Presentation Title

Sexual Orientation, Gender, & Self-styling: An Exploration of Visual Identity-Signaling

Abstract

The focus of this investigation is the ways in which people in the West (primarily in the United States) visually signal their sexual orientation and gender identity through various forms of body modification—including tattooing, piercing, and hairstyling—and self-fashioning, e.g. selection of clothing and accessories. The purpose of this thesis is to help people comprehend the possible latent reasoning behind their choices of visual presentation and how even their conscious self-fashioning and body-modifying decisions may be influenced by historical choices of self-presentation. More broadly, this investigation will enhance the general (queer and non-queer) population’s understanding of the nuanced ways in which Western society codes sexual orientation and gender identity into the subtleties of people’s body modifications and self-fashioning; I look both at how the observer interprets another’s self-presentation and what the presenter meaningfully intends to communicate through their presentation. Although there is ample information about historical methods of visually signaling sexual orientation and gender identity, I believe that this study will fill the void of scant research on such phenomena in the 21st century. Additionally, many articles and texts describe the self-styling decisions of different identities over the years, but omit an explanation of the motivations for such self-fashioning and body modification. Therefore, the aim of this study is to supplement the current scholarly conversation on visual identity-signaling of one’s sexual orientation and gender identity.

Primary Faculty Mentor Name

Paul Deslandes

Status

Undergraduate

Student College

College of Arts and Sciences

Program/Major

Anthropology

Primary Research Category

Social Sciences

Second Program/Major

Individually Design

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Sexual Orientation, Gender, & Self-styling: An Exploration of Visual Identity-Signaling

The focus of this investigation is the ways in which people in the West (primarily in the United States) visually signal their sexual orientation and gender identity through various forms of body modification—including tattooing, piercing, and hairstyling—and self-fashioning, e.g. selection of clothing and accessories. The purpose of this thesis is to help people comprehend the possible latent reasoning behind their choices of visual presentation and how even their conscious self-fashioning and body-modifying decisions may be influenced by historical choices of self-presentation. More broadly, this investigation will enhance the general (queer and non-queer) population’s understanding of the nuanced ways in which Western society codes sexual orientation and gender identity into the subtleties of people’s body modifications and self-fashioning; I look both at how the observer interprets another’s self-presentation and what the presenter meaningfully intends to communicate through their presentation. Although there is ample information about historical methods of visually signaling sexual orientation and gender identity, I believe that this study will fill the void of scant research on such phenomena in the 21st century. Additionally, many articles and texts describe the self-styling decisions of different identities over the years, but omit an explanation of the motivations for such self-fashioning and body modification. Therefore, the aim of this study is to supplement the current scholarly conversation on visual identity-signaling of one’s sexual orientation and gender identity.