Gender identity is only one form of identity. At birth individuals are identified with those forms of signification which are associated with our parents and which mark their identities, e.g with their class position, religion or ethnicity, which are transferred to individuals. While undoubtedly identity is given to us by society, it is true that a stable identity is something which individuals strive for, as it provides a sense of belongingness, of ‘ home ‘. However, feelings about identity tend to be ambivalent. Individuals simultaneously want to be at home and to be free. Yet while being ‘ at home ‘ offers comfort and security, it can also tend to be claustrophobic, even like a prison. Sometimes we long to break free from the chains of identity, particularly when these have been fashioned for us by others so that we can experience the terrors and delights of freedom. To sum up, identity is built on a characteristic or set of characteristics that makes us identical in some respect to some people and at the same time marks individuals out as being different from others. Identity is not naturally conferred, but is marked out by culture.
Strangely, perceptions of what is ‘ masculine ‘ and what is ‘ feminine ‘ are not given biologically but are mediated through culture. It is important to realize that while the sex categories ‘male’, ‘female’ and ‘androgynous’ are given to us by nature, a range of gender identities is available in different cultures. In contemporary European societies traditional rigid divisions between the sexes have been eroded with the growth in acceptability of the expression of a range of ‘gay’, identities. While in African societies these divisions are still intact and much resistance on legalization of ‘gay’ marriages is on going in many of these cultures. Gender is an extremely important focus for identity. A person who identifies primarily with ‘feminine’ traits in a society ‘feminine’, with masculine traits is ‘masculine’ and with both sets of traits is ‘androgynous’. When ‘men’ and ‘women’ are discussed, activities are identified which are enabled or proscribed by society.
Gender identity is makes you feel at home.