Cognitive dimensions of way-finding: the implications of habitus, safety, and gender dissonance among gay and lesbian populations
This paper critiques the proposition that way-finding strategies can be differentiated by sex. We argue that way-finding is better understood as a function of gender differences where gender is understood as a lived social relation, a product of the interaction between an embodied habitus and a particular social field. The use of survey versus landmark way-finding strategies is linked to an individual’s gendered experiences of urban life. The study examines way-finding strategies from a sample of 127 gay men and lesbians from the Tallahassee, Florida metropolitan region to explore urban habitation patterns. We find that different way-finding strategies (most commonly a survey or landmark approach) are influenced by the habitus and gendered experiences of fear and anxiety in urban areas. Both bivariate and multivariate analyses suggest that individuals who perceive that their own gender presentation violates gender norms (gender dissonance) experience higher levels of social sanctions (harassment, hostility, and discrimination). In multivariate analysis, the study finds that gender-dissonant men tend to navigate using the landmark way-finding approach usually associated with women, whereas gender-dissonant women navigate using the survey way-finding approach usually associated with men.
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