The issue of gay marriage is a topic that has been met with much passion and contention on both sides of the issue worldwide. Proponents of gay marriage support to right for homosexual men and lesbian women to marry each other and consider it just as acceptable as two heterosexual people getting married. Opponents, on the other hand, are against gay marriage because of certain religious reasons and reject the “redefinition” or the violation of marriage as a sacred institution. As the United States has a culture that continues to evolve and a government that begins to shift with those of voting age, particularly Millennials as the most liberal age group heading to the polls (Kiley & Dimock, 2014), many of the time-honored institutions are changing in meaning and thus have implications for changing the world in which American citizens live.
Author Stephanie Coontz, in “Gay Marriage Isn’t Revolutionary,” she argues that gay marriage is not so much the redefining of marriage as it is the next step in marriage’s evolution. Past generations considered marriage as an institution of financial security and insurance of property rather than love, Coontz explains. Parents arranged marriages to expand the family’s labor force and eventually became to be a symbol of inevitability in people’s lives, especially for women. Over the years, people began to insist on having the right to choose with whom a man or woman would spend the rest of their lives. Marriage as a business transaction rather than a loving and lifelong commitment began to crumble; Coontz says that divorce rates rose in the 1850s and over the next 100 years as women defied patriarchal gender roles with a newfound sense of righteous autonomy, gained the right to vote and certain labor lows that allowed them into the workforce. These strides in marriage, however, did not extend to those who were considered “abnormal;” gays and lesbians.
With the cultural shift of marriage, it not only “freed” women of societal restrictions and essentially dowry, the meaning of gender roles changed. Men were still the figures of power and the head of household, but it was no longer for the reason of the male being a breadwinner. The distinct differences between the genders came down to assumed roles: the man as the protector and provider of the woman, whose “innate sexual purity” (Coontz, 2011) and gentleness renderd them submissive. It was hard to imagine a world in which relationships did not carry an implied but apparent determinant of who was the woman and the man, even in same-sex relationships. These shifts make it difficult today to imagine that gendering is a function of society and that the gender binary is weakening.
Judith Lorber in “Night to His Day” described that for most while gender means sameness, these roles are changing and not meant to be as rigid as biological sex is—or used to be. Lorber maintains that the need to gender is a function of organization, a psychological function which aids individuals in helping make categorize and make sense of the masses of people that make up this world: men, women, children, authors, bankers, mothers, fathers, etc. This, however, gives way to heteronormativity in society because as Lorber says, gender means difference on a broad scale. For a long time, only men and women were recognized societally; legally, it is more concrete.
The shift in gender roles and the extension of the gender spectrum is one that is muddled and consistent of many terms that are not commonly understood such as agender, transgender, cisgender, bi-gender, etc. In the TED Talk “Ending Gender” by Scott Schofield, who identifies as a transsexual (an otherwise derogatory slur), explains the distinction between biological sex and the cultural personhood of gender. To him, a transgender FtM , gender is the fulfilling of an expected role and essentially a “performance.”
The implications of sexual orientation discrimination come as a plethora of questions, both from the individuals themselves and those around them. Schofield seamlessly poses the questions as he considers everything down to having “fully transitioned” with surgery to changing legal documents and even deciding which bathroom to use. While these questions are important and understandably considered, they are (relatively) harmless. Those not ascribing to the gender binary face unprecedented discrimination, even from those closest to them. People are disowned from their families, deserted by friends and alienated and victimized by society in general. It is pervasive in many aspects of society; even sports, for example.
As described in Canadian magazine Rabble, Caster Semenya ran and won the 800-meter race in the 2016 Rio Olympics. Semenya is affected by hyperandrogenism, a condition that causes her body to produce more testosterone than the average women. In a world were men and women are clearly defined physically as well as socially, Semenya’s condition has made her susceptible to insistences of testing by the Olympic Committee on the grounds of an unfair physical advantage or to be barred from competing entirely. For those not in the public eye as Semenya is, this outcry can have more tragic consequences that come in the form of beatings, homicide and suicide. The deaths of gay teens such as Mathew Shepard, Tyler Clementi, Jamey Rodemeyer and Gwen Araujo came as the result of intolerance, bullying and hatred. These tragic instances could have been and continue to have preventative capability through education and tolerance.
- Coontz, Stephanie. “Gay Marriage Isn’t Revolutionary: It’s Just the Next Step in Marriage’s Evolution.” Washington Post. Washington Post, 7 Jan. 2011. Web. 23 Oct. 2016.
- Douglas, Katie. “From Rio to Tokyo, Gender Discrimination in Sport Continues.” Rabble 25 Aug. 2016: n. pag. Print.
- Kim, Richard. “Against “Bullying” or On Loving Queer Kids.” Nation 6 Oct. 2010: n. pag. Print.
- Lorber, Judith. “Night to His Day: The Social Construction of Gender.” Paradoxes of Gender. N.p.: n.p., n.d. 33-36. Print.
- TED Talk: Ending Gender by Scott Turner Schofield. Perf. Scott Turner Schofield. YouTube. TED, n.d. Web. 23 Oct. 2016.
- “The GOP’s Millennial problem runs deep.” Pew Research Center. Pew Research Center. 13 Sept. 2014. Web. 22 Oct. 2016.