I am creating this post because people ask me questions about the construct of gender every day and it seems like it would be helpful to point them in the direction of a (hopefully) easy-to-understand document about gender. I feel that asking questions is a good thing and that one of the reasons gender is so misunderstood in our present culture in the United States is because no one asks questions! If we all accept the status quo, then we cannot evolve. So there.
Therefore, this is my attempt to break down the construct of gender to the best of my abilities.
1. GENDER DOES NOT EXIST ON A BINARY
What does that mean?
Man and woman are gender constructs that exist on opposite ends of a linear spectrum. For some reason we have built our culture around the erroneous belief that these are the only two expressions of gender even though non-binary gender identities have been a part of human experience for as long as humans have existed. Seriously. Look it up.
2. GENDER IS MULTI-FACETED AND COMPLEX
How do I know? My gender is multi-faceted and complex and I know who I am. I mostly identify as genderqueerfluid but I know people who identify as third gender, genderqueer, two-spirit, agender, pangender and a myriad of other gender identities and expressions and I believe that they also know who they are. I am shocked by the number of people who say that we are confused or kidding ourselves or freaks. How come no one questions my identity as a choreographer? What if most people in my life said, “Well, I’ve never met another choreographer and I really see you as an accountant so I am just going to talk to you as if you’re an accountant.”
The above example is absurd, right? And yet the same thing is happening every time a transgender person comes out to their family and family members say “well, we still see you as [insert the wrong gender] and so we’re going to continue to use the wrong pronouns.”
3. CISGENDER VS TRANSGENDER
Cisgender: People who identify with the gender they were assigned at birth; if you were assigned “girl” and identify as woman you are cisgender.
Transgender: People who do not identify as the gender they were assigned at birth.
Binary trans identities: Some trans people are assigned “girl” and identify as “boy” or vice versa; they still have binary gender identities. Man or woman. That’s it. Binary = two.
Non-binary trans identities: No identification with EITHER man or woman. I was assigned “girl” at birth but am genderqueer or gender fluid or genderqueerfluid. I use they/their/them pronouns.
I AM NOT A WOMAN
MY PRONOUNS ARE NOT A “preference” THEY ARE MY PRONOUNS
It seems that we should stop assigning genders at birth and rather let people figure it out as they grow up. If we want to proclaim something at birth we could say “This one has a vagina!” Or “I see a penis!” Or better still, “Fingers! Intelligence! Soul!”
I am not an expert. But I witness and experience discrimination every day because I am queer and trans so I feel called to be vocal about gender, sexuality, heteronormativity, privilege, and social injustice. I invite comments and questions. I invite discomfort and growth. I invite the unfolding of something big and spectacular.
For more information, I invite readers to check out Beit Gorski’s website. Xe IS an expert (and an awesome educator to boot) http://www.beitgorski.com