It is very common for many people to use the words “sex” and “gender” interchangeably. Strictly speaking, “sex” refers to biological aspects of one’s physical body. Whereas, “gender” refers to culturally accepted ways of expressing the sex of your body. Interchangeably using the words sex and gender only works if you and everyone you know is “straight” or “cis-gender”.
[“Cis” is the Latin prefix meaning “on the same side of”. Cis-gender is the antonym of “trans-gender”, “trans” meaning “beyond or across from”].
Cis-gender people [commonly thought of as ‘normal’] naturally conform to the established or enculturated gendered ways of living, working, dressing and loving. The cis-females dress, work and love as “enculturated women”, and the cis-males, dress, work and love as “enculturated men”. On the other hand, if you or people you know – if they live, or work, or dress, or love, beyond the bounds of these enculturated “straight gender roles”, then the biological sex of their bodies may not conform to “normal” gender roles and behaviors of living, working dressing and loving. In other words, they are, in one way or another, “trans-gender”. They are living beyond the enculturated “cis or straight-gender roles. They are living beyond the bounds of “normal”.
Today on Facebook, one can find over 56 different self-defined gender catagories. Facebook is a self-defining arena and individually people are following their hearts, their hormones, their instincts and their preferences, and allowing all of these to inform themselves about who they are on the inside, and how they are wanting to live their lives on the outside. From this highly personal and highly individual place, they are creating their own space in which they know and understand who they are inside their being, and they are using that inner experience to determine how they want to show-up outside in the world around them.
Simply put: “I am who I say I am.”
‘I am who I say I am’, can be perceived by some as a very radical statement. “You can’t just claim you are a woman, when you were clearly born into and live in a male body”. On the other hand, ‘I am who I say I am’, is also an epitome of individual freedom, and individual freedom is a keystone value of our democratic society and culture. What can be more elemental than the freedom to follow and live One’s felt inner sense of personal identity? You were born with a uterus and vagina and you want to be an astronaut and explore outer space? Go for it! You were born with testicles and a penis and you want to be a high fashion model? Go for it! You have big bones and lots of body hair and you feel most at home wearing a slinky silky skirt and full length hose? Go for it! The freedom to be who we feel inside we are called to be is fundamental to our sense of happiness and well being, both socially on the outside, and spiritually on the inside.
The value of personal freedom is so high in our democracy that it is morally difficult for society to say, “You cannot live, dress, work or love the way that feels natural to you. Instead you must live, dress, work and love in a way that feels “unnatural” to you, because we believe it is “normal”. The reality is, “normal” simply describes a statistical tendency for more things to be alike than different. But everything that is described as normal, is always accompanied by a smaller group of outliers on either side of normal. These outliers also inherently belong to the group, even though they are naturally and normally some what different from most members of the group. Their difference is normal. It is normal for every normal group to have non-normal outliers.
The ability of each of us to respond to our inner calling of who we experience our selves to be is essential to our experience of personal happiness and spiritual fulfillment. Simply put: You have the freedom to be who you are. And you are who you say you are. It is radical, and it is also true!
The following table may be helpful as one way of understanding the various ingredients or components comprises one’s gender identity. This model shows 8 aspects, 4 of which are external and observable, and 4 of which are internal and not publically visible, but rather a part of one’s inner experience of themselves. The subtitles in [italics] help describe the 8 aspects.
Gender ID Card
8 aspects of gender identity
(adapted from TrueChild.com)
|External Observable||Internal Experience|
|Biological Sex [Female or Male]||Gender Identity [feel inside like a Woman or Man]|
|Gender Traits [Bone Size/Body Hair]||Gender Expression [naturally prefer and express Masculine or Feminine movements, postures, dress, work]|
|Gender Roles [Preferred work roles / e.g. Wears the “pants” in family]||Affectional Preference [Cis/Gay\Lesb/Bi]|
|Culture’s Gender Story [Culture Says: “This is who you are”.]||Your Gender Story [You Say: “This is who I am”.]|
Some may say this list is overwhelming and too complex. Others may say it is incomplete to describe who they know themselves to be. My hope is it is helpful to many.
written by REDHEART