REASSESSING GENDER AND SEXUALITY IN WESTERN CULTURE 6
ReassessingGender and Sexuality in Western Culture
ReassessingGender and Sexuality in Western Culture
Transgenderis a term that defines a person with a self-identity that does notmatch with the notions of male or female. Trans men and Trans womencould have a gender identity opposite from that of their assignedsex. It takes them some time to understand their self-image, aprocess called transgender congruence. It takes time depending on howthe society perceives of the individuals. Mostcommunities still view transgender men and women as a deviation fromsocial nature because of an unknown fear, showing how slowly thehuman race grows since these people existed since long time ago.
Anthropologistsand Native Americans related in an unusual manner because eachdefines its social setting about the other. One community is a colonywhile the other is a colonial elite or expert. Being the first torecord gender differences and variance, the anthropologists termedthe transgender men and women as berdache, meaning a male prostituteor the kept boy. The same term applied to French travelers and NativeAmerican sex discrepancy practices in the 18th century, denoting allthe practitioners, homosexuals, and gender role crossing. Accordingto Faiman-Silva (2011), the term also described the men who dressedand acted like women and the women who dressed and acted like men.Today, anthropology defines this gender variance as two spirits. TheNative Americans found the term berdache disturbing, an issue thatworsened their relationship with the anthropologists. For thisreason, the Native Americans perceived of the anthropologists ashostile, yet it was the anthropologist who assembled the culturalheritage of Native Americans that built today’s tribes.
InNative North America, for instance, anthropologists spent many yearsbringing together the cultural practices of the Natives, producingrecords of their beliefs, traditions, social change and rituals. Theanthropologists recorded large amounts of data concerning sexuality,such as gay Americans, homosexuality, and gender variance. Thesociety held two spirits with respect and honor, thanks to We’wha,a weaver, and potter among the Zuni religion. He represented histribe, showing that this society accepted differences in sexualityand gender. We’wha combined the skills of a man and a woman, andthe community considered it more of a talent than a social misfit orliability. We’wha took advantage of his gender talent and went todifferent places, trying to overcome the obstacles of culture andlanguage. His moves painted the berdache as an extraordinary people.Gay men and lesbians felt empowered by the story as they tried toreconnect with their heritage of two spirits. Faiman-Silva (2011)adds that it gave a further understanding of culture, anddiscrimination against the gay men and lesbians in India reduced.We’wha was an American Indian.
Katz(1992) brings together documents that record the testimonies ofAmerican Indians from various people including the military persons,trappers, explorers, settlers, and traders. Some of the testimoniesare over 400 years old. It serves to show that Tran’s men and Transwomen existed many years ago. When the society today does not showregard to acknowledging their uniqueness, then it shows how slowlythe human race grows in such a front. Other people who gave thesetestimonies included early anthropologists, homosexualemancipationists, and medical doctors. The analysis work provides acomprehensive perspective of the historical overview. These nativepeople questioned cross-dressing, and homosexuality was commonpractice. A male berdache was available for men and women, referringto such as heterosexual or bisexual. Other people thought of aberdache as a homosexual, simply because he was available for peopleof both genders. Katz (1992) does not hide the fact thatcross-dressing could imply a reverse in the sex roles or physicalirregularity. Another section of people thought of them ashermaphrodites with or without physical malfunctions. An interestingobservation is that the physical features, activities, andoccupations of the male homosexuals in the Native community do notcorrespond to the stereotypes and discrimination that the Anglo-Saxonsociety gave. The Natives described the berdache as an active,fearless, fighter, and husky. How homosexuality and cross-dressingand cross-working related is questionable according to Katz (1992).Homosexuals existed among normal males. The males had individualrelationships and a feeling of brotherhood and that the intimaterelationships served to emphasize their deep emotional aspect.Homosexuals had roles to play in the religious functions, causing avariance in the perception towards them.
TheHijras were a religious association among the Indians, and Nanda(1990) describes them as unique people, who sacrificed to the gods oraccepted sex reassignment surgery. Understanding the sexuality amongthese individuals was a hard task because of the cultural definitionof their roles, and personal experiences that they underwent. TheHijras had different experiences in gender identities andorientation, and social roles. The underlying point is that theancient Indians appreciated their existence. It emphasizes the slowgrowth of the society in their gender variance, having existed forall these years. One issue was that despite the cultural andreligious role given to the Hijras, most of them either did notperform the rituals nor had other ways of earning their living.Another issue arises in the cultural definition of these people,neither as men nor as women, even though most of their identitieswere female. They Hijras said that they were like women, they feltand acted like women, yet some were male. A third issue arises intheir definition as holding sexual importance. They were notnecessarily hermaphrodites as the society thought. They behaved andacted as women because they used to sacrifice their male genitaliafor the sake of the fertility of brides. Indians however, believedthat these people were naturally hermaphrodite, a point that lackedevidence. Nanda (1990) equally explains that transgender existed agesago and that the society is still blind and unappreciative towardsthem.
Ortner& Whitehead (1981) believes that sexual exoticisms may not beexotic, rather a familiar from the sexual behavior collection. Theimplication is that the beliefs and practices of the people in thestrange lands affected their cultural beliefs on sexual behavior. Themodern West seems to condone only a few of the sexual practices,neglecting others. For instance, the Modern West does not appreciatethe transgender people, as did the Native Americans. It holds on tothe notion that cultural, sexual practices are as a result of weakcivilization. However, since it appreciates and acknowledges thehomosexual, the issue of cultural practices becomes controversial.Approximately the whole of North America, the culture recognizedgender-crosses. Men could walk in women dresses and perform theduties of the women without fear. In summary, the Native Westernculture had transgender as part of their social construct. Failing toappreciate them in the modern West is a show that the human race isyet to grow.
Faiman-Silva,S. (2011). Anthropologists and Two Spirit People: Building Bridgesand Sharing Knowledge.
Katz,J. (1992). GayAmerican history: Lesbians and gay men in the USA: A documentaryhistory.Plume.
Nanda,S. (1990). Neither man nor woman. WadsworthModern Anthropology Library. BelmontCalifornia: Wadsworth Publishing Company.
Ortner,S. B., & Whitehead, H. (1981). Sexualmeanings: The cultural construction of gender and sexuality.CUP Archive.