Gender, as a term, defines the social and cultural difference between man and woman. It is further classified and adopted by an individual based on gender roles. Gender roles illustrate the difference by laying down fundamental rules of how a certain individual should act, behave, speak, dress and interact with other people in a social group. To further progress this process society implemented various learning methods that helped individuals grasp the basics of their specific gender role and its significance within their social group. These learning methods establish a basic cognitive framework that reflected to the basics of the gender schemas, declaring the difference between masculine and feminine roles. Numerous socializing agents play an important role in this learning process too. Among them the famous ones relate to knowledge gained from parents, teachers, movies, religion, books, and music. However, parents are found to have the most dominating influential impact on this learning mechanism, since they offer as the child’s initial learning phase and contribute greatly towards their understanding of their culture and social system.
Gender roles as defined by socializing agents or through identification presented by learning schemas, are first adopted at the childhood phase and continue on into adulthood for an individual. Parents as conceived by society are the first among the influences towards a specific gender role. A prominent traditional example follows the practice of fathers offering tutelage to boys while mothers adhering to the upbringing of daughters, teaching them the responsibilities affixed with their gender roles.
The process of learning gender roles is transferred from generation to generation, forming into a practice or norm traditionally being carried on. Based on this assumption, the society explains the gender roles to be identified by men distinguished by the personality traits of being aggressive, bold, and strong, whereas women are specified through the personal traits of someone who’s polite, emotional, accommodating and has a nurturing personality. These traits became a common example throughout time and formed the basis of this identification process. All points considered, this distinction is dependent on the way society, culture and ethnic groups hold up their gender specification and role expectations, due to their unique understanding varying from group to group (Eccles et al., 1990 ,183-201). Although these defining traits for genders can modify over time to adapt the needs of that specific time period (Money et al., 1957, 333-336). For instance, among boys it is noticeable that they prefer blue, whereas girls are found to be giving special preference to pink but considering the United States the color pink was found to be a masculine color and blue was considered to be a feminine color.
Among the known facts that circulate around the gender roles is the fact that people affirm to certain traits or characteristics that define a gender are associated the individual’s biological gender as well. These biological gender definitions provided the underlying understanding towards men being “aggressive and assertive” while women being considered to be leaning more towards the “submissive” trait. Further studies concluded that women are supposed to be more emotional as compared to men since men were found to be suppressing their emotions. These statements eventually lead one to follow a narrow path, without any chances of fail.
Taking these points into consideration and the well explained gender roles, societies have long been obscuring or neglecting the third gender. Transgender people have long been fighting for their rights and the first one known to be struggling to gain an acceptance and their rights in the United States was a black transgender woman named Marsha P. Johnson, who is especially known for being the first woman to be involved in the Stonewall Inn Riots, which initiated a new beginning and a movement for the transgender people and raised their opinion and voice. Just years previous to this, there were different issues regarding the rights of transgender where police conducted cracked down in San Francisco, among which the noticeable one is the Compton’s Cafeteria riots. Although there are other incidents which continue to be undiscussed. These struggles from the transgender community, form only a smaller portion to the larger global prevalent concern. Recruiting different genders instead of the typically defined male and female gender from all over the world, individuals who are not identified with a unique gender they were born with, have demonstrated their striving struggle and efforts towards bringing attention towards this gender biased social opinion. The recent chain of awareness programs been conducted in the United States might has brought the voice of these oppressed people, spreading awareness among the public about their existence, their rights and towards acknowledging their presence.
Furthermore, as it may seem relatively to collectively apply the term “transgender” to sum the entire non-binary gender into one cluster, it is imperative to understand that these individuals are still people that exist in our society. It’s necessary to respect their sovereignty and acknowledging their identity as well. A reflection from history illustrates an example when the European colonial system proved its influential strength in inflicting hurt on to this topic and contributed largely to erasing the gender-variant individuals. Employing the use of Western Terminology for the sole purpose of establishing an understanding about the topic and the way it exists in other cultures is going to further increase the harm done to this community. A common term used by Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson was “Transvestite,” a term that is rarely used in the present era (Levitt, and Maria 2014, 1727-1758).
Among the large range of expression based on genders and expressing identities proves as a testament as one of the important tenet of advocacy in Western community. Proving as an evident factor that the present system is progressing towards removing all forms of restrictive measures prevailing on the gender system. These systems that have existed since ancient times and continued on to the modern age, are slowly eroding away as modernity and the continuous struggles for recognition of Transgender community continues on. These examples exemplify the experiences that are present outside of the binary gender definitions of society, seemingly similar to those defined by modern concepts of non-binary or genderqueer generation.
Gender roles being defined into two most prominent male and female genders has long prevailed in every society and culture throughout history. The factor of recognition of the third gender, non-binary gender, has continued to be obscured by ignorance and ill formed assumptions. The societal structure oppressing the voice of the transgender people, refusing to globally accept them as a gender has resulted in fewer opportunity in society. The transgender has suffered at the hands of factors such as high poverty, violence, harassment, negligence, a small portion of market portion offering employment opportunities, and denial of legal rights. The largely affected group in this belonging to colored transgender people or transgender women have shown to be communities mostly vulnerable in the United States. The change, however little, has started to take root with awareness programs addressing this conflicted gender topic and reflecting on the hurt society has inflicted on individuals belonging to this non-binary or genderqueer community. Numerous efforts by prominent social movement workers in Transgender community have brought a significant effect on this topic. These movements initiated by Marsha P. Johnson contributed towards eliminating this gender discrimination has brought focus on this concern.
Money, John, Joan G. Hampson, and John L. Hampson. “Imprinting and the establishment of gender role.” AMA Archives of Neurology & Psychiatry 77.3 (1957): 333-336.
Eccles, Jacquelynne S., Janis E. Jacobs, and Rena D. Harold. “Gender role stereotypes, expectancy effects, and parents’ socialization of gender differences.” Journal of social issues 46.2 (1990): 183-201.
Levitt, Heidi M., and Maria R. Ippolito. “Being transgender: The experience of transgender identity development.” Journal of Homosexuality 61.12 (2014): 1727-1758.