Thursday, February 19, 2015

Identity is Colorful and Complex

Infinite ways to identify!
When you were born, your parents probably determined your gender by what was between your legs. Vagina equals girl and penis equals boy - seems pretty simple. And with that, they envisioned what your life would be like, who you would aspire to be later down the road, all based on your gender. That was the norm when both you and I were born; society views gender in a very dualistic
way. What if I told you gender identity is more complex then the binaries we have been fed? This is a topic that is becoming more prevalent in our society at large and a topic I analyze every single day of my life.  Gender is so more than examining your anatomy and declaring, "looks like I'm a girl!".  Gender identity is how an individual perceives themselves based on their intuition (feelings).  On the other hand, sex assigned at birth or biological sex refers to objectively measurable organs, chromosomes, and hormones: female, male, or somewhere in between.  Gender and sex are different but can influence each other.  One person, much like myself, can be born as a female and also feel girly and feminine (cisgender). Another person could be born male and not feel purely feminine or purely masculine.  This is called Genderqueer or gender fluid.

As our lovely Genderbread person shows, gender identity, expression (how one presents their gender to the world), sex, and sexual orientation are separate and unique.  It is true that they could potentially influence one another as well. Gender identity is unique to every single one of us. It has the potential to sync with our other identities or not, giving as all infinite ways to perceive ourselves, either changing or staying fixed. Pluralistic by nature, all gender identities should be celebrated and recognized; University of Vermont is doing both by allowing all students to have control over their identity. There is much progress that has been made yet we have miles left to go.

All of these identities come on a spectrum that makes our binary-comfortable society shriek in confusion.  The end result is discrimination, both legally and socially, and violence toward people who do not fit in to the cookie cutter ideals that society has placed on them.  So far in 2015, there have been 6 (and counting) reported murders of trans* women and gender non-conforming people in the United States.  During this time last year, there were none reported so early into the year.  There is progress that still has to be made even in a comparatively progressive culture like our own; this is a critical pluralistic issue worth talking about and fighting for

 *Trans or Transgender refers to an individual who feels that they do not identify with their sex assigned at birth or gender thus identifying as the opposite gender.


  1. Great! I always feel like I am coming home when I read your posts. And if you started a blog of your own, I would surely subscribe...hmmm...something to consider? I am intrigued that Women's Studies isn't one of your disciplines, and that may be because it is already interdisciplinary, so you might be breaking it down into the parts you have above? But certainly the feminist analytical lens is one that would be worth a specific mention here, since it is what allows you to question that binary to begin with, I think. Great work here!

  2. I have seen the Gingerbread person before. It was so interesting and eye opening to view as well as to hear what you researched in the disciplines. This would be an interesting topic to discuss further! I enjoyed your approach of breaking this topic down in your writing.

  3. This is really awesome, and I love the gingerbread. It's also interesting because with my psychology discipline we talked about gender identity and I think it's a really important issue.
    The school also held a Q&A about it that I attended. The members of the panel were all of those who were transwomen, transmen, genderqueer, and even those who were bisexual and homosexual. It was clear to see that society is much more accepting now because most of the younger panel members had happier stories, but the oldest member did not.
    She had been born as a male and all of her life hid how she felt, but when she finally did come out, she lost most of her family; even her children won't talk to her anymore.
    It was heartbreaking to hear that people would stop talking to one they loved just because they changed their gender identity. That is nothing to be ashamed of, nor should it be treated like a sin.
    Hopefully as more time passes, this is no longer an issue and becomes what we consider a norm of society.
    Great job!

  4. This is awesome! I love how you broke it down with your Genderbread person, this is such an awesome subject its hard to not be attracted to your work. I'm really struck by the number of murders that have occurred this year, its really heartbreaking when someone is scrutinized or even murdered for trying to express themselves how they truly feel themselves to be. Have you seen the recent articles about Facebooks new gender options? Certainly a step in the right direction, and honestly its about time that we have more than one gender option. Even the native american people had a name for people who were different and it was called two-spirit. We need to get over the societal norms and start thinking more inter disciplinarily --lol is that a word... anyways here is a link! (:

  5. Kelsey, I am so glad you posted the gingerbread person! I feel that more people should be exposed to it because it seems to really click with people, who may not understand the difference between gender expression, gender identity, sex, and sexual orientation. In Australia, people can now have an "X" on their passports instead of "M" for male and "F" for female. The "X" stands for people who identify themselves as gender indeterminate or if they had been identified as gender indeterminate on their birth certificate. That is a huge step for people who do not identify as either gender and can make them feel more comfortable on legal documents, instead of forcing them to choose male or female. I hope the U.S. starts to follow in Australia's footsteps and gives individuals the choice to identify themselves outside of our binary options of male and female.

  6. What a great post! I love the genderbread person graphic that you included in your post! It's a great visual aid to use to really drive your points home. I also think you did a great job of breaking this topic down into multiple disciplines. I especially enjoy that you included education as one of your disciplines!! Additionally, I want to commend you on the authenticity in your writing; you do an exceptional job in making your writing sound like 100% you (and in a way that makes it easy for everyone to understand what you're saying). It's clear that this is a topic that you are very passionate about. You will do a wonderful job teaching this generation, and the generations to follow, all about gender studies and identity!!!

  7. I really like your insight on what perspectives to take regarding gender in contemporary society. Stigma regarding this topic is something that is always evolving and for the better with people like Laverne Cox and Chaz Bono. I'm glad you brought this subject up because it should be discussed and is completely relevant to many lives including my own. A few of my friends are actually going through the transition process and I am so grateful that they are becoming who they feel they've always been. I found a quick video with Laverne Cox and bell hooks if you're interested in watching!