#ProudToBe, a Social Construct
YouTube’s Pride compilation video generated so much hateful commentary I’m not sure which made me cry more: the video or the stupid shit people said. This video has more dislikes than likes and over eight million views as of writing this blog, which is surprising as my generation seems to be more open about the LGBTQ community than ever. So is it that many people are not “liking” this video and more opposers are “speaking out”? Or is it that the Internet is getting tired of LGBTQ propoganda? Both or neither?
Before I get into any discussion, I want to emphasize this blog as an inquiry into queerness. I was hesitant to even write about this topic for fear of not being so politically correct and offending those I support. However, I don’t want to not express myself or work through such ideas because I’m afraid of what the Internet has to say. The Internet is offended by anything and everything.
Furthermore, as an individual who questions herself at every turn, I want to focus on queerness and gender in terms of identity rather than sexual orientation for this blog. Here, I want to talk about how we label ourselves using social constructs; I don’t want to focus so much on sexual/romantic interest, though when talking about queerness, this cannot be so far removed.
The OED defines genderqueer as referring to one who does not identify as either completely male or completely female. The more I think about this and the social movements of the LGBTQ+ community, the more I am apt to say we all need to stop and think for a second.
Gender is a social construct, which differs from one’s sex, which is determined by one’s reproductive anatomy at birth. It’s safe to say that gender has been socially formed. The labels masculine and feminine are words we tag to characteristics we have determined to identify male from female. Clothes, colors, words, occupations, activities, and most everything have been gendered in some way; and these labels become fluid across cultures.
When I was a child, I loved to play basketball and run around my backyard in my brother’s hand-me-down sweatpants. It wasn’t long before I was labeled a tomboy. I was a girl on the outside (my mom tied my hair in pigtails with scrunchies of various colors and snapped cutsey clips onto my head), but because of my interests, I was said to be of a label with the word boy in it. I remember blindly accepting this as part of who I am even though some kids thought I was weird. In fact, I was often called a boy. But now, we, as a society, is questioning what makes basketball a boyish quality.
Today, I’m considered a lot more feminine. When I developed an interest in makeup, my friends and family were as confused as ever. They still rag on me about when I would cry every time I tried to apply eyeliner in the eleventh grade. Now, I have more makeup than the average human should have and I would love a day to play with the different colors and textures that can create an infinite number of combinations that is part science and part art. This is a way of expressing who I am. And this way is feminine.
But what makes it so? We do. We make basketball for boys and makeup for girls. Though the gendering of sports is quickly changing, we still focus on masculine sports (i.e., televising mostly professional male teams). I am stuck on how we have created these gendered labels for near everything. From these labels, we have created stereotypes, which are most often derived from some kind of socially contrived truth. Because we have gendered cosmetics, a stereotypical woman wears too much makeup and hangs out at Sephora. And even though that sounds like a really fun outing, it is entirely feminine. The stereotypical male interest carries all the heavy shit while the woman combs through the aisles covering the backs of her hands with lipstick swatches.
How many of us are purely feminine or purely masculine? How many of us are only labeled with characteristics, emotions, actions, etc. of one gender or the other? As humans, our gender, or labels, don’t always match up with the sex with which we were born. This is where genderqueerness comes into play. The idea of genderqueerness dictates that there is a gender spectrum on which we all have a place. This place is free to move throughout our lives as we occupy different labels.
As a child, perhaps I was on the more masculine side of the gender spectrum. But I still enjoyed helping my mom cook and hanging out with my stuffed animals: labeled with femininity (moreso at the time). I see myself on a sliding scale of sorts. Now, I occupy a more feminine place on the gender spectrum, though that spectrum has evolved since I was a child. The idea of gender has changed since then. The terms male and female have changed, thus modifying the labels with which characteristics are tagged. It’s not so manly for a girl to play basketball now.
Considering the fact that gender is not a constant in itself but constantly changing within our society, we are forced to consider a spectrum on which our personal qualities (stagnant or not) also change places. Sportsball is not on the same part of the spectrum as it once was, as are most things. This is human change — American change.
And if our qualities are constantly changing positions gender-wise as well, does that make us all inherently genderqueer? A little masculine and a little feminine. And why does that thought scare some people? Or does everyone being genderqueer take away from the identity struggles and social hardships experienced by the LGBTQ+ community?
In an optimistic attempt at answering these questions, I hope if we can all understand the established definition of being genderqueer, we can embrace gender as a fluid construct and, as a result and by definition, ourselves as movable markers on a gendered spectrum. It is my hope that the acceptance of gender fluidity as part of the human experience (as is the dictation of gender) will yield a deeper, truer understanding of sexual identity as it encompasses more than the cis-gendered. And the hate garnered by YouTube’s Pride video will turn into support for humanity in all its wonderful inconsistency.