Sunday, April 1, 2012

Deviance & Labeling Theory: Homosexuality

Deviance, as our book defines it, is the behavior, ideas, or attributes of an individual or group that some people in society find offensive. Right off the bat, without knowing much about the technical details of the term deviance or its background, a red flag appears when I read, "some people in society find offensive." That section of the definition indicates to me that there must be a separation in the beliefs or desires within the society causing the conflict. This is exactly true. In further research, other definitions of deviance describe it as actions or behaviors that violate social norms. After assuring this, it only seems right that these deviant acts or behaviors are those that exist outside of the guidelines society has made for social norms. It may not be those who are deviant are bad people, they just happen to stray or take the road less traveled. Sure, that's fine if people say, "Deviance is a failure to conform to culturally reinforced norms," but may I follow up with what's so wrong about that? Is it really worth creating a label or name for people who obtain such features? We, as a society, view that as deviant because it apparently comes off as offensive when people chose not to follow the predetermined pathway of behaviors or attributes. This, to me, is intriguing. It seems that this society tries to take a great deal of pride in what we claim to be correct or acceptable. It makes me wonder if society, and the designated norms that exist within society, is the core force behind what drives one to act deviant? Perhaps one feels the loss of individuality when constantly trying to fit into the cookie cutter shape society lays out for us all. Because-really... who gives society or the majority the right to declare one as normal? Normal is not a universalized term. Since what is considered normal is not consistent across countries, and within countries is constantly under construction being changed and altered... What's deviant one day may be next year's normal. Which is why the picture of this guy says it all, "The New Normal."

All these thoughts about names, defining, and titling of people is well described as the Labeling Theory. As defined in our textbook, the Labeling Theory states that deviance is the consequence of the application of rules and sanctions to an offender; a deviant is an individual to whom the identity "deviant" has been successfully applied. It's clear now that all my initial thoughts were making up the key aspect of the Labeling Theory. Now that is laid out in plain terms, I tried to think of more specific social situations in which this theory applies. The first situation I contemplated was homosexuality. Although I cannot speak from the direct perspective, however, ever since I was exposed to the term "homosexual" in middle school, I was soon exposed and observant to the stereotypes, harsh remarks, and intentional labeling that was incorporated with an individual's particular sexuality. Along with the labels as gay, faggot, homo, or whatever it may be... comes many negative connotations as well.

I find it unfair to categorize people based on who they are sexually attracted to.  Since a heterosexual individual is commonly viewed as one who exists within the norm of society, this places all who differ in sexual behavior in separate territory where they shall accept the label as deviant. By no means should this be a standard of whether one is deviant or not. Think of it this way-Lesbian or straight women do not represent two distinct populations of women, WE have created this classification/distinction. On a more positive note, I feel the US states where gay marriage is legal is an excellent way for our society to move in the direction of complete integration and acceptance of all those who have are involved sexually with a partner, no matter the gender. 

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