Dimensions of Gender


A non-binary student at Adventure Stem. Photo Credit: Eli Stahl

Eli Stahl, Reporter

What is gender? Is it being male or female? Is it using he/him or she/her pronouns? Gender is all of these things and more. It’s made up of three basic parts: body, expression, and identity. Each of these parts are crucial to how the world sees you and how you see yourself. Body is your sex, classified at birth and based solely off of your reproductive organs. There are three basic classifications: male, female, and intersex (meaning a mix of male and female). The body aspect of gender isn’t all that complicated. It’s more the mental aspect that can get confusing.

First, gender identity: explained simply, is how you see your gender–boy, girl, genderfluid, agender, etc. Many people believe that gender identity can be controlled or changed by use of therapies and other bad, sometimes severely harmful, things. This is only partially true. Gender identity can be influenced by other people, but not changed. Your gender identity is yours alone.

I’m genderfluid, but I haven’t come out because I don’t think anyone would believe me.”

— Anonymous

Gender identity, while it is very hard to influence, actually has the strongest impact on gender expression. As you can probably guess from the name, gender expression is how you express your gender, the pronouns you use, how you dress, and how you act. While gender expression is very important, it is also very difficult. If a cisgender boy wants to wear a dress, it is not likely that society will easily accept that and still think of him as cis.

Cisgender, as used above, describes a person that complies with their birth-given sex. It is just one of many different terms for genders. Some others are: transgender, meaning a person who switched from their birth gender to the opposite; gender fluid, which means a person who switches back and forth; bigender, a person who is two genders at once; and agender, someone who identifies with no gender. Often people who are agender will use pronouns such as they/them. While all these genders exist, the most common genders are cis boy/girl. The idea that these are the only genders is called the gender binary. Anyone who doesn’t identify as boy/girl is non-binary, meaning not part of the gender binary.

A mistake that’s often made is that gender and sexual orientation are the same thing. While they can be related, gender and sexual orientation are very different. Gender is personal, it’s how you see yourself. Sexual orientation is interpersonal, “who we are physically, emotionally and/or romantically attracted to” as stated by an article on www.genderspectrum.org.

Gender diversity has existed for centuries, going back as far as far as we can see. You can find it all over the world, and in some places, gender isn’t even a concept they use. It makes me wonder how, here, in America, there can possibly be so much hatred. There are infinite ways to feel about your gender, and they can never be put into boxes.