Sexual (Dis)Orientation: Gender, Sex, Desire and Self-fashioning

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Editorial 1 Editorial. Memory and desire: Feminists re-membering feminism. Keeping the records safe: Reflections on preserving sources for feminist history. Anarchism, feminism and subjectivity in imperial Japan: The gendered circumstances and identities of three infamous women. Carving a feminine space in a masculine environment: The diary of an Australian military nurse.

Medical choice: The Australian movement to legalize abortion, The U. Yet the U. Are you surprised by these data or by some of the countries that rank higher than the United States? What do you think are some of the reasons the US lags behind so many other countries? Center for American Women and Politics. Pew Research Institute U. United Nations, UN Women. Contemporary anthropology now recognizes the crucial role played by gender in human society. Anthropologists in the post era have focused on exploring fluidity within and beyond sexuality, incorporating a gendered lens in all anthropological research, and applying feminist science frameworks, discourse-narrative analyses, political theory, critical studies of race, and queer theory to better understand and theorize gendered dynamics and power.

We next discuss some of those trends. In the long history of human sexual relationships, we see that most involve people from different biological sexes, but some societies recognize and even celebrate partnerships between members of the same biological sex. Heteronormativity is a term coined by French philosopher Michel Foucault to refer to the often-unnoticed system of rights and privileges that accompany normative sexual choices and family formation. If she married him, she would be continuing to follow societal expectations related to gender and sexuality and would be agreeing to state involvement in her love life as she formalizes her relationship.

Despite pervasive messages reinforcing heteronormative social relations, people find other ways to satisfy their sexual desires and organize their families. Increasingly, people are choosing partners who attract them—perhaps female, perhaps male, and perhaps someone with ambiguous physical sexual characteristics. Labels have changed rapidly in the United States during the twenty-first century as a wider range of sexual orientations has been openly acknowledged, accompanied by a shift in our binary view of sexuality.

Rather than thinking of individuals as either heterosexual OR homosexual, scholars and activists now recognize a spectrum of sexual orientations. Given the U.


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Transgender , meanwhile, is a category for people who transition from one sex to another, male to female or female to male, using a number of methods. This label, too, has undergone a profound shift in usage, and the high-profile transition by Caitlyn Jenner in the mids has further shifted how people think about those who identify as transgender.

By , an estimated 8.

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Like the U. Some people highlight their other identities, as Minnesotans, for example, or their ethnicity, religion, profession, or hobby—whatever they consider central and important in their lives. Some scholars argue that heteronormativity allows people who self-identify as heterosexual the luxury of not being defined by their sexual orientation. They suggest that those who identify with the sex and gender they were assigned at birth be referred to as cisgender.

Though people are urging adoption of sexual identity labels, not everyone is embracing the move to self-identify in a specific category. Thus, a man who is attracted to both men and women might self-identify as bisexual and join activist communities while another might prefer not to be incorporated into any sexual-preference-based politics.

Some people prefer to eliminate acronyms altogether, instead embracing terms such as genderfluid and genderqueer that recognize a spectrum instead of a static identity. This freedom to self-identify or avoid categories altogether is important. Most of all, these shifts and debates demonstrate that, like the terms themselves, LGBTQ communities in the United States are diverse and dynamic with often-changing priorities and makeup. In the last two decades, attitudes toward LGBTQ—particularly lesbian, gay and bisexual—people have changed dramatically.

The most sweeping change is the extension of marriage rights to lesbian, gay, and bisexual people. The first state to extend marriage rights was Massachusetts in By , more than half of U. Americans said they believed same-sex couples should have the right to marry, and on June 26, , in Obergefell v.

Sexual (dis)orientation: gender, sex, desire and self-fashioning

Hodges , the U. While many factors have influenced the shift in attitudes, sociologists and anthropologists have identified increased awareness of and exposure to LGBTQ people through the media and personal interactions as playing key roles.

Legalization of same-sex marriage also helped normalize same-sex parenting. Sarah, whose three young children—including a set of twins—are mothered by Sarah and her partner, was active in campaigns for marriage equality in Minnesota and ecstatic when the campaign succeeded in see Text Box 4. However, legalization of same-sex marriage has not been welcomed everywhere in the United States.

Later, she shifted her focus to the rhetoric of gender, masculinity, and cisgender sexuality used by the church and its pastor. Interestingly, activists and gender studies scholars express concern over incorporating marriage—a heteronormative institution some consider oppressive—into queer spaces not previously governed by state authority.

These concerns may be overshadowed by a desire for normative lives and legal protections, but as sociologist Tamara Metz and others have argued, legally intertwining passion, romance, sexual intimacy, and economic rights and responsibilities is not necessarily a move in the right direction. While U. Sexual orientation and gender identity are not federally protected statuses. Thus, in 32 states as of , employers can legally refuse to hire and can fire someone simply for being LGBTQ.

LGBTQ people can be legally denied housing and other important resources heterosexual people take for granted. LGBTQ youth made up 40 percent of homeless young people in the United States in and are often thrust into homelessness by family rejection. See Activity 4: Bathroom Transgression. In , the Minnesota state legislature voted on whether to approve same-sex marriage. In the process, she wrote the following letter. This is an open letter to you in support of the marriage equality bill. I may not be your constituent, and you may already know how you are planning to vote, but I ask you to read this letter with an open mind and heart nonetheless.

I want same-sex marriage for the same reasons as many others. My partner Abby and I met in the first days of and have created a loving home together with our three kids and two cats. Abby and I both wear wedding bands. We designed them prior to our ceremony and spent more time on that decision than we did on the flowers, dresses, and music combined. Our son is now three and a half and, like other kids his age, he asks about everything. All the time. When I get him dressed, change his diaper please let him be potty-trained soon , or wipe his nose, he sees my ring.

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And he always asks:. It shows that we love each other. And then I get a wedding band? And then he goes about his day. This conversation may seem silly and harmless to you, but read it again. Look at how many times the issue of marriage comes up. He looks at our pictures and sees that his parents made a commitment to each other because of love.

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I am grateful that he is blissfully unaware right now. Imagine having the conversation with your children. Imagine the pain you would feel if innocent conversations with your child reminded you constantly that your love is not valued by your community.


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