judge with narrow perceptions, arguing and debating but with a lack of willingness to have open minds to gain an understanding of truth behind a person’s persona and reason.  The masses cast aside intellect as fear based emotions override logic that provoke us to consider possibilities of life chosen outside of orthodox concepts while the media encourages the frenzy. 

Countless “mad liberalist woman” statements can be found on the web as several popular news sources splash eye popping headlines of politicians babbling rhetoric in polarized parties that often result in emotional commentaries placing blame of present social problems at the feet of political groups widening the gap of division beyond gender.  Samantha Lachman with Huffington Post shared a video clip of a panel of GOP politicians that played the Dating Game theme song during the Colorado Christian University event seemingly mocking women voters and current equal pay concerns (Lachman).  I cannot help but believe that the LGBT community may have been as shocked and offended in the GOP misogynistic display where most people representing an organization in this manner would be fired for breach of the Code of Business Conduct and Ethics.  Because of the silence and anonymity in the gay and transgender community, it is not surprising that most people do not realize the large number of transgender men that remain invisible.  This brazen display of mockery only serves to appall and further isolate the transgendered male with concerns of what he could expect to experience, not just in public humility but in workforce harassment.  In mainstream census, for the purpose of statistical data and studies, people are strategically categorized into neat little boxes.  Democrat or Republican, ethnicity, household income, education level, date of birth, marital status, and male or female.  From my experience in the medical industry questionnaires and demographic questionnaires, the boxes to categorize do not accommodate marital partner gender, nor do these classifications consider gender clarification for sex identity.  It is also interesting that there are many misconceptions and assumptions made with LGBT and where transgendered males are concerned.  For example, the general populous assumes that male transgenders are gay.  The conflict with this notion is that this belief is both true and not true.  With my personal experience, many male transgenders informed me that he prefers women partners.  During the pre-operative stage, transgenders are afforded the ability to float between male and female roles.  At post-operative stage, heterosexuality depends on sexual orientation over a person’s gender identification.  Our current desire to categorize people into neat descriptive boxes, does not properly illustrate nor allow acknowledgement of transgenders and the complexity in trying to delineate gender identity and sexual preference.  Lana Wachowski, co-director of several popular and successful films such as The Matrix Trilogy and V for Vandetta, eloquently spoke in favor of gender equality during her acceptance of the Freedom Award at the Equality Illinois 2014 Gala.  She expands on gender equality and the complicated nature from the perspective as a transgender:

Here one checked box, one letter, an "M" granted me access to legal social financial privilege while another box, another letter an "F" denied them to me.  This is perhaps a suggestion of the nature of our most ubiquitous form of inequality.  Consider for a moment why is it that every piece of identification from the very first to the very last, from our birth certificate to our death certificate begins with us being measured for one box or another.  Why are these boxes so important?  Why is our first question, is it a boy or a girl?   Why do we make gender the fundament of our identity?  I can't help but wonder, if the answer to these questions is related to the reason why our governments are predominantly male.  Why wealth rights and privileges favor one gender over another and why in the election of 2008 one national magazine asked, ‘Is America ready for a black president?’  While another was still asking, ‘Can a woman be president?’ (14:53)

During Wachowski’s revelation at the Human Rights Campaign of 2012, she stood on the stage like a butterfly emerged from her cocoon, glowing in her complete metamorphosis for all the world to see and announce her transition, she explains:

Parenthetically this is a word that is a very complicated subject for me because of its complicity in a binary gender narrative that I am not particularly comfortable with. Yet I realize the moment I go on camera, that act will be subject to projections that are both personal and political. I have been out to my family and friends for over a decade and the majority of that time I have been discussing this--this particular moment--with my therapist, my family and my wife because I know eventually I’m going to do it but I also know that there is going to be a price for it. (12:15)

It is difficult to imagine the iconic courage it took for Wachowski to publicly reveal her true self and mention the potential cost her outing may generate that she is compelled to acknowledge this negative factor during her speech.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in a survey taken in 2009 it was discovered that there are more than seven thousand LGBT students between the ages 13-21 that experience violence, harassment, bullying, and physical assault because of sexual orientation.  There are eight out of ten students that have to endure verbal harassment, four out of ten that have been physically harassed, one out of five have been victim to physical assault and 60% do not feel safe at school (United States).  This information lends to an understanding of the trauma transgenders experience in life.

There are many who are quick to declare that the LGBT community’s refusal to conform to society’s definition of male and female roles is a form of mental illness or willful choice that can be prevented.  The psychology professionals have provided a clinical category to identify this disorder; gender dysphoria.  Heino Meyer-Bahlburg reports in his 2010 article that the first psychiatric classification of gender identity variants (GIV) specific to gender identity disorder (GID) was initiated by the American Psychiatric Association in 1980.  Earlier classifications maintained that gender identity variants were an issue of sexual deviancy which has had numerous additions and changes in categories and subcategories since the classification inception.  These categories now also include GID of Childhood that assume homosexuality and gender identity are controllable psychosomatic conditions (Meyer-Bahlburg).  As GID awareness is elevated in relation to depression and high suicidal rates, more parents are listening to toddlers when gender identity behavioral patterns become persistent.  Recently released in the New York Daily News, five year old Ryland accepts the 2014 Inspiration Award for sharing his story about his female-to-male transition after insisting declarations that he is a boy not a girl (Moran).  In a 2007 20/20 documentary titled My Secret Self with Barbara Walters, Jazz Jennings shares her experience as a male-to-female transgendered child at six years old, the youngest child to publicly announce her transition.  Since the Walters’ documentary, more parents are coming forward sharing the children’s persistent gender identity variance that many are tagging with descriptions as “confusion”, “disorder”, or as Meyer-Bahlburg is concluding should be clinically changed to “incongruent” which implies “inappropriate”.  It would seem that there are several toddlers that are declaring distress with the physical bodies he was born in stating claims that he identifies with the opposite gender.  There are several cases of transgender children that talk about suicide or death at a young age when he should be filled with awe and wonder with the world brimming with questions.  Once the parents accept and allow the child to transition, the children become the happy and inquisitive toddlers one would expect.  This tests the clinical psychiatric assumptions that homosexuality or transgender behaviors are a sexual deviant choice.  Clearly, previous assumptions and classifications must be revisited in order to help alleviate trauma and try to effect a shift in social perception.

The topic of LGBT equality threatens many domestic sentiments with gender boundaries and equality judgments.  The historical image that has been passed down through progenitor ideals vexes many belief systems and values as several people are eager to espouse that LGBT needs are incongruent, unnatural, and irreligious.  The current political debate regarding gender inequalities, pay discrepancies, education, and workforce considerations exclude a large group that must be considered for inclusion in the conversations of gender equality.  The topic of gender equality and equal pay is not isolated to feminists, be it male or female, it is inclusive of all people.  It should be moving forward with an androgynous doctrine in order to broaden societal views to overcome divided entitled sexist attitudes that endanger the masses civil liberties, safety and happiness regardless of socioeconomic rank, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and gender identification.  It is through a better understanding and acceptance of the natural human condition that society can shatter the walls of anonymity that perpetuate inequality and the sense of silent torment in separateness.  Embracing unity as a whole so the united nation may begin to move forward towards true equal opportunity where people go to school, live and where people work with pay rates based on skill, team contribution, and performance that will elevate a favorable circumstance for a quality of life for all.

Works Cited

Bowen, Russ. University Place man dies after being tased by deputies. 12 May 2014. Web. 14 May 2014.

Braverman, Irwin M., Philip A. Mackowiak and Donald B. Redford. "Akhenaten and the Strange Physiques of Egypt's 18th Dynasty." Annals of Internal Medicine (2009): 556-560. PDF file. 24 May 2014.

Columbo, Gary, Robert Cullen and Bonnie Lisle, Rereading America: Cultural Contexts for Critical Thinking and Writing. 9th ed. Boston, MA: Bedford: St. Martin's, 2013. Print.

Devor, Aaron H. "Becoming Members of Society: 4 Learning the Social Meanings of Gender." Ed. Columbo, Cullen and Lisle. 387-395.

Elliott, Dyan. Fallen Bodies: Pollution, Sexuality, and Demonology in the Middle Ages. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011. eBook.

Equality Illinois. Lana Wachowski Accepts Freedom Award. 21 Feb 2014. Web. 22 May 2014.

Gates, Gary J. "How many people are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender?" UCLA: The Williams Institute (2011): 1-8. Web.

Glenn, Stacia. "Man tased by deputies in University Place later dies." The News Tribune 12 May 2014. Web. 14 May 2014.

Human Rights Campaign. Lana Wachowski receives the HRC Visibility Award. 24 Oct 2012. YouTube. Web. 22 May 2012.

Jennings, Jazz. "My Secret Self: A Story of Transgender Children." 20/20. Barbara Walters. 2007. Web.

Lachman, Samantha. Huffington Post, Politics: GOP Gubernatorial Debate Spoofs 'The Dating Game' In Appeal to Women Voters. 22 May 2014. Web. 22 May 2014.

Meyer-Bahlburg, Heino F. L. "From Mental Disorder to Iatrogenic Hypogonadism - Dilemmas in Conceptualizing Gender Identity Variants as Psychiatric Conditions." United States. National Center for Biotechnology Information (2010): 461-476. Web.

Molinaro, Ursule. "A Christian Martyr in Reverse Hypatia: 370-415 A.D." Hypatia's Daughters. Ed. Linda Lopez McAlister. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996. Print.

Moran, Lee. "San Diego parents reveal story of transgender son who became boy at 5." New York Daily News 30 May 2014. Web.

National Center for Transgender Equality. Housing and Homelessness. 2011. Web. 27 May 2014.

Olivier, Anette. "Social status of elite women of the new kingdom of ancient Egypt: a comparison of artistic features." 2009. Diss.

Talalay, Lauren E. "The Gendered Sea: Iconography, Gender, and Mediterranean Prehistory." The Archaeology of Mediterranean Prehistory. Ed. Emma Blake and Bernard A Knapp. Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 2008. 130-155. Web.

United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Health. 25 Mar 2014. Web. 01 Jun 2014.