Class of Identity and Gender

It is refreshing to read an article that presents a distinct topic. The identity struggle of individuals in academic environments is often neglected. The article, Butch, Bi, and Bar Dyke: Pedagogical Performances of Class, Gender, and Sexuality, which consists of three individual stories by three different authors, presents alternative views on identity and personal strategies of integration into academy. It was an interesting read. Each story brings something thought-provoking to spotlight.

I was a bit surprised with the term ‘butch’ in the title as it was associated with negative connotation when I was in high school. After reading the article, I’d guess that over time the negative impact has faded and it is being used as a self-imposed label in similar fashion with the terms such as ‘nerd’ or ‘geek’ now. I felt out of touch, and I suppose that is the concern that the article attempts to stress: the ignorance of those around them in academic settings. The story by Martha Marinara about the privileged position of ‘butch’ identity in comparison to ‘femme’ is something I had never observed or even considered of its possibility. This particular contrast proves how society tends to place privilege based on the features of a person on the outside rather than the inside. In a way, it could be advantageous as Martha Marinara addresses the situation but on the other hand, this position could cause some sort of identity or power struggle with ‘femme’ individuals; even with students.

I do not believe that I ever had a student who was open about his or her sexual orientation. I had heard about situations that my colleagues found themselves in with their students being open and how awkward it could be to manage the discourse in class at certain times. The closest experience I had was the argument that stemmed from a reading activity in the class. One of my vocal students openly expressed her belief that “being gay was a mental illness” that needed treatment. A couple of other students in the class angrily opposed that notion and a heated argument ensued. Being a teacher for only a year at the time, I was not completely sure how to handle that situation properly. I simply attempted to direct the conversation back to our reading. I remember the rule about avoiding certain topics for classroom discussions such as religion or politics. That rule also included sexual orientation. At the time, I did not care much for it but now that I’m looking back, it could be constructive to discuss and educate students about the subject to avoid such arguments. Deborah Meen discussed the implementation of personal experiences into composition in order to create inclusiveness. Studying written articles such as that with the students could be a possible way to do so.

There were also a few key points relating to literature that I noticed which could prove efficient to discern. Michelle Gibson talked about the assumption that “a successful performance makes the previous identity go away”. It reminded me of expected character arcs in writing. A character arc in literature is often described as an evolution of identity. As stated, once the character achieves success in his or her goal, the identity changes and they complete theirs arcs in the story. However, two identities as an ongoing parallel in a narrative could create a more interesting conflict for the character as one identity might take priority over the other in certain circumstances. This approach could display a more realistic realization of consciousness despite the apparent threat of complexity in narration. Though, it would be hard to ignore the concern of “rejecting intellectual complexity in favor of familiarity” by the readers.

Another interesting concept to consider was the physical affection and how it differentiates itself from sexual attraction that many people tend to associate it with. The importance of implementation of affection among characters in order to create realism in a story is often neglected due to concern of misunderstanding. Although it is encouraged to do so, that additional layer of emotions could lead to wrong assumptions. Michelle Gibson mentioned “not being able to keep [her] hands off [her] children” in the article and described it as “an affection that cannot be divorced from the physical experience of touching”. This is could also be a compelling aspect of literature that requires further exploration.

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