Boys Don’t Cry

The Transgender Experience.

Boys Don’t Cry (1999) is a dramatization of the real-life story of Brandon Teena, a female-to-male transgender man who paid a terrible price for pursuing a relationship with a young woman (Oltmanns & Emery, 2012).  As a sensitive topic in our society, transgender is discussed with studies of sexual orientation in developmental psychology.  Because most learners don’t have personal experience on this topic, this movie serves as a good reference material for the study.

The Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SEICUS) defined sexual orientation as the erotic, romantic, and affectionate attraction to people of the same sex, the opposite sex, or both sexes.  Regardless of their biological sex or gender identity, people can be sexually attracted to men, attracted to women, attracted to both, or attracted to neither.

According to Newman and Newman (2012), gender identity refers to the meaning a person makes of being male or female and to the internalization of attitudes, beliefs, and values associated with male and female behaviors. Four terms that are often used in discussing gender identity are masculinity, femininity, androgyny, and transgendered.

Masculinity: is typically associated with being instrumental and agentic (i.e., having leadership abilities, being assertive, taking control).

Femininity: is typically associated with being expressive and communal (i.e., valuing interpersonal and spiritual development, being tender, sympathetic, and concerned about the well-being of others).

Androgyny: refers to the capacity to express both masculine and feminine characteristics as the situation demands. Androgynous men score high in both masculine and feminine characteristics in comparison to other men; androgynous women score high in both masculine and feminine characteristics in comparison to other.

Transgendered: refers to people who do not identify with or present themselves as refl ecting the sex they were born with and who move across or combine gender boundaries. Knowing a person’s gender identity does not allow one to predict sexual orientation.

As discussed in Oltmanns and Emery (2012), sex is often a perplexing area of our lives. Sexual experience can be a source of extreme pleasure, while also providing for the development and expression of intimacy with one’s partner. From an evolutionary point of view, reproduction is the key to our survival. Sexual behavior also provides fertile ground for intense feelings of fear and guilt. When something interferes with our ability to function sexually, it can be devastating both to the person who is affected and to the person’s partner. Sometimes a person’s inability to enjoy sexual experiences becomes so pervasive or so personally distressing that the person seeks professional help—alone or, more often, with his or her partner (p. 304).

In other instances, a person may enjoy sex but his or her sexual interest may be triggered by unusual stimuli, or it may involve non-consenting partners or the pain and suffering of themselves or others. The point at which occasional sexual difficulties become a “sexual dysfunction” is quite subjective and may say as much about sexual norms and expectations as anything else. Similarly, the definition of sexual conduct that is considered deviant has also changed over time. There is the mix of factors that influence what it means to be a man or a woman and the ways in which we engage in sexual relationships. Learners and researchers need to see the picture of the shifting ground that surrounds what mental health professionals consider to be normal and abnormal sexual practices (Oltmanns & Emery, 2012).  Then, does Brandon Teena suffer sexual dysfunction or it is just the uniqueness of life?


Newman, B. M. & Newman, P. R. (2012). Development through life: A psychosocial approach (11th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Oltmanns, T. F. & Emery, R. E. (2012). Abnormal psychology (7th ed.).  Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

[This film is free with Amazon Prime]

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