Sunday, May 4, 2014

Sex and Signified

In reading Savannah Knoop’s GirlBoyGirl on becoming JT LeRoy, one part really stood out to me.  In regards to her relationship with Asia, Savannah writes, “If Asia knew deep down that there was no JT, she would tire of me quickly and move on to someone who wouldn’t be once removed, who wouldn’t be fake.  If she didn’t realize what was going on—if she believed surgery had gotten this good—if she still thought I was a boy who became a girl, still pretending to be a boy—then I wasn’t registering at all with her” (23). 

Is she a fake?

In switching between the roles of herself and of JT LeRoy, Savannah’s gender and sex become fluid and, I’d argue, irrelevant to her identity.  I apologize for being crude, but does it actually matter if Savannah has a vagina or a penis?  She still has the same thought process, the same eating habits, and the same family, regardless if others consider her a boy or a girl and regardless of the persona she undertakes.  Her anatomy and her mutable gender don’t seem to change the core of her being and her existence; they merely change the way she is perceived by the world. 
Which leads me to my point.  I think we can challenge the notion that our sex alone influences and determines who we are.   I’d argue that the meanings of “man” and “woman” define us far more than our physical bodies and having a penis or a vagina.  Gender is debatably a learned behavior.  Think about the concept of signifier and signified with the signifier being the sound or image that evokes a “signified” or a concept. 


Perhaps we become who we think we are expected to become according to the labels we are given – female or male.  Therefore, are the things that define us what actually create us?  Does the signified actually generate the signifier?  Does the concept create the real? 

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