Queering Identities: Representation in the Entertainment Industry

Queering Identities: Representation in the Entertainment Industry

Chinkey Agarwal, Charu Sethi
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-6684-5568-5.ch011
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In most societies, there is a binary division between males and females, and masculinity and femininity, to which all individuals must conform. Any non-conformity from this binary is considered unnatural and abnormal and is discriminated against. The fear of being shunned, as they do not belong to the binary groups of “male” and “female,” compels the LGBTQ+ community to live in a closeted world. Media is a powerful tool that can represent and discuss minority groups and pave way for their acceptance. However, the entertainment industry specifically reinforces the stereotypical norms related to gender identity. The chapter proposes to construct meaning out of queer representation (or rather misrepresentation) in entertainment industry and analyze the reproduction of hetero-normative ideals. It also attempts to discuss stigmatization of homosexuality and existence of homo-invisibility in the industry. The chapter will focus on queer portrayal in cinema, television, and advertising industry over time.
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When a baby is born,

Without a think

its world is turned blue or pink.

What it will eat, drink or think

It’s all decided by blue or pink

But we forget the life beyond blue and pink

There are other colours as well that fill our lives with zing

Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Indigo, and Violet

Makes the rainbow of life complete

Without any prejudice and injustice

Let the person decide the colour of their own life

When people are free to choose their own colour

The world will be more just and blissful.



The concept of sex and gender are often misunderstood in our society. All the infants look the same without the revelation of their genitals. Without looking at the genitals, nobody can identify the sex of the child. It is the only difference between girls, boys, or intersex, where the genitals of the child are not clearly defined. The biological differences between the sexes are natural and only differences. Nature has created only biological differences and not social and cultural differences, which are the basis of inequalities in society. As sex is the biological definition of the differences between the sexes, gender is the socio-cultural definition of girls, boys, men, or women given by society.

“Sit like a girl”, “Boys don’t cry”, “don’t be Cissy”, “He is so unmanly”, “Be a man”,.

Such statements are infinite. The details may vary but it constructs an image of the gendered society. At the time of birth, a child’s world is painted either blue or pink and it is continued throughout their lives. Gender is a social construct that puts males and females into masculine and feminine boxes on the basis of their sexes, or in some cases the intersex.

Our societies define what girls and boys should wear, what they should do, how they should be treated, and what will be their rights and responsibilities. Gender is socially constructed classification of masculine and feminine qualities, roles, behaviors and responsibilities. As gender is a social construct, and these roles are learned or enforced, its definition varies from time to time and from society to society. Sex, on the other hand, is defined by the biological distinction between males and females. It is differentiated by genitalia and reproductive organs (Bhasin, 2000).

The evident point understood from the above-mentioned discussion is that gender is taught as it is defined by society. This training or we can say the brainwashing starts from the time of birth and sometimes even before that. Various agents of socialization like family, community, school, media etc., ensure that the child is imbibing the qualities of one’s prescribed gender. It is known as Gender Socialization, Gendering, or Engendering.

Gender socialization starts right from birth through verbal appellations, manipulation, canalization, and activity exposure, which is different for all gender. Verbal appellations include the acknowledgment given to boys and girls. Boys are recognized for their strength and masculine behavior and on the other hand, girls are acknowledged for their cooking skills or craft. Manipulation refers to how a child is handled or molded according to one’s gender. Boys are expected to be strong, whereas, girls are handled to be docile. Canalization is how the attention of girls and boys is directed toward different objects and different directions. The process begins much earlier in the child’s life, even before the child realizes the biological differences. Different genders are exposed to different activities. Daughters are expected to help their mothers in the kitchen and sons are expected to help their fathers with outside work. Gender socialization not only creates differences in the society but also hierarchies and inequalities, which are not natural but man-made.

Nature has made people different but not unequal. However, through gender, society imposes uniformity. All the boys should assert their masculinity. All the girls should dress, feel, and act in the same way. Sex and biological differences are not responsible for unjustifiable inequalities among men and women. Despite all gender socialization, the transgender community does not or cannot follow the socially prescribed norms. The effect of gender socialization is directly seen in the identity formation of the person.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Hetero-Normative: Relating to a world view that promotes heterosexuality as the normal sexual orientation.

Gender: The masculine and feminine traits, behaviour patterns, roles, and responsibilities of the individual.

Gender Identity: The individual’s perception of one’s own gender.

Queer: Umbrella term to encompass all sexualities and identities which are non-heterosexual.

Sex: The physical differences in genitalia and related differences in procreative function of the individual.

Homosexuality: Romantic/sexual attraction between members of the same sex.

Heterosexuality: Romantic/sexual attraction between members of opposite sex.

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