And the nerd couple turned their “Epic Conversation” mode on.

I’m an attention whore and I post a lot of shitty stuff on Facebook, especially as statuses, and a lot of people have learned to ignore me. Congratulations on your adaptation skills, people! You are fit to survive on the course of Facebook evolution. Anywho, I posted this status after one of my oldest and closest friends mentioned in a private message that I should be a “man” and how much it hurts him that I am “turning into a gay.” Too late, baby! I was born this way, ayeyayayayayayayaya! Sorry, I lose control from time to time.

A Burmese friend pointed out that being a man and being gay are not technically opposites, but being straight and being gay are. Then my 2 nerdy* friends Emma Narotzky and Parker Emrich, who almost run the Chess and Games club at my college and who I just found out to be dating (Yay for them! I’m still single, puh.), jumped in and discussed gender identity, sexual identity, gender stereotypes, media and marketing. It was actually Emma and I having a light-hearted commenting session, then le wild Parker appeared. The conversation was, simply put, epic!

So with their permission, here’s the whole shebang ~

STATUS UPDATE > People tell me I should be a “man”, not a “gay. What they don’t know: all “gay” people (technically) are men.

  • Zaw Myo Htet :: yeh… they are wrong.. they should say “straight” instead 😛 just kidding….
  • Han Zaw (me) :: Yup, that’s a more relevant thing to ask for from their stance. People don’t know the actual opposites are gay & straight.
  • Emma Narotzky :: Yeah. Gender identity has nothing to do with orientation, people! For some reason gays have a reputation for being ‘feminine’ and lesbians have a reputation for being ‘masculine’, but I can think of a billion examples (both gay and straight) to prove that that is just a stereotype.Well, maybe straight people feel that they have to conform to the gender binary more, whereas gay people are already seen as “nonconforming” (even though they’re not) so they feel more like they have nothing to lose in expressing their real gender identity, no matter where it falls on the ‘masculine-feminine’ spectrum… but if everyone expressed their ‘true’ gender-ness equally, I don’t think that gap or stereotype would exist.

  • Me :: If only straight people (especially straight men) were fabulous … Oh, wait! I can’t share “our” copyrighted fabulosity with anyone.

  • EN :: XD Straight people can only wish they were fabulous? 🙂

  • Parker Emrich :: I don’t know I can be pretty fabulous when I feel like it…

  • PE :: And Emma I would have to argue with a few of your points there. 1) Gay people are nonconforming (not that thats a bad thing, just that they technically are) and 2) I know a few gay people who deliberately act out in opposition to their sex as a pseudo method of illustrating their difference. Obviously that is not all of the homosexual individuals I know but it is some, and they tend to be rather outspoken which probably serves as the cause for the stereotype that some others then rant against. Which I personally find amusing. 3) I think that the gender cap would probably still exist even in people acted their true “genderness” because statistically speaking being in the edges of that spectrum is more common than residing in the middle.

  • EN :: It ‘s weird though… it seems like it should be a bell curve. I guess I was assuming that if there were no pressure to conform to one stereotype of the other, it would be more if a bell curve with most people converging toward the “androgynous” part of the spectrum. A gender stereotype is a set of individual traits, most of which are fundamentally unrelated to each other (for instance “liking football” and “eating bacon” or “wearing high heels” and “watching romantic comedies“. They’re unrelated and not mutually exclusive. A person could do any or all of the above and not be contradictory in any way). So what are the odds that someone who has one trait (like the trait of “having a vagina” is going to also have a certain group of other, arbitrarily selected traits not logically related to each other? Some things are linked– for example, liking similar TV shows or similar genres of something– but the broad stereotypes don’t really have a common thread except that they have come to be associated with a certain gender. There’s so much cultural conditioning involved here that I don’t think any observations from real life can be used here– there is no control group. Everyone is immersed in these stereotypes, or at least the knowledge of them, for basically their entire lives. It doesn’t matter if your parents told you “it’s okay for girls to like blue and boys to like pink!” because that statement inherently tells you “the stereotype is that girls like pink and boys like blue“. We’re not all conditioned to conform, but we are all conditioned to be aware of what “conforming” would mean. The statistics that say being on the edges is more common are by nature flawed. (now there are biologically influenced personality differences, but people tend to exaggerate these as well. Even the stereotypes that are based in reality have been blown out of proportion, so that the current stereotype is too exaggerated to be an accurate portrayal of any biologically-caused differences.)

  • EN :: About your point #2, that is often the case. I think it’s because gayness is not something you can see– I have no doubt that that guy with brown skin and black hair over there is black, but I can’t tell whether or not he’s gay. So to remove any awkward ambiguity, people often want to advertise what they are, and rejecting the way your gender is commonly portrayed has come to be a symbol that tells you “oh, that person might be gay“.

    I’ve also seen straight people do this, especially at my high school. The end result was that they acted as stupid as possible in order to portray themselves as being as straight as possible… I guess people want to have a way to signal their sexual orientation to others, but still. When they overdo it they end up making fools of themselves! And then the more androgynous-type straight people will be called gay, and the more gender-conforming-type gay people will be called straight, and… yeah. Using gender expression as a way to signal sexual orientation is a bad idea because they’re two totally different spectrums. There’s got to be another way of signalling… or a way to remove the need for signalling…
  • PE :: I disagree, you place far too much stake in cultural conditioning as do most who use that argument. In my opinion, the biological conditioning that has occurred over millennia is far more powerful than the cultural and while obviously the biological conditioning did not influence girls to like barbie specifically, it certainly did select for girls who enjoyed and wanted to care for children and who would likely bond with women and female symbols because we are heavily indoctrinated biologically to like things similar to ourselves but it is biologically unhelpful to be attempt procreation in same sex unions ( I should formally declare at this point that I have absolutely no issue with gay couples, male or female, marrying, adopting a child, getting artificially inseminated, having a child, raising a child or anything else that I didn’t think of mentioning, it’s just that biologically male to male and female to female sexual interaction can not produce children). And most of the indicators of maleness or femaleness that you indicated are purely stereotypical but what you are talking about is a complete removal of the spectrum. If it’s inappropriate to allocate those traits to one side or the other then there is no spectrum because the two ends are undefined. I personally find no problem with their being stereotypes of male/ female behavior/interests/activities/traits, the place that causes problems is people taking issue with people not fitting neatly into the category we assume for them. The problem is based on people’s assumptions not being met, which is incredibly whiny but there it is.

  • PE :: That was in response to your first one by the way, I hadn’t seen that you posted the second yet.

  • EN :: Hmmm. On the subject of children, that could be a reason why we don’t tend to see a bell curve. Sexual dimorphism is useful in the sense that anyone wanting to have children needs an easy way of identifying which other individuals are capable of mating with them. But that’s why we have stuff like “Hey, that person is short, has breasts, a high voice, and no facial hair. Probably female!” same way many birds have “Hey, that guy is brightly colored and has a certain call. Probably male!” We don’t need all the extra stuff. Many of the stereotypes we have today seemed to come from logic like “males are cool and females are lame, so let’s market cool stuff to males and lame stuff to females! wheee

  • PE :: As for your second response, it is entirely too common that people interpose displayed gender identity as a measure of sexual identity or as having a connection to sexual identity. Personally I find significant issue with the proliferation of terms related to sexual identity because it is the nature of the youth to seek identity, and in many cases they seek identity through rebellion and the creation of a so-called counter culture and in our generation, it appears that a significant portion of that counter-culture is centered on sexual identity and orientation, hence the creation and proliferation of such terms as omnisexual, pansexual, asexual and a host of other terms that mean nearly nothing. It’s not a type of sexuality that defines that you date people more for personality than for looks, its a matter of personal preference. It’s not a category that you slot yourself into, it’s just who you bloody are. Or aren’t! For that matter, not being that way is also not a sexuality.

  • PE :: Except that a lot of that marketing is the fault of the men and the women of the world. Maybe it doesn’t hit everyone properly but it only exists because it was shown to statistically work and increase sales. It isn’t about marketing awesome stuff to men and lane stuff to girls. It’s about marketing what men statistically want to see towards men and vice versa.

  • EN :: Well, I think it’s especially the nature of minorities to seek identity. I don’t really care about identifying myself a certain way, because I’m attracted to who I’m attracted to and that’s not going to change based on a label. If someone has an uncommon sexuality, though, they will be more driven to pinpoint it and label it with a term (even if it seems obscure or practically meaningless) because it’s more legit to say something like “I’m omnisexual” than “well, I’m not gay and I’m not straight and I’m attracted to bla bla bla which makes the bi label too limiting and bla bla bla“. When you don’t have a label, people can feel like you’re just making stuff up or you’re just weird and nobody else is like you, etc. I don’t really care about such labels, but there are more reasons than just a youthful need for an identity that people would seek them out.

    I think the marketing thing is a circular argument. A large part of the reason men want to see certain things is because they were raised on the concept of those things being “things men want to see“. Theoretically marketing and media reflect the audience, but in reality it reflects more on the marketers. There are two ways of doing it: sell something because people want it, or make people want something first, then sell it to them. There are many instances where without the advertising of something, nobody would buy it. I know they did a study with some type of soda showing that the advertising was the only thing creating demand for the product. This is getting kind of off-topic, but it’s the same idea– think about how many stereotypes you take for granted that you never would have learned from real life; you only know them from TV or advertising. Many of the tropes we laugh at and think “lol, so true” are things we have only seen in the media (or in real life by people reflecting what they’ve seen in the media).
  • PE :: Its definitely not just minorities seeking identity, everyone does it, absolutely everyone. Actually every reason you mentioned above is easily covered by youthful seeking of identity. And everyone does it, even you and I, although not everyone looks for identity in sexual terms but I think it is a rising trend in our generation. Some do it less but everyone does it. Media and marketing are made by us, not the reverse. Originally they were created on offering what people wanted. It has become more circular with the invention of creating artificial demand through marketing but that is a relatively recent creation. Marketing and media do represent the audience because if the audience didn’t respond to artificial demand and market segmenting and subgroup targeting then it wouldn’t happen. Humanity has an ingrown urge to seek inclusive grouping and it’s not marketing’s fault that that urge exists. We want to seek identity on multiple levels and we can’t blame media for giving us what the majority of us are asking for (remember us in a small liberal arts college are definitely not the majority opinion).

  • EN :: I didn’t mean it was only minorities, but it can be important to minorities for the reason that having a “title” of some sort makes them feel more legit despite being part of a very small group.The media gives us what we want, but it also determines what we want. It’s self-perpetuating. What it ends up doing is taking what people wanted at first, and then conditioning them to want more of the same. Yes, the media is made by us for us– but every generation is made, in part, by the media it is exposed to. It ends up resisting change because it breeds more people who ‘want’ the same sort of things and ideas that their predecessors wanted, just revamped for the latest context.

  • PE ::

    And that media effect is unavoidable. It’s the nature of culture, it’s self-perpetuating but the same can be said of every culture and it’s traits, we just throw distaste at the “bad” aspects and glorify the “good” aspects. And to me, similar to the idea that I don’t punish people for acting in ways that simply represent the “bad” aspects of humanity, I don’t blame the media and the effect of culture for stereotypes and such. I think that do so is an action trying to pass the blame onto a larger thing rather than allowing ourselves to realize that we are the cause. It’s the same reason I don’t blame the fight dog that was raised to fight for trying to fight. It’s simply not the dog’s fault (the media’s fault) for responding and learning from the stimulus that it’s trainers (the populace) provide to it.
  • EN :: So the two basic sides of this are a) people shape the media and b) the media shapes people. I think it’s easy to argue that both are true. So the question is which one is more true in the case of gender stereotyping.(this is the part where I keep thinking of various untestable hypotheses, and decide to just post this response as is and continue later.)

  • PE :: Hahahahaha

  • Me :: It’s weird how the conversation on sexual/gender identity boiled down to an argument about the media. Media (language included) is the product and promulgator of society – that I can firmly say – but I’m not going to argue which one of the 2 it does more. I’ll drop the off-topic thing here.Ok, Parker‘s original topics:
    #1 – nonconformity of the gay (LGBT) community
    #2 – flaunting the difference
    #3 – the common polarity in gender expression
    Oui?

    [By the way, I’m surprised Parker typed up all the comments on a cell phone, lol.]

    #1 – Could you please elaborate how we are nonconforming?

    #2
     & #3 – Flaunting is a good thing, I’d say. I do it and y’all know that, and I always say, “Out, proud & loud!” It’s important for the sake of visibility, I believe. Unless we choose to express ourselves or act “differently” than the majority do (and we’re capable of that), sexual orientation is all about who you date (and/or who you have sex with) and you can only find things out on a personal level. As of utopian ideals, it shouldn’t matter and we shouldn’t have to flaunt. But as to deliver the “We’re queer, we’re here. Get over it!” message, people need to see that there are a lot of us and that we’re perfectly fine people. But how we express our sexual identity shouldn’t interfere with our gender identity. I still don’t know very well myself how to clearly separate them though. Emma just pointed out how straight people flaunt their straightness also (through gender stereotypes), and I realized how their flaunting also helps with ours – as long as we don’t conform to their conventional stereotypes. It’s the confusion of the identity spectrums that hurt.

    On the topic of identity seeking: There are various identity spectrums and there are many facets to a person’s identity/personality – racial, gender, sexual, political, religious, philosophical, occupational/professional, what else? It’s the combination of those little parts that make up our identity. And I would agree that everybody searches for an identity, and it only gets hard and confusing when you become a minority in one or more of those facets and you need confirmation/reassurance about your identity in that area. But it’s sad when others can’t see us the way we identify ourselves. When somebody tells me, “I’m German/Irish/(even) Jewish,” what I take in is: this guy’s white. And Parker, you just mentioned the “creation” of the sub-orientations, like – I wouldn’t call them “sub” though. They are more specific identities that are substantial enough to be categorized. So I would argue that they are not made-up phenomenons for the sake of unique identification but either sub-groups or more specific terms for description.

    Going off of that, and back to the subject of the spectrums: the LGBT community is too diverse and too big by itself. The L, the G, the B and the T and the others won’t (probably) add up to much as specific groups but when they come together it gets ginormous. But just look at the four alphabets there, the T has more to do with gender identity than sexual orientation. I think that’s why trans-rights are always left behind in the LGBT movements. Even that 4-letter title of ours confuses sexual and gender identity spectrums, so it’s kind of no surprise that people outside the community are unclear on the topic also.

  • Me :: And thanks you 2 (Emma & Parker) for the discussion. It made my day. ^_^
Yes, Parker did post the comments via Mobile. It was kind of opportune that Emma and Parker showed up here – because I’ve been needing something new to put up on the blog and these two are perfectly intellectual. Actually, I have never been as intellectual as I’d like. But, anyways, big thanks to Emma and Parker for making this happen. I’m sure you guys had a very good night’s sleep after the hearty conversation.
NOTE: *I use the “nerdy” label as something positive and a good thing to be, just clarifying.
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