This paper examines historical discourse on sexuality and gender identity how this history informs perceptions of sexual orientation and gender inequality. This paper traces the history and development of the conceptualization of gender roles and gender identity and how sexual orientation is dictated by those roles and identities. Therefore this paper is divided into two main parts. The first part of this paper examines the history and development of heterosexuality as a social construction of gender roles, gender identity and sexual orientation. The second part of this paper examines the history and development of non-heterosexual identity and how traditional gender roles and identity influence how non-heterosexual identities are treated by the dominant heterosexually constructed society. Sexual Orientation and Inequality Introduction Gender inequality on the basis of sexual orientation is deeply rooted in social constructs that dictate gender identity and gender roles (Tomsen & Mason, 2001). Historically, sexuality was informed by a perception that heterosexuality is the norm and sexuality is understood by reference to heterosexual norms and standards (Kitzinger, 2006). In this regard, heterosexual norms typically link heterosexuality to nature and thus being heterosexual means being normal or being normal (Sullivan, 2003). Therefore homosexuality, lesbianism, and bisexuality are judged by reference to the dominant heterosexual norm. This paper examines the definitions and historical developments informing sexual orientation and gender identity and identifies why sexual orientation forms the basis for gender inequality. It is argued that although, non-heterosexuals have made significant gains in terms of political, legal and social acceptance, preconceived notions of non-heterosexuality continues to be a basis of social marginalization. It would therefore appear, that marginalization on the grounds of sexual orientation may never be fully eliminated. It would appear that as long as cultural institutions formally alienate non-heterosexuals, it can be expected that social alienation of non-heterosexuals will be perpetuated. This research paper is divided into two main parts. The first part of this paper examines the history and development of heterosexuality and what this means for conceptualizing non-heterosexual identities. The second part of this paper examines the history and development of the conceptualization non-heterosexuals and how this conceptualization has changed over time. Heterosexuality Up to the 1980s, heterosexuality was defined in dictionaries as natural sexual relations. It was only during the 1980s that dictionaries defined heterosexuality as sexual relations between persons of the “opposite sex” (Sullivan, 2003, p. 119). It therefore follows that historically heterosexuality was defined in a way that distinguishes non-heterosexuality as abnormal and thus formed the basis of discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. Despite a revised dictionary definition of heterosexuality, attitudes toward heterosexuality as natural sexual relations remained unchanged for the most part. As Caplan (1987) observed, any indication that individuals did not conform to heterosexual norms was perceived as a threat to normative perceptions of sexuality and what should be normal. Although prejudice against non-heterosexuality has declined persistently since the 1990s, prejudice continues to remain prevalent throughout the US (Herek, 2000). In the US heterosexism and religious fundamentalism”
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Historically, gender inequality has always been based on perceptions that men and women are different from one another (Okin, 1996).This paper examines historical discourse on sexuality and gender identity how this history informs perceptions of sexual orientation and gender inequality…
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