Close your eyes. Imagine yourself on your high school football field. Lights are illuminating the thirty or so players on the field, one is you. As you look down you realize you are dressed in tight padded football pants and shoulder pads. Your head is protected by a helmet. You get into formation with your team. Hut, hut, hike. You open your eyes and the daydream is over.
Now close your eyes again. This time you are in a large brightly lit room with wooden floors and wall-to-wall mirrors. Upon further inspection of yourself you realize you are in a tight black tutu. You are in a ballet studio. Right before your first plie you wake up.
In which situation did you feel most comfortable, and what do you think helped in your decision making? If you guessed that location had anything to do with it then you are correct. The answer, my friends, is location, location, location.
Location plays several important roles in establishing certain places and spaces as belonging to certain groups of people. Gender for example, helps to establish space for “men” and “women.”Take for instance a weight room, football field, or mechanical garage. These locations are primarily filled with men and gendered accordingly. In contrast to these spaces such as the aerobic work-out room, ballet studios, and tanning salons are culturally coded as female and feminine. Through institutionalization we teach and repeat our cultural understanding, further gendering certain areas.
The cultural understanding of concepts in spaces can also vary. The general knowledge of transgendered individuals in Bloomington is low, however I believe the atmosphere allows for further enhancement of knowledge in this area. With a highly ranked gender studies program there are many opportunities for those interested in learning more about gender variant people than in other areas across the United States. This being said, I believe that living in the United States in general, and being immersed in American culture hinders our understanding of transgendered persons abroad.
Simply by living and participating in a space with an enforced gender and sex binary American’s cultural understandings of gender and sex topics are limited. This limitation proves difficult when trying to understand many cultures with transgendered individuals. In response to this a “third gender” concept was created by Western society to help classify these people we in our culture deem as transgendered. This is also negative because it reduces and groups different cultures with different beliefs, characteristics, and concepts together into a narrow category.
Our location, and the short history of transgendered understanding in the United States, has created this lack of cultural understandings of the “third gender” abroad. Within time, and through much institutionalization, we may become more understanding of transgendered cultures abroad and less inclined to lump them into one category of “third gender.”
Location plays many different roles in our everyday lives. Think about that next time you head out to the weight room, aerobic work-out center, tanning salon, or mechanical garage.