Social Construct

  By dictionary definition a social construct is a “ social mechanism, phenomenon, or category created and developed by society; a perception of an individual, group, or idea that is ‘constructed’ through cultural or social practice”. In regards to trans studies, the notion of the social construct is extremely important in multiple ways. The most evident social construct in relation to trans studies is the construction of the “gender binary”, that there are two possible options in gender; either male, or female. In An Introduction To Transgender by Susan Stryker she discusses the Western perception and issue with gender, “ No one is born a woman or a man… “one becomes one” through a complex process of socialization. Gender is a social organization of different kinds of bodies into different categories of people”. She then goes on to say, “ The important things to ear in mind are that gender is historical (it changes through time), that it varies from place to place and culture to culture, and that it is contingent”. Understanding the existence of a Western social construction and understanding of gender is extremely important to trans studies in that by recognizing it, the existence of trans can be understood in a different way and not as a “sexual deviancy” as it has often been constructed to represent. By recognizing that the gender binary system is a construction it can be deconstructed and the many other forms of gender can be recognized as well as explored. In the Western perspective of gender, the social category assigned to an individual is determined by the sex of the body. (Stryker 11). Deconstructing this relationship is, according to Stryker, “ the central issue of transgender politics”.  She goes on to say, “ Breaking apart the forced unity of sex and gender, while increasing the scope of livable lives, is an important goal of transgender feminism and social justice activism”. 

While the gender binary is a prominent social construction connected to Trans studies, it is, obviously, not the only one. Another very important social constructions to recognize is the understanding of the one that exists within the Western LGBTQ community. Thus far in the class it has become increasingly evident that it is important for one to recognize the Western lens they apply to their understanding of gender. This is evident in many of the readings we have been presented with in class. Transgender is an umbrella term that “varies as much as gender itself…and depends on historical and cultural context.” And varies even in the Western understanding and definition.(Stryker 1, 19).  In the reading Bakla and Gay by Martin F. Manalansan, this is the focus of the paper. Manalansan presents the idea that “ the border between bakla and gay…(are) permeable boundaries of two coexisting and yet oftentimes incommensurable cultural ideologies of gender and sexuality.” He goes on to compare the defining moments situations that lead to identities of gay verses bakla. Including the importance of the moment of coming out as it compares to the process of unfurling the cape. In the process of coming out in the American society the “ sense of self is predicated on the issues of individuation, sepreation, leaving home.” And is very much “ about verbal narratives and confrontations with friends, families, and significant others” (Manalansan 22, 23). This is compared to the Bakla process of unfurling the cape, which is much the opposite in that there is no confrontation or open conversation, but instead family members “just know” and leave it at that (Manalansan 24).  This creates a different opinion on public visibility and pride between American gays and Filipino bakla immigrants. In the paper Filipino Ron speaks about attending pride saying, “Oh please, why would I do that? Besides, why do people do it? what do they (gay men) have to prove?” (Manalansan 31). This paper really enforces the knowledge that different cultural experiences create differing attitudes in terms of gender identification. The importance of recognizing this is present in the end the text Transing and Transpassing Across Sex-Gender Walls in Iran by Afsaneh Najmabadi where she says it quite eloquently, “Perhaps one of the problems with the current heated debates between proponents of “global gay” and opponents of “gay international” resides in the presumption…that “I am gay,” or “I am transexual” means the same thing anywhere it is pronounced. ” By recognizing and being aware that global definitions and understanding of gender, even out of the gender binary are constructed, individuals in Trans studies can do their part to not assign identities to individuals where they do not belong. 


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