Subverting the Dominant Paradigm
Everyone is born genderless and must be transformed into a gendered being who will be expected to fit into the social and cultural organization of the society in which they live. Ordinarily and initially, this is the world of primary socialization. The process of initial transformation is universal. Ordinary expectations are that it will be the only process of transformation. However, there are two factors belying these “ordinary” expectations.
First, hegemonic cultural visions of masculinity or femininity are not unitary, but consist of variations of more or less culturally acceptable forms. At some point in a person’s socialization the combination of unique individual experiences will blend with variations in the normative complex usually thought of as culturally appropriate gender expressions.
Second, for some individuals the ordinary processes do not seem to be heading in a personally satisfactory direction. Most likely there are biological factors involved, but the process of asserting an identity is largely cultural. For these sub-national groups, their native socio-cultural context offers more or less support for declaring a gendered stance other than one of the hegemonic possibilities. In both of these cases there is a second (or perhaps even a third) process of gender transformation.
However, as both gender and ethnicity are primary to social and cultural organization, they intersect in the creation of a functioning socio-cultural individual inhabiting a functioning socio-cultural system. This paper will also consider the shift from a traditional ethnographic, categorical paradigm to a more fluid, possibly topological one.