Before we start off, I want you to try and think of everything you already know about gender. Think about what you’ve been taught by family members, society, or in school. Then, at the end of this article, re-evaluate your knowledge on this and see how much you didn’t know. It’s amazing how much we don’t know about really important things when it’s not a required topic in schools.
So, imagine being trapped inside a dark box that you cannot escape. No room to move, no light to imagine, barely any air to breathe. Sounds horrible, right? This is what the gender binary is like for some people. The gender binary is constructed of two genders: male and female. Inside the gender binary, people’s genders are expected to fit with their birth sex, and conform to society’s archaic traditions for each gender. For example, boys wearing blue or masculine colors, only masculine clothing, and doing masculine things. Now imagine finding a little hole in your box, and starting to break out of it. You emerge from it, and see a world full of possibilities, color, and vibrant life. You can finally breathe. This is what it’s like outside of the gender binary. When you step out of society’s tiny little boxes made for us, you start to feel a little less suffocated. When you open yourself up to the many different possibilities and ideas the world has to offer, you see life in a totally different way.
For the people that step outside of the gender norms this society has created, they are free. This doesn’t only apply to the LGBTQ+ community though, because anytime someone wears or dresses the opposite of how their gender is supposed to dress (according to society), gender norms are being challenged. Gender identity and gender expression are two completely different things. Gender identity is who you are, and there’s a wide variety of genders to choose from. Gender expression is how you dress, or how you express your gender identity. A boy can wear makeup and still be a boy, and he doesn’t have to be gay either. Sexuality also isn’t determined by gender expression.
In the LGBTQ+ community, besides sexualities, there are different gender identities as well. Not included in this community though, is cisgender, which is defined as when ones gender identity matches their birth sex. Transgender is defined as when ones gender identity does not match their birth sex. Non-binary refers to someone whose gender identity doesn’t match their birth sex as well, except non-binary is often described as the absence of gender.
Besides the gender identities that are included within the gender binary, there are many different gender identities that don’t. One of the most common gender identities outside of the gender binary (besides non-binary), is gender fluid. This means that someone could identify as a boy one day, a girl the next, and anything in between. It can fluctuate, and their gender expression may fluctuate with it.
Something that all of the people who do not identify as cisgender have in common is gender dysphoria. Gender dysphoria is when your body doesn’t match how you feel on the inside, and that can cause a lot of emotional distress. You may identify as a boy, but if your body doesn’t look the way a “normal” boy would look, it can take a big toll on someone’s mental health. Gender dysphoria comes from many different things, like your voice, your legs or waist, body hair or lack thereof, and maybe your chest. Gender dysphoria is a daily struggle for a lot of these people, so there have been creations specifically made to help aid in lessening the burden on people. Let me note, that sometimes gender dysphoria never goes away, but over time throughout your transition (transitioning your body to your correct gender through surgery, procedures, or hormone therapy) it might lessen.
In conclusion, gender and gender expression doesn’t have to conform to these old ideals society has set for us. Gender is fluid as well as sexuality. The reason that it’s so important for these topics to be taught in schools, by parents, or different organizations, is that it allows people to more easily figure out who they are, be educated on things pertinent to who they are, and maybe even help educate others in the future as well. I have learned more about sexuality and gender from social media than from school, and to me (and probably countless other people in this community), that is disappointing.