Personal awareness is an important aspect of life because it empowers a person on how to make cognizant decisions in life. Friends, family, education and the society at large have a profound impact on personality. These aspects have been responsible for shaping my personality and personal awareness. My gender identity on the other hand has been the culmination of all that I have experienced since I was a young child. In this paper, I am going to describe how my gender identity has been shaped by my family religion and society. The paper will also include how I perceive the day to day livelihood as a man in the community.
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Being born in an educated and culturally diverse society, “an individual develops basic social ideologies shaped by personal perceptions and responses to beliefs about culture, race and education”. (Hollins, 2000, p. 38) As a young male child I wondered why some people were in trousers while others wore skirts. I didn’t quite understand the sex differences. I became aware of my sex at the age of around five years. In the years that followed things didn’t change much, to me girls wore skirts simply because they are girls. At the age of about ten years the nature of being male started to rule. By this I mean that I started doing things and thinking as a male person. I withdrew from girls completely, spending most of my time with my male friends. We began to do things as a separate group distinct from the females; we played games that were perceived to be meant for men, for example, football. While not with my friends I would spend time with my brothers and father having chats about male issues. I started exhibiting strong male characters only with no incidence of female characters. It is said though that some individuals of my age exhibit both gender characters. This is shown by Simons who says that:
Some children exhibit many of the gender characteristics of the other sex. This has been mostly studied in Western cultures. Some boys may prefer girls for playmates, avoid rough and tumble play and team sports with peer boys, and may identify with female characters and prefer feminine roles in play. Such boys may express dissatisfaction with their male sex and express a desire to be the other sex (Simons, 2005, p. 28).
The above was not my case. My gender identity began to develop profoundly from the age of 12 years. I remember during that time I would get hurt and people would tell me not to cry as crying was a girl thing. Changes that occur with puberty were also responsible for making me realize my gender identity. The attitude I had developed earlier towards the female sex as being inferior became even more firm. At this point it became more apparent to me that being born male was the best thing that ever happened to me.
“Gender identity develops through a process of differentiation; interactions of biological, social and cognitive learning factors that occur overtime” (Bluff, 2002, p. 212). My family and society played a very important role in developing of my gender identity. Various learning stages, both in school and religious education also had a profound impact on gender identity. The teachings of the holy books on the other hand had a strict description of gender role behaviors. As a male member of the society the holy book expects me to take charge of my family and lead them in the right direction. My family played and continues to play a major role in providing the support required in shaping my gender identity. This is evident as I was brought up under good family conditions that embraced the roles of a male child in the society.
Education has contributed a lot to my gender identity. A person is introduced to education from a very tender age, “as he or she grows up education takes a central place in his/her life. It teaches one on how to carry himself/herself in all aspects of life dealing with and covering the entire conduct of life”. (Hollins, 2000, p. 38) The significance and application of education has therefore converted and accustomed me into the society by helping me learn important information concerning building my gender identity. From the religious view on gender identity again we are taught that “God created an individual, and then made him/her even and straight; giving out balanced body organs, faculties and tendencies” (Tahir-Ul-Quadri, 1998, p.38).
Through interaction between family, friends, teachers and religion therefore, I have learned the need for peaceful coexistence between people of different backgrounds. I have also learnt that amicable solutions in life are arrived at through peaceful negations and that my gender role is part of this. The goodness of life enjoyed is because of the harmony created in the world. As I grew up, I watched less privileged male children get frustrated in life and drift into violence and other social ills. These people may never have had a chance to experience love; it is only by receiving love that an individual will then be able to give it. Now as a man I feel obliged to go out and help change the systems that lead to this kind of destruction.
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Religion has somehow contributed to my gender identity as we have been taught a lot by religion. This is evidenced by Minhaj (p.14) who states that “Islamic teachings is connected with the development of personality, nourishment and perfection of personality”, this in turn shows that you cannot promote your spiritual self to the extent where it would deprive you of the rights of your bodily and physical aspects of personality.
The need to rise up as a protector has been developed in me over the time. This was instilled in me by seeing my father take up the roles of a sole breadwinner making me want to be like him. Over the years I have also learned that females are weak and they need protection from men. Therefore as I look forward to having a family of my own I am aware that they will look up to me for protection.
The ethical structure of the Islam society has for many years developed distinct roles for males. I believe much of my gender perception is drawn from this long standing harmony. To some extent it is also true that “the Islam religion too has the tendency to place more responsibilities more on males than females.” (Abdul, 1992, p.180)
Throughout my existence again I have learned that man cannot live alone. This is because interaction between friends, family and everyone in the society is what makes life good. Life is a complex phenomenon characterized with many ups and downs. For peaceful coexistence one has to learn to give and to receive, to love and tolerate everyone in the society. I believe I have achieved these to a great extend.
However, in life there must be the negative sides too. A common saying goes “man can never be perfect”, I have my fair share of weaknesses too. I am neurotic because I sometimes get the tendency of experiencing very unpleasant emotions that gets me annoyed frequently. I also get stressed easily and I do witness some degree of anxiety which I could say is normal to all human beings.
Other aspects of personal awareness are in my self-consciousness which means I respect myself and other people, I am also very much planned, disciplined, I follow the schedules, I am orderly I like correction, I mend any mess I stumble upon and I have very high self discipline.
I also have a positive social life as my friends like me. This shows that am agreeable in the society. I have never been suspicious towards them, I cooperate well with them, I am seen to be very generous by my friends and I am compassionate too.
I am recluse too since I often have strong emotions and I look for stimulation in my friends. I also like the world and travel a bit, am energetic, very enthusiastic, I really draw a lot of attention, I am not shy and I generally love life.
“It is very important for everybody to fulfil all personality needs and balance his or her life.” (Abdul, 1992, P. 89) Therefore as shown in this paper the shaping of my personality and gender identity has been done through Islamic teachings, the community which I live in, my family and education. “The Islamic teaching, education and the family further provides the establishment of a proper balanced and just social, political and economic order”. (Abdul, 1992, P, 92) this has been the aspects that have shaped my personality.
- Abdul, Hussein. Spiritual training: Muslim spiritual environment. London: Macmillan Publishers 1992, Print.
- Ali, Ahmed. “Laws of Islam: Islam faithful and their laws.”Journal of the laws of Islam (1997). 41. 6763-9329
- Bluff, Benson. Development of gender identity. Delhi: Kathak and sons publishers, 2002. Print.
- Hollins, Etta. Revealing the deep meaning. New York NY: Oxford University press, 2000. Print.
- Minhaj, Hassan. “Personality development: Views on how Muslims Are personally developed.” Journal of personality and development. (2000) 56. 2321-521
- Simons, Kamau. Gender development. Nairobi: East African publishers, 2005. Print.
- Tahir-Ul-Quadri, Mohamed. Islam on personality: Muslim Christian Dialogue. 59. 4264-33, 1998 Print