Gender Roles, according to Judith Butler, an influential academic, are learned and performed and take the form of a set of corporeal behaviours and actions.
Children soon notice that gender is often centered around the concepts of femininity or masculinity. When discovering identity and joining a gender group, there are 5 steps:
Investigation consists of cautious search for information. The person determines which gender will fulfill their needs.
Socialisation involves the new member accepting their identity. They must interact with the members in the group and accept the culture.
Maintenance is when the new member and the group discusses what is expected of the members; some people are not happy with the expectations or they fail to meet the expectations.
Resocialisation of the member, helps them take on a more serious role as a member and perform tasks that society says they should do. There are two paths to go down, the individual becomes a full member of the group or the individual fails to meet the expectations again and decides to leave.
Remembrance is a reflection of the group members looking back on the memories they’ve made and how they have become one. A study in 2017 found that health risks are set by the behaviors that are instilled in males and females by the time they’re 10 or 11.
Studies showed that 6-year-old children tend to conform to choices that their peers find more popular. They begin labeling objects as “for girls” or “for boys” and conform to what is expected of them. It has been argued that the notion of womanhood or femininity is accomplished through an active process of creating gender through interacting with others in a particular social context. In effect, conformity to the peer group actually molds or creates gender. Imagine then the peer pressure that is applied to ladyboys joining a group all of whom may have been shunned by society and who have certainly ‘opted’ out of the gender roles available to them. Society typically only recognizes two genders. Therefore, when transgender individuals want to have a sex change operation, they must prove that they can “pass” as a man or woman. A psychiatrist’s report is necessary, so even the choice of changing one’s gender is socially constructed.
The way gender is constructed for an individual depends on gendered interactions the individual has with others as well as other identities or roles he or she may have. The nature of the roles or functions an individual has vary by factors such as wealth, education and class. A young ladyboy from a wealthy background may be more likely to be oppressed in terms of her freedom to express her femininity in the context of her class whereas a ladyboy from a poor family will have no such factors to prevent her from such expressions.
Butler said, “When we say that gender is performed, we usually mean that we’ve taken on a role; we’re acting in some way”…here it’s useful to think of female impersonators or drag queens.
To say that gender is performative is a little different…For something to be performative means that it produces a series of effects. We act and walk and speak and talk that consolidate an impression of being a man or being a woman…we act as if that being of a man or that being of a woman is actually an internal reality or simply something that is true about us.We have learned our gendered lessons so well that we feel they form an integral part of who we are. Deviations from such accepted behaviour can cause distress to ourselves and to others. Think of men who like ladyboys. Our deviation from the script, crucially, whilst simultaneously behaving as masculine, heterosexual men often makes other men angry (distressed and confused).
Actually, femininity is a phenomenon that is being produced all the time and reproduced all the time.
Butler perceives gender as being constructed through a set of acts that are said to be in compliance with dominant societal norms. Butler is, however, not stating that gender is a sort of performance in which an individual can terminate the act like an actor in a role or a drag queen, instead, what Butler is stating is that this performance is ongoing and out of an individual’s control. In fact, rather than an individual producing the performance, the opposite is true.
The performance is what produces the individual. Lacking her gendered behaviour what would a ladyboy look like? Would she walk like a man and talk like a man?
That depends on how her role was acquired. If she grew up observing, as little girls do, her mother’s gendered behaviour she would behave like a woman but what if she left home in adolescence as many ladyboys do and fled to Bangkok or Pattaya and sought out other ladyboys. (We know this is the path taken by lots of ladyboys.) She may have learned her gender role from other ladyboys and this could explain why we see over acting of the feminine role in groups of prostitutes. it becomes at once a way of ‘fitting in’ and a way of surviving as well as a competition of sorts.
There are an obvious sub-set of preferences and behaviours favoured by ladyboys and by drag queens and by camp gay men that include but are not limited to, gay porn, cabarets, lip synching, small dogs, extravagant fashion, Shirley Bassey, Whitney and Beyonce.
It has been put to me that very few ladyboys experience gender dysphoria of any kind and feel they are in the ‘wrong body’. Most ladyboys are simply camp, gay men who realise that if they are to attract hetero, masculine men, they must learn and adopt a feminine role. the word, ‘trap’ is in common usage and would apply here perhaps?