Sociological Approach to Identity and Self
Sexual orientation, as a term, describes human patterns of sexual, romantic, and emotional attraction as well as people’s sense of social and personal identity based on the attractions. An individual’s sexual orientation is not a white or black matter. However, it exists on a continuum with an exclusive attraction towards the opposite sex at one end of a continuum and an exclusive attraction towards the same sex/gender on the other. Concerning Keziah and Karen, this paper clearly shows that the direction of an individual’s sexual interest towards members of same sexes is governed not by sociological, but rather by physiological forces.
Self-exploration is key to human relationships, personal growth, and people’s capacity to promote equity. Various social identities – race, ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation, sub-economic class, ability and religion, among others – are significant aspects of individualities. They shape people’s behaviors, attitudes, experiences, and worldviews. As persons invest in creating and participating in diverse and democratic settings, they ought to appreciate how their own and other’s identities and associated social locations influence human lives as well as one’s interactions with others. Some characters are considered privileged groups while others are perceived as oppressed ones, which in reality are. While it is important to comprehend the complexity of people’s whole identities, it can be hugely beneficial to focus on personal aspects of self as individuals develop deeper consciousness of their very social positions.
I never thought one’s sexual orientation can affect someone until I met Karen and Keziah (not their real names). They live in the neighborhood, but I had never talked to any of them. The screams that night brought all that were half-asleep into attention. I walked out and ran towards their compound. Nobody else had arrived, and I forced my way inside. Without question, I hurried to help Karen, who was desperately holding a bloody and unconscious Keziah. We immediately called for help. That is when our friendship began. Karen and Keziah were lesbians, with few other friends around other than their workmates.
After a week, Keziah was discharged, and I knew I needed to understand something about them. Everything. As we talked, Karen told me that she comprehended she was a lesbian when she was in her junior high. She once broadly approached her single mother and asked her what she thought of gays. Her mother told her that they are people like any other people, they are individuals who deserve to be loved and respected for who they are. She also said she loved them. That night, her mother introduced her into lesbianism. It was awkward for Karen until one day when she was cleaning up the house and saw her birth certificate. She was an adopted child. It tortured her so much that she ran away to a Children’s home where she ended up meeting Keziah. I could not believe it.
Keziah, who had been quiet, said that her story was different but not alluring as well. She was raped by his father two years after her mother’s death. She was taken by the state to the children home. Keziah utterly detested men she vowed she would never allow anyone to come close to her. She knew that being a lesbian would solve all her troubles. She, however, told me that she was totally attracted to women and never to men since that incident. Keziah confessed that she had one previous lesbian encounter with a friend before her father’s distasteful act and she knew that is who she has been. I never understood how anyone could see it perfectly okay being a lesbian and be happy about it. To me, I felt there had to be another way, a better one. However, that was me and not for Karen and Keziah, who told me they were legally married.
They both agreed that fully accepting their diversity and identity was challenging. Karen was hesitant about reevaluating her beliefs about her, others, and of the world. I knew her assumptions could feel intellectually and emotionally threatening. Both talked about their struggles with the many obstacles on the way to examining their oppressed identities. Initially, both agreed using multiple defense strategies so as to inhibit recognition of the lesbian feelings. The process indeed requires the tremendous degree of emotional energy. They would deliberately choose (at the children’s home and elsewhere) to uphold the defensive strategies indefinitely, substantially minimizing same-gender feelings. Progressively expending energy to constrict and deny feelings resulted in negative implications for the overall self-esteem and functioning. A gradual recognition of lesbian interest and feelings emerged.
It was until the school moderator at the time realized it and called Keziah who had been more affected and asked her to share her story. She was supportive, and this led to some other girls coming out clear of their sexual identity. “Nothing will change about my love for you. Whether you are gay or heterosexual or even asexual does not matter to me. All that matters is your safety, growth, peace. Of course, you have to behave,” those were the words that Karen said she would never forget. She had some more people who have supported her regardless of it all. They tolerated the reality that strong lesbian feelings were present, something that led to a season of behavior and emotional experimentation of lesbian acts, in addition to a rising sense of normality regarding same-gender feelings. Keziah said it was after the dissolution of her first relationship with a girl who went to a foster home that negative feelings about being lesbian reemerged.
With time, a sense of lesbian identity was successfully integrated and acknowledged by both women as a positive aspect of self. Karen has never felt the sense of guilt or remorse or regret about her developing identity, and that is expected amongst lesbians. Her only difference from Keziah was that her coming out process followed discrete stages. She was unpredictable and impulsive with stops, starts, and backtracks. The institution, as explained by the excellent director, respected every child’s rights as stated in the constitution. In fact, the teenagers were encouraged to recite their rights which hung on the wall, and one was respected for his/her sexual orientation. Awards were given to all who would describe the fifty-five rules consistently.
Findings and Similarities
Keziah and Karen have come to embrace fully who they are. Keziah’s African American nature has however made her feel somehow rejected which ultimately led to her becoming volatile and unshaken by anything. The institutions emphasized the systemic nature of inequality and oppression by avoiding suggestions that would result in individual blame. The approach reduced resistance and defensiveness. Everyone plays a significant role in systems of inequality, but all systems are bigger than an individual.
At the institution, the teenagers felt freer examining their attitudes, prejudices, stereotypes, and behaviors by understanding how everyone among them had been socially led to developing biased views, filling small roles. They shared recounted past experiences, something that made them feel united as the recollections were remarkably similar. Such discussions give individuals the opportunity to reevaluate all biased messages and perceptions they have internalized.
The two women expressed their challenges as they grew up knowing that they had no biological families to share their concerns. As a married couple, Karen and Keziah face challenges in their different work settings, and they both have always chosen to express their lesbian identity. They were socially accepted at the institution and that was enough to have helped them move on as they did. They left the system when they were eighteen and moved in together. Karen and Keziah have come to accept who they are and are not ashamed of it.
The society may not have been too excited about their identity, but the women said nothing can change their love for one another and would better be separated from their families and be happy with who they are. Karen said even though she felt intense shame and resentment for her mother, she has forgiven her as she supported her while she needed her affirmation. She has plans to go back to her mother and tell all about herself now. Keziah said she would never forgive her father since he emotionally broke her trust and respect as a parent, something that made her see all men as evil and cruel. They are grateful and appreciative for all who played a role in supporting them at the children’s home and everywhere else. Those are the people they call family.
Both Karen and Keziah, have encountered prejudice which contributes to differential treatment by the majority. Much worse is the fact that Keziah is an African American. Her struggle and fight for acceptance have been tough compared to those of Karen. Despite the extensive efforts in a bid to counteract the impacts of racism, Keziah’s African American characteristic has led to significant differential treatment due to her race. Karen, however, has faced less discrimination among her peers and workmates. The fact that one is African American makes him/her being perceived as lighthearted, docile, tractable, good-natured, and care-free. When unjustly treated, as in the case of Keziah, one turns stubborn, secretive, surly, careless, shiftless, and somehow irresponsible. For Karen, she appeared to be stronger in all aspects described above.
Sexual orientation and race are independent classifications. Anyone from any origin can be considered as belonging to any sexual orientation. Nevertheless, many people primarily associate homosexuality with the Whites. A lesbian who is non-white experiences closer personal encounters which often leads her adapting to some characteristics so as to survive. Lesbianism is a reality among us, and so everyone should embrace everyone irrespective of his or her sexual orientation.