The Gender and Sexuality Spectrums 101 (Part 1)

September 4, 2015 Written By Rohini Banerjee

To many, the terms ‘gender’ and ‘sex’ are interchangeable. The terms are so common that they are rarely contested, and yet, it is extremely important to know how drastically different the two are.

Image Source

Sex is biological, in other words, it is defined by physical attributes such as external genitalia, sex chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, and internal reproductive structures. At birth, these are the biological factors that designate whether or not one is ‘male’ or ‘female’ (my use of quotation marks here are deliberate, since I believe these two terms are amorphous, indefinite identities).

Gender, however, is much more complex, and most importantly, is not limited to male/female binaries. It is the complicated interrelationship between an individual’s sex (gender biology), one’s internal sense of self as male, female, both or neither (gender identity) as well as one’s outward presentations and behaviors (gender expression) including their gender role. It is the intermingling of these three aspects that produces one’s sense and experience of gender.
The most significant misconception that needs to be contested here, is the perception of gender as a binary concept, with two rigid markers- that of ‘male’ and ‘female’. There are multiple ways of defining gender beyond one’s anatomy, and there is a whole array of gender identities out there. In fact, possibilities of gender identities are endless, as gender norms are patriarchal constructions. Here, I lay out the most common gender identities that exist: (again, a disclaimer, there are endless ways of defining gender, these are just a few commonly used ones. Even if you don’t relate to any of the gender identities laid out here, don’t be discouraged, keep searching and you’ll find a pronoun that you belong to)

Cisgender: The term ‘cisgender’ refers to people whose sex assignment at birth corresponds to their gender identity and expression. For example, if you have been designated female at birth and consider yourself female, both physically, behaviourally and in terms of gender expression, then you’re cis female.

Transgender: ‘Transgender’ is an umbrella term that can potentially cover all people who transcend or go beyond the limits of society’s rules and concepts of gender, and/or whose sex assignment at birth does not correspond to their gender identity. People may be transgender due to their self expression, identity or personal history. Popular celebrities who have come out as transgender are: Caitlyn Jenner, Laverne Cox, Jamie Clayton, Bethany Black, Conchita Wurst, Ian Harvie to name a few. Under ‘transgender’, the following subcategories can exist (though are not limited to)

  1. Transmasculine: Transmasculine is a term used to describe transgender people who were assigned female at birth, but identify with masculinity to a greater extent than with femininity. This includes trans men, but can also refer to someone with a non-binary gender who views themselves as significantly masculine (such as demiguys). Although they have masculine gender identities, transmasculine people may prefer not to conform to stereotypical masculine gender expression or gender roles.
  2. Transfeminine: Transfeminine is a term used to describe transgender people who were assigned male at birth, but identify with femininity to a greater extent than with masculinity. This includes trans women, but transfeminine can also describe someone with a non-binary gender who views themselves as significantly feminine, such as demigirls. Although they have feminine gender identities, transfeminine people may prefer not to conform to stereotypical feminine gender expression or gender roles
  3. Transsexual: A transgender person who may undergo medical treatments to change their biological sex, often times to align it with their gender identity, or they may live their lives as another sex. [Important: Not all trans people choose to undergo medical or hormonal sex change treatment. One should respect their personal choices to do either]

Trans identities are not limited to the above, and can include a whole range of different gender identities. One should respect the gender pronouns, names, and identities trans people choose for themselves.

  • Nonbinary: A nonbinary person does not prescribe to any fixed gender identity. They often use genderneutral pronouns, and reject pre-existing gendered behavorial norms. Ruby Rose is a popular nonbinary celebrity.
  • Agender: Can be seen as an offshoot or add-on to the term ‘nonbinary’, it is used to describe a person without gender. This person can be any physical sex, but their body does not necessarily correspond with their lack of gender identity.
  • Genderfluid: Umbrella term used for persons who move between multiple genders and do not identify with a single gender identity.Their gender identity often changes with time, or they exhibit multiple gender identities at once. A person who identifies with two genders simultaneously is termed Bigender, and a person who identifies with more than two genders is termed Pangender. Those who identify partially as both genders is known as Demigender, and a person whose gender identity is between genders is called Intergender. Jaden Smith famously exhibits genderfluid behaviour, often wearing heels and makeup. Actor Ezra Miller came out as genderfluid a couple of years back and prefers to use they/them pronouns.
  • Intersex: A person whose sexual anatomy or chromosomes do not fit with the traditional markers of “female” and “male.” For example: people born with both “female” and “male” anatomy (penis, testicles, vagina, uterus); people born with XXY. Eden Atwood is an intersex American actor and jazz musician.
  • Genderqueer is a catch-all category for gender identities that are not exclusively masculine or feminine—identities which are thus outside of the gender binary and cisnormativity. Genderqueer people may identify as one or more of the following:
  1. having an overlap of, or indefinite lines between, gender identity
  2. having two or more genders (being bigender, trigender, or pangender);
  3. having no gender (being agender, nongendered, genderless, genderfree or neutrois);
  4. moving between genders or having a fluctuating gender identity (genderfluid); or
  5. being third-gender or other-gendered, a category which includes those who do not place a name to their gender.

 

The Gender and Sexuality Spectrums 101 (Part 1)

September 4, 2015 Written By Rohini Banerjee

To many, the terms ‘gender’ and ‘sex’ are interchangeable. The terms are so common that they are rarely contested, and yet, it is extremely important to know how drastically different the two are.

Image Source

Sex is biological, in other words, it is defined by physical attributes such as external genitalia, sex chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, and internal reproductive structures. At birth, these are the biological factors that designate whether or not one is ‘male’ or ‘female’ (my use of quotation marks here are deliberate, since I believe these two terms are amorphous, indefinite identities).

Gender, however, is much more complex, and most importantly, is not limited to male/female binaries. It is the complicated interrelationship between an individual’s sex (gender biology), one’s internal sense of self as male, female, both or neither (gender identity) as well as one’s outward presentations and behaviors (gender expression) including their gender role. It is the intermingling of these three aspects that produces one’s sense and experience of gender.
The most significant misconception that needs to be contested here, is the perception of gender as a binary concept, with two rigid markers- that of ‘male’ and ‘female’. There are multiple ways of defining gender beyond one’s anatomy, and there is a whole array of gender identities out there. In fact, possibilities of gender identities are endless, as gender norms are patriarchal constructions. Here, I lay out the most common gender identities that exist: (again, a disclaimer, there are endless ways of defining gender, these are just a few commonly used ones. Even if you don’t relate to any of the gender identities laid out here, don’t be discouraged, keep searching and you’ll find a pronoun that you belong to)

Cisgender: The term ‘cisgender’ refers to people whose sex assignment at birth corresponds to their gender identity and expression. For example, if you have been designated female at birth and consider yourself female, both physically, behaviourally and in terms of gender expression, then you’re cis female.

Transgender: ‘Transgender’ is an umbrella term that can potentially cover all people who transcend or go beyond the limits of society’s rules and concepts of gender, and/or whose sex assignment at birth does not correspond to their gender identity. People may be transgender due to their self expression, identity or personal history. Popular celebrities who have come out as transgender are: Caitlyn Jenner, Laverne Cox, Jamie Clayton, Bethany Black, Conchita Wurst, Ian Harvie to name a few. Under ‘transgender’, the following subcategories can exist (though are not limited to)

  1. Transmasculine: Transmasculine is a term used to describe transgender people who were assigned female at birth, but identify with masculinity to a greater extent than with femininity. This includes trans men, but can also refer to someone with a non-binary gender who views themselves as significantly masculine (such as demiguys). Although they have masculine gender identities, transmasculine people may prefer not to conform to stereotypical masculine gender expression or gender roles.
  2. Transfeminine: Transfeminine is a term used to describe transgender people who were assigned male at birth, but identify with femininity to a greater extent than with masculinity. This includes trans women, but transfeminine can also describe someone with a non-binary gender who views themselves as significantly feminine, such as demigirls. Although they have feminine gender identities, transfeminine people may prefer not to conform to stereotypical feminine gender expression or gender roles
  3. Transsexual: A transgender person who may undergo medical treatments to change their biological sex, often times to align it with their gender identity, or they may live their lives as another sex. [Important: Not all trans people choose to undergo medical or hormonal sex change treatment. One should respect their personal choices to do either]

Trans identities are not limited to the above, and can include a whole range of different gender identities. One should respect the gender pronouns, names, and identities trans people choose for themselves.

  • Nonbinary: A nonbinary person does not prescribe to any fixed gender identity. They often use genderneutral pronouns, and reject pre-existing gendered behavorial norms. Ruby Rose is a popular nonbinary celebrity.
  • Agender: Can be seen as an offshoot or add-on to the term ‘nonbinary’, it is used to describe a person without gender. This person can be any physical sex, but their body does not necessarily correspond with their lack of gender identity.
  • Genderfluid: Umbrella term used for persons who move between multiple genders and do not identify with a single gender identity.Their gender identity often changes with time, or they exhibit multiple gender identities at once. A person who identifies with two genders simultaneously is termed Bigender, and a person who identifies with more than two genders is termed Pangender. Those who identify partially as both genders is known as Demigender, and a person whose gender identity is between genders is called Intergender. Jaden Smith famously exhibits genderfluid behaviour, often wearing heels and makeup. Actor Ezra Miller came out as genderfluid a couple of years back and prefers to use they/them pronouns.
  • Intersex: A person whose sexual anatomy or chromosomes do not fit with the traditional markers of “female” and “male.” For example: people born with both “female” and “male” anatomy (penis, testicles, vagina, uterus); people born with XXY. Eden Atwood is an intersex American actor and jazz musician.
  • Genderqueer is a catch-all category for gender identities that are not exclusively masculine or feminine—identities which are thus outside of the gender binary and cisnormativity. Genderqueer people may identify as one or more of the following:
  1. having an overlap of, or indefinite lines between, gender identity
  2. having two or more genders (being bigender, trigender, or pangender);
  3. having no gender (being agender, nongendered, genderless, genderfree or neutrois);
  4. moving between genders or having a fluctuating gender identity (genderfluid); or
  5. being third-gender or other-gendered, a category which includes those who do not place a name to their gender.

 

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