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Noah's Story

The documentary film, Middlesexes, showcases a few different stories of both men and women who have distorted the images of socially constructed gender categories. The story I found particularly interesting was that of Noah, a young boy who finds himself enjoying girly activities, including taking on the role of young girls in society. He likes to dance like a girl in front of the mirror, play with dolls, do hair, dress up in feminine clothes, and partake in other activities that little girls do. Noah and his family were interviewed and asked questions about his interests, social gender-related behavior, biological factors which may have influenced his behavior, and what his family hopes for Noah's future.

In his interview, Noah seemed pretty comfortable with himself, his interests, and how he likes expressing himself, but he explains that kids at his school constantly ask him questions about his identity. They say things like, “Are you really a boy?� “Are you a girl� and “Why do you do this or that?� He simply responds by saying, “Yes I am a boy and I do it because I like it.� I think the students are confused because they are used to seeing obvious socially constructed gender differences in other kids their age that they don't know what to think when they see little Noah who likes girl things. Judith Lorber, author of “Night to His Day�: The Social Constructions of Gender explains that, “Gender signs and signals are so ubiquitous that we usually fail to notice them – unless they are missing or ambiguous. Then we are uncomfortable until we have successfully placed the other person in a gender status; otherwise we feel socially dislocated� (Lorber, 41).

“Individuals are born sexed but not gendered, and they have to be taught to be masculine or feminine...In early childhood, humans develop gendered personality structures and sexual orientations through their interactions with parents of the same and opposite gender. As adolescents, they conduct their sexual behavior according to gendered scripts. Schools, parents, peers, and the mass media guide young people into gendered work and family roles� (Lorber, 46).

One of the reasons I like Noah's story so much is that he does not follow the norms of the gendered scripts. He is his own person and refuses to listen to people when they say what he likes and what he is doing is wrong. This is not because he is selfish or rebellious, it is because he truly and personally does not feel like he is doing anything wrong. Noah's parents seemed pretty supportive of their son's behavior and personality but his father explained that he would be relieved if his son's hormones eventually changed. This was not because he was ashamed or embarrassed of his son, but his greatest fears are that someone will hurt him, or he will end up hurting himself.

I think Noah's parents are very noble in their support for their son. I can completely understand where they are coming from in their protective manner of their son, but absolutely hate the fact that they have to be worried about their son's safety. And so do they. In most cases, gender construction starts with assigning a sex category based on the genitalia at the baby's birth. Then the babies are dressed by their category so parents are not constantly asked whether their baby is a boy or a girl. Noah's parents are very proud of their son. They never mentioned anything about how they may be chastised or ridiculed and how they feel about that. They simply do not agree with the social constructions of gender that may put their son in any uncomfortable or harmful situations.