Impact the Development of Sexual and Gender Identity Introduction It is hard for me to pinpoint the beginning of my sexual awareness. Throughout my rearing, questions about sex were never brought to my parents. However, my parents, family, media, social/educational, past relationships and religious upbringing had an impacted on the development of my sexual and gender identity. Looking back over my life, I realize my initial ideas and influences about my sexual and gender identity developed through childhood experiences with my family. Traditionally women were the caretakers and men were the providers.
There were many things that were done around our house that seem to be gender specific. Besides my mother taking care of my siblings and me, through the week my mother would cook, clean, go to the grocery store and make sure we all did our homework. My father worked outside the home to provide for our family. Whenever my siblings and I needed anything we told our mother, but my father would buy it. If my brothers needed chastising my father would chastise them. My father said girls should be chastised by their mother. Every Saturday was deep clean Saturday at our house.
My siblings and I did not go out on Saturdays to socialize with friends until the entire house was thoroughly cleaned. My sisters and I cleaned the inside of the house while my brothers did the yard work and anything that was too heavy for us girls to do. In addition to the house chores being gender specific, the gifts that my siblings and I received at Christmas where also gender specific. For Christmas my brothers got cars, cap guns, police uniforms and fire trucks as gifts. My sisters and I got dolls, doll houses, easy bake ovens and ironing boards so, that we could iron our dolls clothing.
My observation of my families’ roles developed my sexual and gender identity. Besides my family, the media (TV, magazines, the radio…etc) also had an impact on the development of my sexual and gender identity. According to the media, when I was being reared in the mid 1970’s, the traditional family consisted of a father, a mother and their children. T. V showed women in traditional sex roles such as homemakers and roles that gave attention to their physical attractiveness and dependence on men. The media also portrayed women as being passive, conforming, self subordinating and less competent than men.
During this same era of time the media never depicted the parents of a nuclear family as being the same sex. Homosexuality during this time was taboo. When I was being reared, if two individuals of the same sex were portraying to be in a relationship, they were considered as being mentally ill. Therefore, the media had some impact on my sexual and gender identity as well. There was one event in the 4th grade that serves in my memory as the beginning of my sexual development. That year was when they divided the girls and the boys up and had separate talks about changes we could expect to our bodies.
I know now that what they were trying to tell us that we would be in the process of becoming a woman, and to not panic when we begin to develop. There is nothing wrong with it, it’s a natural process. They tried to explain puberty and that girls have a menstrual cycle, but because at that time adults didn’t feel comfortable communicating about sexuality, I can remember leaving and having absolutely no clue what they were talking about. The schools continued to educate us on the science of sexuality and inform us on the continual changes are bodies were going through.
Nevertheless, that was my first dose of “sex education” from a public school. As I moved up and out of the 4th grade, so did my awareness of sexuality. My past relationship helps to establish my sexual and gender Identity. It was my sophomore year (16 years old) and I had started dating a young man from my old neighborhood. He and I were good friends before we dated, so it was easy to transfer into an intimate relationship. Sexuality was something that he and I were very open about and discussed freely. I talked with him about my self-image and my own sexual desire and he talked to me about his.
We were both relieved that we struggled with some of the same issues. We were together for eight years. This eight year opposite-sex intimate relationships helped me to establish my sexual identity. My cultural background is not to be exempt in the development of my sexual and gender identity. My cultural background influenced my beliefs that homosexuality is not normal. I remember as a little girl growing up in the Black community, same sex relationship in terms of being a couple engaging in intimacy was not discussed. Homosexuality in the Black community in the mid 1970’s was taboo.
Men were expected to be the provider, the protector, strong and aggressive. If a Black man exhibited any type of behavior of femininity he was consider as being sick and weak. He would be ridicule, ostracize by their community, family, and religious affiliation and or beaten by other men in their community. These anticipated behaviors lead Black men in later life to desperate attempts at heterosexual relations, marriage and child rearing, while maintaining a secret life of homosexual activity. Cultural constructions of sexual and gender identity have often been negative.
I’m sure my religious upbringing as a child did have some impacted on the development of my sexual and gender Identity. However, I believe my spiritual walk with God since I’ve become an adult has had a greater impacted on the development of my sexual and gender Identity. My mother’s parents embraced the Catholic religion. My father didn’t have a religious background; therefore, during the 1970’s until the early 1980’s my family and I would occasionally attend the Catholic Church in our neighborhood. I don’t recall religion being a major part of my childhood.
I remember my family and me at church one Sunday afternoon. I overheard two ladies saying” people talk about sex without having any respect for God. ” When I heard the ladies say that, for a long time as a child, I thought sex was bad. Subsequent to hearing the ladies saying that, anytime I heard anyone say anything about sex, I thought God was going to kill them. Up until I was 7 or 8 years old, I believed anyone who talk about sex would die. I don’t remember my parents ever talking to my siblings and me about sex. I believe my siblings and I just knew sex was a not to be spoken of. 983 was a high point in my life. I turned 18 years old; I graduated from high school and moved out of my mother’s house into my own apartment. In 1984, I became a parent and began starting my own family. Shortly after starting my own family, I stopped attending my parents’ church. My child and I joined Antioch Baptist Church. Initially I noticed two things about Antioch Baptist Church; Women are not allowed in the pulpit and pre-marital sex was wrong according to the church. The pastor of the church was a man. The second thing I noticed was that women were not allowed to preach, but they ould teach Sunday school and Wednesday night bible study. Pre-marital sex was defined as anything that was not kissing. The women of the church were expected to be humble, submissive and adorned in modest apparels. I was informed that as a Baptist believing Christian women do not wear any type of clothing pertaining to a man. Neither did women wear makeup or earrings. If a woman wore makeup, she was considered a Jezebel (prostitute) according to the church. There were older women than younger women that attended the church.
A good majority of the older women were married and homemakers. The men at Antioch Baptist Church had expected roles too. However, they appeared to be more liberated in their roles. The men did the upkeep of the church. They were able to speak out. If there were decisions to be made regarding church business of any kind, the men made it. The women’s opinion did not count. If dinner was going to be served after church, the women cooked the dinner as well as dealt with the children. According Antioch Baptist Church, the men in general are the head of the church as well as their home.
Although, homosexuality wasn’t a continual message preached across the pulpit at the church, it was a subject that was well talk about in bible study on Wednesday night and Sunday morning. I remember attending bible study one Wednesday night and one of the members ask is it a sin for two men to be married. Not only did I learn very quickly that pre-marital sex was wrong, but any type of intimate relationship that’s non-heterosexual is entirely wrong. I was informed that homosexuality is an abomination in God’s site. A church member told me that aids were God’s punishment for homosexuals.
I also remember another church member saying, if anyone had homosexual sex they were going to hell. After hearing these comments, I begin to think to myself, I’m not sure if what they are saying is true or not, but if they are trying to scare me they’re sure using some great scare tactics. These events are what I feel have had the largest impact on the development of my sexual and gender identity during my physical and spiritual development. My childhood upbringing and environmental observation impacted my sexual and gender identity in a negative and positive way without my knowledge.
I allowed my environment to dictate my gender identity by adopting the gender role of a mother and a woman ranging from cooking, cleaning and caring for my children according to society which are stereotypical of being feminine. However, I was reared up with three brothers whereby I developed over time some masculinity traits. It’s unethical for anyone to dictate a person’s sexual identity (as my mothers and mine was), behavior or beliefs. However, I appreciate my mother’s femininity which I‘ve adopted. I also appreciate my parents allowing me to retain my masculinity I possessed from my brothers, contrary to societies beliefs.
I’m a straight women glad however to have feminine and masculine traits. I believe, it’s important to have a balance In order to cope with the negative experiences in order to shape a more positive sexual identity is to realize self identity is how a person understands his or her way of life and what others think is not important. A person has to become aware of their individuality and start to take personal responsibility for his or her beliefs. Self identity is important. Self identity has to come to mean how a person understand his or her way of life and what others think is really not important.
Addendum I do believe in Christ Jesus, and that his guidance is best for my life. Therefore, I took on the stance that pre-marital sex (now whether I obeyed that or not is to be questioned) and homosexuality is wrong. Although these are some values I hold, they are my values and I do not expect anyone other than myself to respect them. Besides, who am I to judge someone else? I have done things too that goes against what I believe. The same Jesus Christ that I believe in tells me to “Judge not a person, but to judge what’s right or wrong so that I will stay in obedience of his word. Therefore, as a counselor I trust that my values will not affect my practice. Although, I need to be aware of my value system, the clients’ value system is just as important. As a counselor I have to respect person individuality. I believe I am open to listen to my clients’ value system. It’s important that I am aware of my clients’ value system in order to be an effective counselor. A client who identifies as being a homosexual and tries to convince me that his body goes through the same cycle every month that mines does would be a difficult behavior for me to work with in a counseling setting.