Updated: Jun 10
In a world where understanding and embracing diversity is paramount, discussions surrounding gender and sex have become increasingly important. The traditional notions of gender and sex are evolving, challenging societal norms and shedding light on the beautiful spectrum of human identity. In this article, we will explore the concepts of gender and sex, debunk common myths, and highlight the significance of inclusivity and acceptance.
Gender: Moving Beyond Binary Boundaries
Traditionally, gender has been viewed as a binary construct, with male and female as the only options. However, this binary perspective fails to acknowledge the rich tapestry of human experiences. Gender is now recognized as a multifaceted concept that extends beyond the constraints of the binary. It encompasses a broad range of identities, including but not limited to cisgender, transgender, non-binary, genderqueer, and genderfluid.
\While gender refers to one's personal identity, sex is commonly associated with biological characteristics such as reproductive organs and chromosomes. However, even this seemingly straightforward concept is not as clear-cut as it appears. Intersex individuals, who possess a combination of male and female biological traits, remind us that the spectrum of sex is diverse and defies simplistic categorization.
Society has long perpetuated stereotypes and rigid expectations based on gender and sex. These harmful stereotypes limit personal expression and can lead to discrimination and marginalization. It is crucial to challenge these stereotypes and foster an environment that celebrates individuality. By breaking down gender norms, we create a more inclusive society that allows people to express themselves authentically, free from judgment or prejudice.
Sexuality and Gender Identity:
Sexuality and gender identity are distinct aspects of a person's identity. Sexual orientation refers to an individual's emotional, romantic, and sexual attraction, while gender identity pertains to one's internal sense of being male, female, or beyond the binary. It is important to recognize that gender identity does not dictate sexual orientation, as individuals of any gender identity can identify as heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, or any other sexual orientation.
The Importance of Inclusivity:
Inclusivity is the cornerstone of a compassionate society. By embracing diversity in gender and sex, we create an environment that is safe and affirming for all individuals. Inclusive spaces, both in education and society at large, allow people to explore their identity, express themselves authentically, and access the support they need. It is essential for schools, workplaces, healthcare systems, and other institutions to adopt inclusive policies and practices that respect and accommodate individuals of all gender identities and expressions.
Education and Advocacy: Education plays a pivotal role in promoting understanding and acceptance. By integrating comprehensive and inclusive sexuality education into school curricula, we empower young people with accurate information about gender, sex, and relationships. Furthermore, advocacy and awareness campaigns help to challenge social stigmas and provide resources and support for those navigating their gender and sexual identity journeys.
Gender around the globe and throughout history:
Gender as we know it is a social construct, and has not always been binary as modern western culture has us believe. In fact multiple genders have long been revered and celebrated, with some cultures having up to 5 different expression of gender!
In the Navajo culture, a person who feels that they are both "boy' and 'girl' are recognized and revered as nádleehí. Meanwhile, in Hawaiian culture, those who embody both male and female spirit are known as mahu, and are also highly respected.
There are countless examples of many different variations of expression of gender across the globe that you can learn more about here if you feel resistance or judgement to this expression of life to gain a better understanding.
The Binary in the West:
The concept of gender being binary in the Western world has a complex and varied history. It is important to note that gender norms and expectations have differed across cultures and time periods, and the understanding of gender has evolved over centuries. While it is challenging to pinpoint an exact moment when the binary understanding of gender emerged in the West, we can explore some significant historical factors that contributed to this development.
Judeo-Christian Influences: The Judeo-Christian traditions, particularly the creation story in the Book of Genesis, have influenced Western perceptions of gender. The binary concept of male and female, as depicted in the story of Adam and Eve, has been influential in shaping societal norms and expectations around gender roles.
Social and Cultural Factors: Throughout history, societies have often established binary gender roles as a way to organize social structures and maintain power dynamics. In many Western societies, a patriarchal system has prevailed, with men typically holding positions of power and women being assigned roles centered around domesticity and caretaking.
Scientific and Medical Influences: In the 19th and early 20th centuries, Western scientific and medical fields began to study human sexuality and gender from a more empirical perspective. This period saw the rise of sexology and the development of theories that attempted to categorize individuals into binary sex and gender classifications.
Legal and Social Institutions: The legal and social institutions in Western societies have historically reinforced the binary understanding of gender. Government documents, such as birth certificates and identification cards, have typically required individuals to be categorized as either male or female, reinforcing the notion that gender is strictly binary.
It is important to acknowledge that gender has not always been understood as binary in all Western cultures throughout history. There have been instances of recognition and acceptance of non-binary and gender-diverse individuals in different societies and time periods, although these have often been marginalized or erased from historical narratives.
In recent decades, there has been a growing recognition and acceptance of gender diversity and non-binary identities in Western societies. Activism, social movements, and increased understanding of gender as a spectrum have challenged the traditional binary model and have led to greater inclusivity and acceptance for individuals who do not fit within traditional gender norms.
It is crucial to continue questioning and challenging the binary understanding of gender, promoting inclusivity, and creating spaces where all individuals can express their gender identities authentically.
A culture that only recognises two genders is so harmful for the human family as a whole, though especially for those who do not fit into these binary norms. As we have seen within other cultures and throughout history we had the freedom to express different aspects of our masculinity and femininity. Our modern western culture has oppressed this expression of self heavily, in some areas more so than others (that’s another topic).
If you meet someone who is not cic-gender (cis-gender meaning that a person feels comfortable with the gender they were assigned at birth), you can say things like "my pronouns are she/her/hers, what are yours?"
If you get it wrong simply apologise and correct yourself.
You may find that some people do not use he or she pronouns, which are a part of the binary model, and instead use they/them pronouns, which out outside the binary model and can therefore mean a variety of gender expressions. It can be confusing at first (just like anything that is new to us) however, if we put the effort in to use these terms correctly it becomes much easier. Also, it may come easier to you than you think, as we use they/them pronouns for a singular person all the time! Where are they? What is their name? Where are they from? are all examples of how we use they them for singulars (as well as plurals).
If you feel confused about terms regarding the sex of a person you can use the term AFAB (assigned female at birth) and AMAB (assigned male at birth.
Unfortunately in the fight for equality/equity, there are people who spread a lot of hate, and misinformation on both sides of the fight. I highly recommend to find people to learn and grow from who approach this topic from a centered and loving space.
While we must remain firm in our fight for equality, it does not need to come at the cost of the happiness of others, as can be seen with TERFS (trans exclusionary radical feminists), as well as with people who label someone as a TERF or transphobe who is not at all transphobic.
People that I really admire who speak on the topic are:
Alexis Blake (she/her) @alexis_blake00 on instagram (those are zeros on the end of that handle)
Mac Letelier (she/they) @inclusivesexcoach on insta
Sarah Kate Smigiel (they/the) @justsaysk on insta
The Trans Yoga Project @transyogaproject on insta
Tristan Katz (they/he) @tristankatzcreative on insta
In an ever-evolving world, our understanding of gender and sex continues to expand and challenge preconceived notions. It is imperative that we recognize the complexity and diversity within these realms and move towards a society that celebrates and embraces individuals of all gender identities and expressions. By breaking free from stereotypes and fostering inclusivity, we create a world where everyone can thrive and express their authentic selves. Let us champion this journey towards acceptance and understanding, together.
Remember, love knows no boundaries and respecting each other's identities is the key to a more inclusive and compassionate world.2