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Gender’s Connection to the Dialectical Relationship Between the Individual and Society, Article Critique Example

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Article Critique

Gender operates within the dialectical relationship between the individual and society. The sociological concept of gender argues that it is fluid and independent of biological traits (Gosling, 2018). To be specific, the controversies that exist between an individual and society determine gender positions. According to the social norms, for example, there are particular activities and attitudes that the society deems more appropriate for a specific sex. For this reason, certain groups like transgender people (individuals whose biological sex lacks alignment with their gender identity) face discrimination and unacceptance by multiple individuals in society (Howard et al., 2019). For example, in the case of Aimee Stephens, she faced oppression based on her gender and sexual identity. It is proof that society does not fully accept the individual agency of people choosing their gender identity. According to the New York Times podcast, Aimee was fired from her job because she disclosed her gender identity. This disclosure came after a long-time struggle with the issue. Accordingly, incorporating evidence from the course textbook and additional articles, this paper discusses the social-psychological multiple problems arising from Aimee’s case based on discrimination, identity, stigma, oppression, morality, and impression management that impact transgender groups.

Discrimination

The transgender groups in society experience unjust treatment by various social groups. According to Westbrook and Schilt (2014) and Kcomt et al. (2020), discrimination on a transgender basis occurs when someone does not live as per the gender assigned to them at birth, and certain people feel this is wrong. Aimee was unfairly fired because she did not identify herself as a man. There are various gender determination criteria that different social spaces use to determine the gender identity of a person (Westbrook & Schilt, 2014). Heterosexual and gender-segregated societies agree on two opposite gender, which is male and female (Robinson, 2020). Their determination of a male or female is entirely based on biology. Therefore, society does not fully accept the concept of transgender, leading to cases of discrimination. For instance, workers may feel endangered working with transgender individuals, perhaps due to their stereotypes. Therefore, most people are more socially constrained by gender, and they do not possess individual agency over their sexual identity.

Stigma

Concerning stigma, transgender groups undergo various forms of stigmatization, which result from adverse experiences like discrimination, violence, and prejudice. For instance, women may not feel safe when a Trans woman visits their washroom because they feel the need to be protected from them (Westbrook & Schilt, 2014). Therefore, there are controversies and panic on whether transgender people should be segregated in their own space due to the fear of unwanted sexual acts in a sex-neutral place. In societies where gender-segregated areas are present, gender difference results in discomfort such as sexual threat and danger (Westbrook & Schilt, 2014). Aimee, therefore, felt stigmatized by the boss’s unacceptance of her gender identity, which pushed her to seek legal litigation. This inclination indicates how transgender individuals are often stigmatized by society, which may lead to depression and diseases associated with it like blood pressure and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which may eventually lead to death if not addressed (Valente et al., 2020). Thus, there is a need to campaign against transgender stigmatization and acceptance of their identity.

Identity

Moving on, transgender individuals struggle with the need to gain approval of their identity. The identity theory states that people will act following their salient identities when given an opportunity (Crawford & Novak, 2018). Transgender people find it hard to verify their identities because they are afraid of society. This situation is referred to as a mismatch between the situational meanings and identity standards (Crawford & Novak, 2018). The different genders thus, struggle with the need to uphold the desired qualities, beliefs, personality traits, and appearance required by society. For instance, society portrays women as weak and men as strong; thus, women expect to be protected while men exert their masculinity. More so, young men are expected to exhibit strong masculinity as stereotyped by society and not any same-sex desire, or they will be referred to as weak (KRCC, 2012). Aimee struggled with her identity since she was five years. However, the societal expectation of masculinity and femininity hindered him from coming out. He adds that he felt imprisoned in a body that did not match his mind, which left him in a state of despair and loneliness (New York Times, 2019). Society expected Aimee to portray the male identity for him to possess the job; therefore, the boss considered anything that deviated from certain beliefs and social norms. Transgender people mainly identify with a different gender from that assigned at birth, with others seeking medical assistance for a transition of genitals (Winter et al., 2016). Therefore, transgender people should exercise their agency, and society should accept them.

Impression Management

Transgender individuals struggle with the need to obtain a better impression. This impression management involves how individuals control how they are perceived by others (Bourdage et al., 2018). Therefore, they continuously struggle to make people perceive and treat them differently. These ways include their attitude, speech, dress, and even mannerism. Therefore, society may choose to approve the behavior or not, which may, in turn, lead to stigmatization. Thus, when individuals perceive others in the way they see themselves, it results in a mutual verification context (Stets, 2021). People may perceive themselves based on their chosen identity. For instance, Aimee managed to gain acceptance from her wife, who perceived her the same way; thus, they managed to stay together even after she came out as a transgender. However, transgender individuals receive a lot of pressure while containing their impressions because they have to convince others of their gender identity consistently. This undertaking may cause them to have low self-esteem, involving a sense of doubt (Psych2Go, 2020). Moreover, transgender individuals might have to apply various impression management skills. One is ingratiation, whereby they have to be friendly and nice to everyone, and the second is the exemplification technique, where people will view them as morally exemplary. Additionally, they apply the intimidation skill where they are seen as threatening and the supplication skills where everyone views them as helpless and weak. Therefore, society should equally accept the impression given by transgender individuals and avoid stigmatizing them.

Oppression

Transgender people usually face high rates of oppression in the workplace and other institutions in general. Oppression may also take the form of verbal and physical abuse in the workplace (Mizock et al., 2018). According to Crawford and Novak (2018), due to social stratification, sexual minority groups like transgender are less likely to have equal access to societal and workplace resources, which is also a form of oppression. Due to such cases of oppression, the workers are less likely to be productive in the workplace, leading them to lose their jobs. Such issues, in turn, pose threats to the worker’s economic security, and it is for such reasons that most individuals in these groups are poverty-stricken and lead to low standards of living. The oppression also results in job instability and high turnover, causing significant unemployment rates among these groups (Yun & Kang, 2018). In Aimee’s case, the employer judged her based on her sexual orientation and gender identity (New York Times, 2019). The employer was driven by societal norms, which are pre-determined factors that forge the required individual behavior. In essence, these are factors that have zero impact on the nature of one’s performance in their job. Hence, policies were adopted to protect these individuals from such oppression. For this reason, the ruling made against the employer was justified.

Morality

The question of whether it is morally upright or wrong to be transgender has caused a dramatic rise in salience. Although most Americans think that being transgender is not a moral issue, a certain percentage believe it is unacceptable (Jones, 2018; Pepin-Neff & Cohen, 2021). Most morality politics based on sexual orientation lay on LGBT and transgender rights. According to most societal and cultural beliefs, it is morally wrong to be transgender. However, in my opinion, there is no moral issue associated with it because, according to Aimee, she felt imprisoned in a body that did not match her mind (New York Times, 2019). The root cause of transgender is that people tend to have gender identities that are un-equivalent to their assigned sex. Studies show that these factors are biological, especially the brain, genetics, and hormones. Thus, it is evident that the root causes of their nature are beyond their control. I believe it is fair that every individual leads a comfortable life. Hence, their human rights should be equally respected. In Aimee’s case, the employer found it morally wrong probably for her to conduct the job, but in essence, there is nothing wrong with it. Fortunately today, society has embraced transgender identities, thus eliminating discrimination and stigma against them (Matsuno & Budge, 2017). For instance, in Norway, children are allowed to change their gender (VICE News, 2017). Besides, some parents like Julie and Nate Sharpe are giving their children the opportunity to determine their gender when they are grown; therefore, they refer to them as they or them (NBC News, 2018). Thus, according to sociologists and scholars like Stets (2021), identity change is acceptable and should be allowed. It was thus, justifiable that the court ruling supported Aimee’s gender transitioning case.

Conclusion

Therefore, on the question of how gender operates within the dialectical relationship between the individual and the society, there have been efforts by the two forces to work together because a positive relationship between them is crucial. This outlook is because neither the society nor the individual can exist without each other. Society’s culture influences an individual’s personality, and in turn, personality helps in the formation of a society’s culture. For instance, government and activists have formulated various policies to protect the rights of the transgender community. Additionally, the government and activist groups have been fighting hard to eradicate the negative issues arising from gender- and sex-based diversity. This undertaking will ensure that equality is upheld to protect women. The social-psychological multiple problems arising from Aimee’s case based on discrimination, identity, stigma, oppression, morality, and impression management show that no one in society should be made to suffer because of the gender they feel they identify most with, either female, male, both, or none. Hence, even though individuals might sometimes be constrained by gender like in Aimee’s case, to a great extent individuals do possess individual agency over gender thanks to laws that recognize sexual minority groups.

References

Bourdage, J. S., Roulin, N., & Tarraf, R. (2018). “I (might be) just that good”: Honest and deceptive impression management in employment interviews. Personnel Psychology, 71(4), 597-632. https://doi.org/10.1111/peps.12285

Crawford, L. A., & Novak, K. B. (2018). Individual and society: Sociological social psychology. Routledge.

Gosling, John G. (2018). Gender fluidity reflected in contemporary society. Jung Journal, 12(3), 75-79. https://doi.org/10.1080/19342039.2018.1479080

Howard, S. D., Lee, K. L., Nathan, A. G., Wenger, H. C., Chin, M. H., & Cook, S. C. (2019). Healthcare experiences of transgender people of color. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 34(10), 2068-2074. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11606-019-05179-0

Jones, T. (2018). Trump, trans students, and transnational progress. Sex Education, 18(4), 479-494. https://doi.org/10.1080/14681811.2017.1409620

Kcomt, L., Gorey, K. M., Barrett, B. J., & McCabe, S. E. (2020). Healthcare avoidance due to anticipated discrimination among transgender people: A call to create trans-affirmative environments. SSM-Population Health, 11, 100608. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ssmph.2020.100608

KRCC. (2012). MicroLECTURE: Bullying, masculinity & the spectre of the fag [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Ha2kSDJ9dY

Matsuno, E., & Budge, S. L. (2017). Non-binary/genderqueer identities: A critical review of the literature. Current Sexual Health Reports, 9(3), 116-120. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11930-017-0111-8

Mizock, L., Riley, J., Yuen, N., Woodrum, T. D., Sotilleo, E. A., & Ormerod, A. J. (2018). Transphobia in the workplace: A qualitative study of employment stigma. Stigma and Health, 3(3), 275. https://psycnet.apa.org/doi/10.1037/sah0000098

NBC News. (2018). Raising ‘Theybies”: Letting kids choose their gender [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AfzL8BrNSLQ

Pepin-Neff, C., & Cohen, A. (2021). President Trump’s transgender moral panic. Policy Studies, 42(5-6), 646-661. https://doi.org/10.1080/01442872.2021.1952971

Psych2Go. (2020). 8 Signs of Low Self Esteem [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qRT0vnWgO9w

Robinson, B. A. (2020). The lavender scare in homonormative times: Policing, hyper-incarceration, and LGBTQ youth homelessness. Gender & Society, 34(2), 210-232. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0891243220906172

Stets, J. E. (2021). Micro, meso, and macro processes in identity change: The 2020 Cooley-Mead award address. Social Psychology Quarterly, 84(4), 286-308. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F01902725211046563

The New York Times. (2019, November). ‘Because of sex.’ The Daily. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/07/podcasts/the-daily/transgender-supreme-court.html

Valente, P. K., Schrimshaw, E. W., Dolezal, C., LeBlanc, A. J., Singh, A. A., & Bockting, W. O. (2020). Stigmatization, resilience, and mental health among a diverse community sample of transgender and gender nonbinary individuals in the US. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 49(7), 2649-2660. https://dx.doi.org/10.1007%2Fs10508-020-01761-4

VICE News. (2017). Children in Norway can sign a form to change their gender [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7yTr25xwJ7Y&t=1s

Westbrook, L., & Schilt, K. (2014). Doing gender, determining gender: Transgender people, gender panics, and the maintenance of the sex/gender/sexuality system. Gender & Society, 28(1), 32-57. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0891243213503203

Winter, S., Diamond, M., Green, J., Karasic, D., Reed, T., Whittle, S., & Wylie, K. (2016). Transgender people: Health at the margins of society. The Lancet, 388(10042), 390-400. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(16)00683-8

Yun, S., & Kang, J. (2018). Influencing factors and consequences of workplace bullying among nurses: a structural equation modeling. Asian Nursing Research, 12(1), 26-33. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.anr.2018.01.004

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