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Gender often sounds as simple as possessing a certain type of body. It seems at first glance to be as easy as whether or not one has two X's or an X Y chromosome, the lack of certain body parts, or an internal or external reproductive system. It feels like the mind should be independent of these physical differences, when the skull is split open it is about three pounds, grey and wrinkly, no matter if you are male or female. The brain, is capable of feeling, thinking, rationalizing, understanding, remembering, and forgetting, no matter your gender. Yet men and women are famed for thinking differently so much so that the saying "Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus" was invented. Are people so bound to these different thinking patterns that the hormones of being either male or female sway the mind or is it society that teaches them how to think? The film "Orlando" suggests gender is body based. After waking up to find himself Lady Orlando, the young Lord says in regards to the way he feels, "Same person. No difference at allâ€¦ Just a different sex." (Potter). These three short potent sentences sum up how anyone might feel should they wake up to find their gender changed. Their thoughts would still be the same, all of their preferences, favorite colors, foods, etc. It would all still be the same, only appearing to be the body that had been rearranged. If they were female, would they simply start being a man? Or, would they still be women? If the mind is shaped not by the body but by outside influence and the praise or punishment of society it seems their gender would remain as it was originally expressed. A man for instance, would still feel the need to be in control and protect, and value flattering remarks based on strength over appearance. A woman would feel the urge to nurture and care for above all else if she remained the same person. Transcending the taught genders would take decades as the person learned the rules of their new form. Over time, would a person of changed genders become like the sex they were changed into? If a person is nothing but an accumulation of experiences therefore would they not become more androgynous? Perhaps they would lean towards their gender of origin more than their new form. Society would without a doubt try to enlighten them as to what their identity should be and how they should act.
Orlando's story has him experience several effects against his choosing, including long life. His story begins with his love affair with Queen Elizabeth who was enthralled by his beauty and innocence. He moves on, with the sole purpose of finding to love, trying to find companionship. Finally, he commits infidelity with his current fiancé for the androgynous princess Sasha. After becoming her lover, she eventually breaks his heart. The rest of his life appears to be miserable for him, and eventually. His life leads him to Constantinople as an ambassador, and eventually becomes a duke. One night, fighting in battle for Constantinople, an enemy is killed, Orlando is sadden by this. Not only that, his trance lasts seven days and he awakens as a woman. The changes do not surprise Orlando much, and he is almost immediately accustomed to his new body. For him to have become accustomed to this change so quickly, it appears that he may have already felt like a woman. While he felt he was not bound by a gender, there is a difference between feeling like you could just be yourself and having a transformation of your body overnight. The shock itself of an unnatural physical change would drive anyone up a wall. Orlando however, appears to have thought this was almost normal. His androgyny and transcendence through genders made him what he became. His true androgyny in the end made him finally achieve happiness. Androgyny is something that most people could not understand unless they lived a situation like Orlando's. "Androgyny all too often escapes out of the grasp of critics and settles back down into the sexual polarization it is designed to avoid. Thus we find ourselves mired once again in theories of binary opposition through male and female centered androgyny." (Wright pg 4). Essentially, to become truly androgynous it is almost necessary to be a hermaphrodite. Orlando's situation was unique because it allowed him to experience a life of both being male and female. Androgyny has one major problem, it is gender focused. For a woman to be considered androgynous, her traits and features are focused on being as those of a man while still retaining those of a woman. For a man, his persona should resemble the beauty and grace of a woman while still retaining his masculinity. In the end, we have a male-focused androgyny or a female-focused androgyny. The state of being of true androgyny could only be perceived by someone like Orlando.
Androgyny has been viewed differently throughout the times. Often today, androgyny is considered something that simply resembles both sexes. In the 1920's, the rise of the "New Women" took place and, "Saw androgyny as a concept which concept which offered the chance to see themselves as social and sexual hermaphrodites, as an 'intermediate sex' that existed between and thus outside of the biological social order. However, this strategy failed because its rhetoric entailed only the inversion of dominant metaphors rather than their deconstruction. Adrogyny could only have served these women if they had first rid themselves of the binary schools of thought on which the 'dominant metaphors' were based." (Wright pg 6). This rise of androgyny saw the same aforementioned problem, women who were intending to be androgynous and become the intermediate sex were simply acting the opposite of their gender roles instead of completely breaking them down. Orlando was able to accomplish this because he lived his life through both genders.
The story of Orlando continues on with his new body of a woman. Orlando sails back to England after living with gypsies. On his return to England, Archduchess Harriet is now Archduke Harry, another transcendence of gender has occurred, and Archduke Harry falls in love with Orlando and proposes marriage to him. Orlando declines, and eventually over the years Orlando finds a man named Marmaduke Bontrhop Shelmerdine, Esquire. Shel and Orlando decide they were meant to be for each other within minutes, falling in love. The intention of this couple throughout the film was to portray an androgynous relationship with no distinct roles but still able to hold the functionality of a physical relationship such as the opposing reproductive organs. Orlando was impressed by Shel's androgyny as a male, possessing all the wonderful qualities of a woman while still retaining his masculinity. Shel as well, is infatuated with all the wonderful qualities of a man that Orlando possesses. Shel, being a liberty seeker, has to leave. The idea behind this couple was to show that gender does not have to be a necessary recipe for a successful relationship. A male does not have to force himself into the role of the head and provider of the family, the woman does not have to be subservient and nourishing. The idea of transcending genders does not mean losing your personal identity, but in fact, retaining who you truly no matter the body you possess. In this manner, anyone can love each other, man and woman, woman and woman, man and man. By truly rising above the social pressures to be someone you are wanted to be and not truly who you are and becoming just "human" and "yourself", one can learn to truly love anyone. This belief should be the core for the respect and value that all communities deserve, heterosexual, homosexual, androgynous, and even bisexual.