Light and dark. Hot and cold. Heroes and villains. Yin and yang. The existence of a binary structure has dominated society in a way that frequently ignores the gray area that exists within the system. When it comes to gender, people typically view others as male or female. What about those who do not identify with either gender?
These individuals often experience gender dysphoria. Gender dysphoria is when people are uncomfortable in their bodies because they feel there is an inconsistency between their sex assigned at birth and the gender they identify with. The sex assigned at birth is based on the reproductive organs a baby possesses, while gender identity is how people view themselves (Parekh, 2016). For instance, someone who was biologically born as male may identify as female. As a result, the person would like to be collectively recognized as female by their peers. Additionally, some individuals identify as genderqueer or nonbinary; they do not strictly identify as male or female (Clements, 2017).
Societal norms are challenged as people find the courage to speak up about global issues such as gender. The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) is an organization established to fight discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people. In 2017, GLAAD performed a national survey in the U.S. called Accelerating Acceptance Index, assessing the sexual orientation and gender identity of Americans by age group. They found that 6% of the 35 to 51 year-olds surveyed and 12% of the 18 to 34 year-olds surveyed do not identify with their biological sex, respectively (Clements, 2017). Open discussions of gender identity have become more common, which may explain the statistical difference between the age groups surveyed. It is refreshing to see increasingly accepting environments where people are more open-minded and willing to have conversations about gender identity that go beyond traditional boundaries.
Michal Jones, who identifies as genderqueer, says, “Today, I describe my gender as genderqueer, but growing up, I had no language or awareness to make sense of what I was feeling about my gender. There is little to no acknowledgement of the gray area between categories and binaries.” Michal, who was born with female reproductive organs, remembers being bullied for wanting to display “masculine” characteristics (Jones 2015). Numerous people, particularly the older generations, follow the social norm that makes the assumption that one’s gender identity matches their assigned sex at birth. This ideology can often discourage genderqueer individuals, such as Michal, from being their authentic selves.
As a society, we have to stop promoting the stereotype that all males are supposed to act masculine and all females are supposed to act feminine. People should not feel restricted by a box that society puts them in. We have to realize that gender identity exists on a spectrum. We have the right to choose where on the spectrum we fall, regardless of physical characteristics. It is also acceptable to fluctuate between feeling masculine and feminine over time. It is essential not to make assumptions about people’s gender identity based solely on their appearance or how they act on a particular day. It does not hurt to ask people what their preferred pronouns are. It is important to treat everyone with sensitivity and kindness, regardless of their gender identity, because they are human, too.
Clements, KC. (2017). What Does It Mean to Identify as Genderqueer? Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/transgender/genderqueer
Jones, Michal. (2015). Coming Out as Genderqueer Non-Binary. Retrieved from https://everydayfeminism.com/2015/04/coming-out-as-genderqueer/
Parekh, Ranna. (2016). What Is Gender Dysphoria? Retrieved from https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/gender-dysphoria/what-is-gender-dysphoria
Ivanov, Alexandr. (2017). Girl Face Colorful. Retrieved from https://pixabay.com/photos/girl-face-colorful-colors-artistic-2696947/