As we attempted to point out in the introduction, although the topic is a complex one to address, the sentimental and concrete aspect of love – as a spontaneous expression of an interpersonal emotion characterised by reciprocity and, to some degree, an erotic component – is the fruit of a generally instinctive choice. That choice may go against the social and cultural implications that “gender” assumes in a given society, taking the form – in those cases where it can be made manifest – of an expression or interpretation (as free or personal as is permitted) of a specific sexual inclination and/or identity.
Thus, while it cannot be denied that nature, in creating individual human beings, bestows upon them predetermined biological prerogatives, the choice of the way or ways in which we each avail ourselves of those prerogatives is tightly bound up with the expressive and perceptive sphere of our identity. It is therefore subject to anthropopoietic mechanisms, which often orient and/or mould it socially, in the interests of perpetuating a given system and complying with the reproductive mechanisms imposed by biology.
It is to the dialectic between gender and sexual identity that we dedicate this fourth conference subtheme. Firstly, we wish to explore – in those cases where they exist – the dynamics that govern and/or orient, from an ideological standpoint, the cultural construction of sex in society. Secondly, we shall endeavour to examine the forms of resilience, negotiation or resistance that may have been implemented in order to affirm or simply express behavioural and sentimental models that would have been seen as “different” from the norm – or perhaps even, from a prejudicial standpoint, “perverse”, with respect to the socially codified public consensus. With regard to the first of these two topics, we therefore wish to see the focus being placed on cultural and material correlates that allow us to identify forms of social ‘training’ associated with biological gender. These may range from gender performativity to the formulation of specific attributes that accompany and/or determine the structure of a preordained gender identity, and may be achieved through a direct manipulation of the body or through the use of symbols/objects/practices with sexual connotations or implications. We shall seek to focus on those methodological approaches believed to be most appropriate to a relativistic and historically contextualised interpretation of these processes. This is, naturally, the same tactic we must apply to the second proposed topic of this subtheme, whose complementarity with respect to the first is rendered particularly evident by the fact that it is only the ‘short circuits’ noticeable in a real or imagined system that allow us to reconstruct its dynamics and its possible ‘rules’. This only functions, however, on the condition that the ‘interpreter’ is capable of stripping himself of his own cultural categories in order to immerse himself impartially in a reality that may display prejudices or ideologies in contrast with his own or, conversely, be entirely devoid of any such bias or system of ideas, and thus permit behaviours, compulsions and attachments to be expressed free from any social and/or cultural code that might otherwise prevent them.
By looking at things from such a perspective, we hope also to attempt – to the best of our abilities – to understand the individual and private dimension within the bounds of which the processes of discovery and the expression of sexual identities deemed socially divergent are often destined to remain circumscribed – repressed or denied, whether consciously or unconsciously, by those who do not want to accept or admit to their own identities in terms of personal relationships, preferring to deny or disguise them in public.