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Michael Porter 4/30/2012 COMM 4021 Foss

Think Piece #3 bell hooks

1. Hooks suggests that being on the margins affords individuals a particular and important position from which to theorize (Contemporary Perspectives, pp. 272-73). She also suggests that rhetors remain on the margins. Discuss and give examples of the benefits of creating rhetorical theory from the margins. Are there also disadvantages to such theorizing? As a homosexual man I live on the margins of our contemporary culture. When coming out as openly gay, I had part of my male identity taken away from me. No longer being recognized as fitting the gender norm, it became an expectation of others that everything from the way I speak to the way I dress take on a more feminine quality. After coming out, I hated the newly inscribed elements of my identity I inherited along with being labeled as a gay man, and I felt as if the freedom to perform my identity according to my choosing had been taken away from me. Over the years, I have participated more and more in gay culture, and I have learned to view my homosexual identity in a new light. As a marginalized individual, I have a dual perspective. I experience first hand the expectations others have regarding the identities of gay men while still encountering the expectations related to straight men. This enhanced view of contemporary culture has given me tools that allow me to resist the dominant discourses of our society. Men in our culture are expected to perform in a particular way. Being masculine is characterized as being confident, assertive, and aggressive, while maintaining an interest in cars, sports, and women. Masculinity also means,

primarily, not behaving as a woman (E. Yoder, Gender Matters, February 29, 2012). Men are expected to uphold masculine characteristics while staying as far away from womanly behaviors as possible. A wide array of colors, clothing, accessories, and activities are off-limits to any male who wants to be perceived as a normative man. Regardless of my sexual orientation, I am sometimes expected to enact masculine behaviors. Being gay is an element of my identity that is invisible to others at times. During these times, when my peers are unaware of my orientation, I may perform gender in a way that passes me off as a normative male. When my identity as gay man is visible, I can enact feminine traits and express interest in things associated with women without breaking anyones expectations. I have come to view my gender identity as something I perform on a daily basis. Sometimes I enjoy behaving in a masculine way while at other times I prefer to be somewhat feminine. I once thought that my identity as a marginalized homosexual man took away my freedom to perform gender according to my choosing when in fact, being a gay man has enabled me to enjoy participating in feminine interests and activities while experiencing no dissonance. The expectation others have for me to maintain feminine characteristics along with the male gender norms give me a license to perform gender however I choose. The freedom of gender expression that I enjoy living on the margins of contemporary culture has made me realize how engrained gender norms are in our society. Heterosexual men do not have the freedom to perform gender in the same way I do. Some men might enjoy taking part in activities that are perceived as

feminine but they may feel that participating in them would threaten their gender identities. My sister recently told me a story of being in a toy store with her daughter and seeing a young boy in an aisle alone, looking at a tea party set. As my sister and niece browsed the aisle of toys, the boys mother came around the corner and discovered him holding the tea set. She snatched the toy box out of his hands and hastily put it back on the shelf telling her son, Boys do not play with this toy! My sister only told me the story because she knew what my reaction would have been had I been in the store and she remarked on how thankful she was that I had not been present at the time, knowing I would likely have voiced my opinion to the mother. Being a marginalized homosexual man has made me appreciate my gender identity and value the freedom that I have to perform gender in the way that I do. Stories like my sisters make me aware of how little freedom to perform gender is allotted to boys and men in contemporary society and how much of a persons identity is dependent on hegemonic views rather than individual expression. A common question I have been asked by others regarding my role in relationships is, So are you the boy or the girl? This question has always baffled me and I have always had the same response: We are both the boy. That is the whole idea. The idea of a relationship is so intertwined with the notion that men like women and women like men that for some it is unimaginable that a relationship exist without a male and female role. In my mind ideas like relationships, love, and marriage having nothing to do with gender. As a marginalized individual, I can resist the hegemonic view that relationships are based on having both a male and

female figure in the way that I share my experiences of being in a homosexual relationship. My gender identity does not align with the dominant discourses regarding masculinity in our culture. By deviating from the norm, I am placed on the margins of society. On the margins I have a dual perspective when it comes to the perception of gender in contemporary culture. I believe that individuals are not allowed freedom of gender expression because the expectations of others prevent them from enacting both masculine and feminine behaviors. Everything from colors to clothing to childs toys and relationships are categorized and defined according to the hegemonic views of society. As a marginalized member of society I have a unique perspective on gender identity and my position allows me to resist the perception of normative gender roles as an advocate for freedom of gender identity.

References E. Yoder, Gender Matters, February 29, 2012