Alternative Gender Roles are part of daily life and consequently are believed to have an important influence on the principles and deed of individuals. The understanding of gender and sexuality in sociology and anthropology is generally very different from every day understandings(Greenberg, 1990). Sex refers to both bodily and biological traits that distinguish an individual as either a man or a woman while Gender defines the social experiences, customs, ethics and particular position that an individual uses to describe his/her experience of either masculinity or femininity (Espin 1987). The biological appearance usually dictates whether an individual is to be referred to as a man or woman and thus their expected behavior. However, there are individuals who do not fall under these conventional classifications either by choice or by their biological composition and physical appearance. These individuals are heterosexual, transgender, bisexual, gay, lesbian and individuals with peculiar and intersexual issues. Individuals of a given gender are largely expected to behave in a certain way and within given boundaries. Cultures across the world have different views when it comes to allowing individuals to live beyond these conventional boundaries. This paper is going to focus on Greek and Western cultures approach on the alternative gender concept and how the issue of alternative gender relates to the cultures’ symbolic systems such as religion, communication, or ritual(Greenberg,1 990).
Variations in Homosexuality
In examining gender and sexuality, it is important to note that the Western culture concept of a two-gender structure is not automatically upheld by other worldwide cultures. Additionally, the modern societies’ understanding of gender is no longer unavoidably determined by physical appearances, sexual behaviors, choice of sexual mates, or gender-centered roles (Loizos &Papataxiarchis, 1991).
The Greek-Cypriot culture
In the past, Greece social customs dictated that older married men were to keep younger boys with whom they would have sexual relations, an act would be condemned today and such a man labeled a pedophile. The older man was expected to mentor the young boy they kept and initiate him into manhood. He would even help the young boy find a suitable bride when he became of age. Once the younger boy married, the older man would find another boy and go through the process again. This practice was meant to teach younger men bravery and help mold their character (Loizos &Papataxiarchis, 1991). Young boys would have exclusive homosexual relationship with their mentors and they would also be encouraged to become bisexuals after marriage. However, homosexuality between two adult men was considered disgraceful, more for the receiver. According to Greenberg, any passive partner in a two adult male homosexual relationship belongs to the lowermost depth of immorality and is not deserving of anyone’s respect or friendship. The Greek-Cypriot s even had a sneering expression, which they used to refer to any man with a beard who allowed another man to penetrate him, kinaidoi.
The evolving political, cultural, and family settings have given rise to varying attitudes regarding homosexual love, which came to be referred to as the “Greek vice”. Although the practice of married men having sexual relations with young boys has stopped, the society’s attitude towards mature homosexuals has not changed and it remains to be a notoriously homophobic country. Consequently, gay, lesbians and transsexuals undergo many social and legal challenges (Espin 1987). Conception of sexual conduct in the Greek-Cypriot culture is still closely tied to the ‘morality and disgrace’ system. This system determines the way men and women of Greek ethnicity view themselves when it comes to the issues regarding their sexuality. It also dictates how others view gay and lesbian individuals. Lesbian women are seen to threaten the Greek society’s male sexual honorable code. They are considered to have the power to make or break this code depending on how they behave in public. The Greek-Cypriot culture accepts that male sexual drive cannot be controlled and thus maintaining the moral code that calls for decent behavior is entirely the woman’s responsibility (Loizos &Papataxiarchis, 1991).
In Greek-Cypriot culture, young men are expected to live with their parents until marriage. The culture does not condone secrets among family members and all needs, emotional or otherwise are resolved communally. This makes it difficult for individuals to explore their sexuality and majority of those who do have a difficult time identifying with homosexuality as it is usually seen as betraying one’s family and community. Gay or lesbian individuals may be allowed to remain in the family but majority of families do not accept their sexual orientation but choose to live in denial instead (Espin 1987). A family would accept a gay son on condition that he did not disclose his sexual orientation to the public. For this reason, Greek-Cypriot gay men suppress their feelings, which in turn affect their self-worth negatively. There have been numerous cases of homophobic violence in Greek over the years and laws that fight for the rights of homosexuals face strong opposition. This shows that the Greek communities and the entire country at large have a long way to go before homosexuality can be accepted.
The Western Culture
The Western homosexual practice is reasonably recent and quite different from the Greek-Cyprus practices. Homosexuality in the western culture surfaced in the era when sexual relations were legally regulated by age and thus it is exclusive between two same sex adults. These relationships are also usually between people of approximately matching status. The initial manifestation of such relationships dates back in sixteen centuries, with England’s Molly houses pre-echoing modern homosexuality. Molly houses were that were recorded in 1700s as adults only male brothels. The receptive partners in the brothels were very feminine men. Historically, being an exclusive homosexual was rare and in most cases bisexual partners practiced it (Greenberg, 1990).
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