Gender is a spectrum: Fluidity, Identity and Expression

For much of our lives, we’ve been taught that your gender is decided based on what’s between your legs and the chromosomes flowing through your cells – but that is simply not correct! All identities exist on a spectrum and sometimes those identities don’t match up with physical sex. While you may have learned that there are two genders – male and female – we’re here to give you a primer on the spectrum of gender, identity and expression.

The most important thing to note is that the gender spectrum is not a new concept. In ancient Hindu laws and texts, there were references to a third gender; Indigenous groups around the world have had terms and roles for ‘third gender’ individuals; and transgender individuals have been recorded throughout much of history. However, with the introduction of Euro-centric and religious gender norms, these identities and terms fell into darkness.

Now, let’s get into the differences between sex, gender, expression and identity with the help of the Genderbread Person 4.0 – a resource created to help everyone learn more about gender.

A diagram showing the difference between identity, expression, attraction and sex

Sex – this is what most people think correlates to gender. The sex a person is assigned at birth has to do with their genitalia. In traditional thinking, having a penis means you’re male/a man/masculine; having a vagina means you are female/a woman/ feminine. However, there is no reason these need to correlate! People who are intersex, for example, may present with more masculine genitalia while identifying as female. People whose gender identity matches with their sex assigned at birth are often referred to as cisgender.

Identity – this is how you think of yourself, regardless of your assigned sex. Some people identify with ‘traditional’ feminine or masculine identities, and yet others fall somewhere in between or beyond that spectrum. Non-binary or genderqueer folks, for example, will sometimes use genderless pronouns to make their distinction from the binary clear. These are all valid identities and absolutely need to be respected as such.

Expression – this is how people express their identity. There are expressions that fall into traditionally masculine or feminine identities, like clothing, hairstyles, makeup, etc. As society challenges the ideas of traditional gender identities, however, more and more people are doing what makes them happy without regard for where on the traditional gender spectrum their expression lies.

Attraction – this is who you are attracted to and has nothing to do with your own gender. People of any and all genders can be attracted to anyone else!

Simply put, there are many different ways for people to identify and express their gender – and there is space for all identities on The PRSNLS! Sign up, get down, and respect others – it’s that easy.

 

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