When it comes to gender, things aren’t black and white (or pink and blue).
We all grow up in an extremely gendered society. The world is viewed through the lens of a binary model that categorises everything into two extremes, opposites and complementary.
Think about the endless forms we have to fill in almost every day, which ask questions like “What is your gender?” Either male/man or female/woman, right? What they really mean is: do you have a penis or a vagina?
Most people assume that everyone fits into either of these categories. Anything that deviates is considered abnormal (or not considered at all).
So, let’s get some things straight. At birth, our “sex” is determined by our chromosomes. The appearance of our genitals is the determining factor in deciding our assigned sex. The options are limited to either male or female.
From that moment on, everything around us will impose what is appropriate according to the sex we were assigned at birth. We are constantly reminded that girls and boys should like different colours, clothes, toys, games, and hairstyles and should have different expression, behaviours, as well as different gender roles.
But “gender identity” is not the same as “sex”. Gender identity refers to our internal and individual experience of who we are: male, female, both, or neither.
When someone’s gender identity corresponds with the sex assigned at birth that is called “cisgender”. When someone’s gender identity does not correspond with the sex assigned at birth, that is called “transgender”, or just “trans*” (ie, one word for a variety of identities that are incredibly diverse).
There are many people (like me) who don’t fit into the binary gender model and are still invisible to the rest of the cisnormative community (ie, those whose gender identity corresponds with their biological sex). We suffer from a huge social and psychological burden, and many times physical violence. We are intensely marginalised, excluded, and oppressed. By reducing gender to biological sex we forget that being a woman, a man, both, or neither is way more complex than the body we were born with or what society expects from us.
It’s time to question the kind of education most of us have had about gender and take responsibility for the damage this binary conception of gender causes to our society. We need to unlearn the traditional ideas about gender and relearn that gender diversity is a broad spectrum in which “pink” and “blue”, “male” and “female”, are only two options in a myriad of shades and beautiful colours.
How would you define gender?