Coming to the closing months of 2017, the topic of gender has become one discussed regularly. Singers, writers, actors, and anyone with a blog or Twitter have been allowing the gender spectrum to finally be allowed to step into the lime light. What exactly is gender? Does it even really exist? Or is this a concept that has expired? These questions have recently begun to nibble on the minds of more and more people. Even though gender has been discussed, written about, or heard in music, there is still very little education on this topic.
To begin, there is a question that is still being ignored. A question as simple as “what are your pronouns?”. As humans, we have conscious and subconscious thoughts. When meeting someone new or passing anyone on the street we consciously notice that they are tall or wearing green. Subconsciously we rack our brains and scan the person for signs of what gender we want to apply to them. Usually the only two genders we think of are male and female. The subconscious takes the conscious thoughts and tries its hardest to fit those “signs” into a gender puzzle. Playing the gender game is risky as there is little talked about the gender spectrum. There are many more gender identities than boy and girl. In fact, there is a wide wonderful range of identities and expression, this is why asking for someone’s pronouns is very important. Slowly but surely, the act of asking for pronouns when introducing yourself is becoming an everyday question, going hand in hand with asking for someone’s name.
Somehow, asking “what are your pronouns” slipped into the category of an awkward conversation, but honestly, there’s absolutely nothing abnormal about it. For older generations, it may come as a shock and I’ve even come across people who didn’t know what a pronoun was. Immediately after a quick explanation the realization flooded their faces. Pronouns are something we are taught in school during English classes but are never really applied to real life. Through education and spreading awareness about the importance of asking for someone’s pronouns I believe the sentiment will become learned and automatic, at least there is hope.
The greatest danger of not asking for pronouns is that it could cause someone to feel incredibly uncomfortable or upset. By assuming gender and using the pronouns he or she for someone who “looks like” a male or female can create major dysphoria (a feeling of unease or unhappiness pertaining to someone’s body, voice, and other factors that make them uncomfortable with their body), anger, and sadness. As well, there are many more pronouns then just he/him or she/her. The use of the singular they/them, and others such as ze, sie, hir, ey and so many more are used by countless people identifying under the transgender and non-binary umbrellas. All of these terms are loose and may be unknown, though the Internet is in your favour for research on these topics.
With all of the information that is now provided and the activism that is happening all over the world, awareness is slowly being brought to the forefront regarding the LGBT+ community, especially around gender, and things are starting to change. “Millennials may be called the “gender-fluid generation” (Sophie Saint Thomas, Refinery 29). A larger percentage of the population identifies as transgender or non-binary than ever before.
Labels and definitions aren’t usually something that people go actively seeking but as for the definitions of what is being discussed, the Webster definition of gender fluid is; “…: of, relating to, or being a person whose gender identity is not fixed…”. The debate over the difference of transgender vs. non-binary is ongoing. In many cases, people believe there is really no difference as they are both umbrella terms which cover the entire spectrum. Others believe that being non-binary means “genderless” or simply out of the gender binary and transgender is when you do not identify with the gender associated around your birth sex. People like Prince, David Bowie, Steven Tyler and more current celebrities such as Ruby Rose, and Amandla Stenberg have always, and are, demonstrating androgyny and gender-fluidity in pop culture. Even with these celebrities pushing the gender spectrum into the open, the education that is given to people needs an extreme improvement.
Education of the LGBT+ community in schools is basically non-existent, that is why young people turn to the internet for answers. Clubs like Gay Straight Alliances, Genders and Sexualities Alliance or Pride Clubs exist in some middle and high schools but usually do not receive the same amount of interest as other clubs. These GSAs try their best to educate their peers and teachers with assemblies or celebrating things like “Coming Out Day” or “Day of Silence” where they promote the actions that must be taken to end the violence and inequality for the LGBT+ community. Health talks should be openly discussing not only sexuality but also gender identity and expression. English classes should be reading novels with gender non-conforming characters or politics classes focusing on these minorities in society and the politics that surround them. By beginning to hand out this information to teenagers and young adults, we hope that our generation will be able to continue the change that is being made with larger numbers of not only people identifying with the community, but with allies too. To be an ally you do not have to be any letter of LGBT, you only have to support the community full-heartedly. Spreading education, going to pride parades, or voting for the people in power who will actually help with the issues facing the LGBT community are all examples of what you can do to help.
Simple, everyday things you can do to start change are things like asking someone’s pronouns and giving your own when meeting someone, or correcting people if they misgender someone who goes by another pronoun. Ask questions respectfully and offer answers to those willing to listen. So, to answer the question of what gender is, it’s completely up to you. You choose who you are and what you like to wear or present as. Your identity is your own and anything is possible, there are no rules to gender. We can all make change and take strides towards equality and awareness to this loving community by simply being ourselves and taking pride in who we are.