In the past few years, queer issues have started to enter more mainstream discussions and receive more coverage and attention by those outside of the LGBTQ community. In particular, gender identity has entered much of the public debate in recent years. National Geographic even dedicated an entire recent issue to explaining and displaying different gender identities. But even with continued exposure to this topic, many people still remain confused about what exactly gender identity means.
I hope to cover many issues and common myths regarding gender identity this semester, but for now, I thought I would answer a few frequently asked questions about what gender identity means.
What is gender identity?
Gender identity is what someone understands their gender to be. This can be male, female, something in between, or neither. Like sexual orientation, it is a natural part of a person’s identity.
Are gender and sex the same thing?
Nope. Sex is a biological term that is assigned to us at birth based on the body parts and hormones we are born with. Gender is a person’s personal identity and how they understand who they are. These two things can compliment each other, but they are still different concepts.
What does “cisgender” mean?
Cisgender means your gender identity matches the sex you were born with. For example, I’m a cisgender woman because I identify as a woman, and I was also born with hormones and body parts that are typically defined as belonging to a female.
What does “transgender” mean?
If an individual is transgender, they identify with a different gender than the sex they were born with. Typically, their gender identity is still male or female, but not always.
What does it mean if someone is genderfluid or genderqueer?
Genderfluid and genderqueer are just a few terms for someone whose gender identity falls outside of “male” or “female.” While the personal definitions of these terms often vary from person to person depending on how they feel and how they choose to identify themselves, these are just some basic definitions.
Genderfluid individuals see their identity as a spectrum. They typically shift between identifying as male, female, or somewhere in between. Essentially, their identity is not fixed.
Genderqueer individuals do not identify as male or female at all. They usually consider their gender identity to be genderless, a combination of genders, or the space between genders. A few other terms for this identity are “nonbinary,” “agender,” “bigender” or “pangender,” but some people who label themselves as “genderfluid” also feel this way.
What does “intersex” mean?
Intersex refers to a person who has a sexual development disorder, which means their sex cannot easily be categorized into male or female. An intersex individual’s sex does not necessarily influence their gender identity or sexual orientation.
Why are all these different gender identities just now existing?
The thing is, they’re not. Gender identity is only considered a new concept because now there are more terms to help people understand their personal identity and what it means. In the past, there have certainly been countless people who felt their gender identity was different from their assigned sex or felt their gender was something else entirely but could not accurately define themselves or live the life they wanted because they did not have the tools. Now, more people have the ability to label themselves properly, so different gender identities have become more prominent as a result.
More questions will be answered next week.
Delaney Murray is a freshman studying journalism with a focus in news and information at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Have any questions about non-binary gender? Let Delaney know by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweeting her at @delpaulinem.