Gender Identity In The Argonauts By Maggie Nelson

885 Words 4 Pages
Identity within Western society is influentially determined by the binary categorization of heterosexuality. Beginning at birth, institutions and cultural practices establish a gender identity for individuals to form their behaviors around. This construction negatively manipulates the concept of discourse – the way society acts, talks, feels, and thinks about one another – within non-heterosexual communities. The heterosexual language excludes all other forms of expression through the biological views of a male and female-only culture. In the novel, The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson, the concept of discourse is interpreted as a foundation for individuals to construct and perceive gender identities and stereotypes. Nelson mentions how heterosexual …show more content…
Due to the negative connotation concerning these terms, non-heterosexual communities are rejected through preconceived notions of difference. Stereotypical assumptions construct a distinction between heterosexual and non-heterosexual behavior. “Rather than identify as a lesbian, [Djuna Barnes] preferred to say that she ‘just loved Thelma.’ Gertrude Stein reputedly made similar claims” (Nelson, 12). Nelson mentions how Barnes as well as Stein would rather express their love than categorize it. Society views lesbian love different from heterosexual love; both Barnes and Stein would rather view love in a humanistic aspect as opposed to exclusively heterosexual. Nelson alludes to these individuals as a way of revealing how a concept as simple as “love” can be categorized through discourse. These ways of thinking are generated through the concept of the heterosexual imaginary, where the idea of love is restricted to only heterosexuals. Through Western language, the perception of heterosexual love is embedded within the social structure of society. These assumptions are institutionalized as the natural way of living, while all other aspects such as lesbian, gay, or transgender relationships are understood as a factious approach to life. The issue of providing proper identities to deconstruct the heterosexual imaginary has been discussed by …show more content…
Pershai explains this complication through in her article, “The Language Puzzle,” by recognizing how transgender individuals are lacking terms to identify within society. She describes how “trans communities coin new terms such as hir and s/he to identify and define transgender” (Pershai, 56). These additions to the heterosexual-favored language are a way for transgender individuals to obtain equal opportunity to identify within the heteronormative social structure. Pershai rationalizes these inclusions by clarifying how transgender communities cannot be categorized through the heterosexual language and “goes beyond the limits of socially and culturally constructed spaces and categories” (Pershai, 56). These aspects of discourse confine the expression of gender categories other than “man” and “woman.” However, the addition of more identifiable terms to the language can also be problematic. Female-to-male transsexual porn star Buck Angel has been criticized for his transformation within the porn industry. Because his gender identity represents a transgender man, individuals often assume his “male” appearance defines how he would like to be perceived. Since Angel does not identify as a man, these heteronormative assumptions designate his identity of a transgender man as inferior and dismissive within the social structure.

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