As I prepped to write this post, I had my list of general things I wanted to cover, but thought it was necessary to also do some research. I Googled “gender tips” and was slightly shocked at the results:
“Tips to Encourage Healthy Gender Development of Boys”
“5 Easy Tips That Will Tell You The Gender Of Your Baby”
“Some Hints on How to Guess Gender”
The list goes on with more topics related to guessing the gender of your baby when you’re pregnant.
This list just reinforced the number one thing I wanted to touch on in this piece: sex and gender are not always the same. One does not determine the other. Repeat that. A thousand times. Learn it. Embrace it.
Society says that sex determines gender, but I think that is incredibly wrong.
That being said, here’s some tips to help you out with your gender identity.
Sex and gender are not always the same. One does not determine the other.
According to the American Psychological Association, “[s]ex refers to a person’s biological status and is typically categorized as male, female, or intersex (i.e., atypical combinations of features that usually distinguish male from female). There are a number of indicators of biological sex, including sex chromosomes, gonads, internal reproductive organs, and external genitalia,” while “[g]ender refers to the attitudes, feelings, and behaviors that a given culture associates with a person’s biological sex. Behavior that is compatible with cultural expectations is referred to as gender-normative; behaviors that are viewed as incompatible with these expectations constitute gender non-conformity.”
Basically, sex is a biological way of categorizing individuals, and gender is the way in which one identifies. Society (in America, anyway) tells us that gender is determined by sex – girls are feminine, boys are masculine. But it’s truly not that black and white. For me, I was born a female by society’s standards, but identified with more masculine things that boys stereotypically do, which led to me discovering that I am actually male. It’s important to know that is not what made me realize I was trans – I could easily identify as a masculine woman – but it did help me begin to explore my gender.
Gender is fluid.
Gender is not always constant. I believe gender is fluid for all, but that’s for another time. It’s okay to feel one thing about your gender one day, and something completely different the next. One day you might feel within the binary (i.e. male/female), and the next maybe you feel outside the binary (i.e. gender neutral, genderqueer, etc.) I think it’s important to understand that gender is fluid and that there’s identities outside of the binary because if you don’t, you’re limiting your knowledge of the world around you and potentially your own identity.
Give yourself room to explore.
Not only is it okay to not know exactly where you stand with your gender identity, it’s okay to let yourself explore all the avenues you think might fit you. You can do this by finding one person, a best friend, partner, etc. and be open with them. Let them know that you’re exploring your gender and you need their help. Ask them to refer to you with she/her pronouns and a feminine name, he/him pronouns and a masculine name, they/them pronouns and a neutral name, etc.
Once you see what fits and makes you feel good and confident, that’s when you start telling others. Everyone’s journey is going to be different. These are simply tips that, looking back, helped me figure out my gender identity. Be sure to reach out to others in your position, those who have transitioned, etc. and listen to their story. It will help you identify with things you weren’t thinking about prior. Plus it helps you feel like you have a support group (because you do) and you’re not alone.
I have a feeling some people might be confused about why such an article is on a suicide prevention blog, so I want to address that. When you’re struggling with your gender identity (or any other sort of identity, really) it’s very easy to feel alone. To feel like no one else has ever been through this even when you know that’s not true. It might feel hopeless. It might make you feel alone, which could lead to feeling suicidal. That being said, it’s important to discuss tough things like gender identity on You Matter.