In life we all have certain roles and responsibilities. There are expectations that are thrust upon us from the moment we are born, maybe even sooner. Some of these expectations are societal and based on our gender. Gender often is assumed to be linked directly to whatever gear we are packing in our pants (penis or vulva). Gender has become such a tool for stereotyping that some people reject the construct of gender all together.
As we examine gender I want to look at three different parts and the language we use to describe where people are within each.
The first is how we talk about if our gender aligns with the sex we were assigned at birth. As we learned in the post about sex, the sex we are assigned at birth is not always an accurate representation of our makeup. If we identify our gender as aligning with the sex we were assigned at birth the prefix ‘cis-‘ is used. If our gender does not align with the gender we were assigned at birth the prefix ‘trans-‘ is used.
Next let’s look out how we identify. For this post I will specifically be using the gender stereotypes that are perpetuated in mainstream American culture and start by looking at the binary genders of male and female. (Note- these stereotypes do not necessarily align with my personal beliefs on gender roles.)
Males are strong and powerful leaders. They are assertive and dominate in nature. They have high levels of competition and low levels of emotional expression.
Females are nurturing care givers. They are compassionate and expressive. Their value their roles as parent and partner and maintaining physical attractiveness.
What if a person’s gender does not fall into one of these two (binary) categories? Some of these terms provide overlap (much like man and male) allowing for variation in speech and preference in label.
Nonbinary people have a gender that falls outside the binary of male/female, or rejecting the concept of gender.
Agender individuals identify as not having a gender.
Bigender people have a mix of two genders.
Those who are gender fluid have a gender identity that changes through time.
Gender nonconforming people express their gender in a way that does not match societies expectations for their gender.
A genderqueer person has a gender that falls outside the gender binary of male/female.
Pangender individuals are those having a gender made of a number of genders.
The way we identify speaks to the way in which we think or our psychological gender. This does not mean that we share all of the stereotypical values of our gender but align the closest with them. Aside from how you identify your gender, there is also how you express your gender. Gender is expressed through levels of masculinity and femineity. Our expression can be seen in the way we act, dress, speak, and more. Masculinity tends to more stereotypically male. Things that are seen as masculine could be wearing pants, having physical strength, athletic ability, skilled with tools, independence, etc. While, femineity is generally associated with stereotypical women. These things may be wearing makeup, styled hair, wearing skirts or dresses, being crafty, emotionally expressive, etc. Gender can also be expressed in the way that we walk, our speech patterns and even word choices.
I hope that this brief leap into gender helps to open the way people think about gender and all the ways it is impacted from our assigned sex to our identity and our expression. All of the topic that we are tackling in the series are much more complex than can be fully explored in a single post. For resources, references and to learn more click here.