Gender identity

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In sociology, gender identity describes the gender that a person sees themselves as. Most people see themselves as a man or woman; a boy or girl. For almost everyone, the gender they identify as, matches what the doctor said they were when they were born. For a few people, however, they were called one thing when they were born, but they feel like the other gender; people in this group are called transgender. Sometimes, other people are called transgender, too, when they do not fit society's expectations about gender roles—that is, how a male or female of a certain age and culture should look and act.

Common identities[change | change source]

The vast majority of adults in society think of themselves as being a man or a woman. Almost all children can identify themselves as a boy or a girl by age two or three.[1] Society tends to think of gender as an either-or situation: that is, that everyone must be man or woman; boy or girl, a view that scholars call "the gender binary". And while that fits most people, it doesn't fit everyone.

For the great majority of adults and children, what they were called when they were born—"It's a boy!" or, "It's a girl!"— and how other people see their gender as man, woman, boy, or girl matches how they feel about themselves. For a few people, what they were called at birth or how other people see them does not match their gender identity. Such people may be called transgender. Some people prefer to use different words for their gender identity, like genderqueer, and there are other terms as well.

There are some people who feel like they are more than one gender, for example bigender or pangender, and others who feel like they are no gender (agender). In 2014, to keep up with changing views about gender identity, Facebook changed their gender options that users can pick from, to 58 different gender identities. This change was noticed and widely reported at the time.[2]

Gender expression[change | change source]

Gender expression (also called, "gender presentation") means how a person dresses, looks, and acts, in ways that might affect how other people view their gender. Someone who wears men's clothes and acts in a masculine way has a male gender expression. Someone who wears women's clothes and acts in a feminine way has a female gender expression. This is different from gender identity because people can choose to look or behave one way even if that is not how they feel inside. Sometimes people call this gender presentation or just presentation.

Transgender and transsexual[change | change source]

'Transgender' is something that means different things to different people. Some transgender people feel like they were born with a physical gender that does not match who they feel they are. They are called transsexual. Some transsexual people change their body to make it more like their gender identity. These people may have surgery or take medicines to change their body.

Some people use the word 'transgender' to mean somewhat different things, as the word has expanded and changed since it was first invented in 1965.[3][4]

Factors and terminology[change | change source]

Some factors involved in transgender identification are:

  • Assigned sex (or sex assignment, or just sex) is whether a person was labeled male or female at birth.
  • Gender Identity (or simply gender) is how a person feels inside: man, woman, boy, or girl. (And sometimes other identities, as well.)
  • Gender expression (or gender presentation) is how a person dresses, acts and behaves.

Most people have several factors that all match just one gender: an "assigned sex" (the label they were given at birth), gender expression (how they dress and act), and gender identity (what gender they feel they are inside). In most people all of the factors are in agreement—either male, or female. But in transgender people one or more factors can be different.

Types of identity mismatch[change | change source]

[original research?]

It is possible to have every different combination of sex, gender identity, and gender expression.

A person may be assigned female at birth but have a male gender identity. Many people like this may dress and act like men and take jobs that are usually done by men. This person may call himself a man, transgender, or a "transman". If he has surgery or takes testosterone, he may call himself transsexual.

A man might like to dress up in women's clothes (in drag). This is often done as a performance on a stage. This man may have a male gender identity and a male sex. He may also have a male gender role most of the time, but when he 'does drag' he may have a female gender role.[source?]

Some people may have a gender identity that is different from their sex. However, if they live in a place where transgender people are not accepted they may hide this. They may also hide it because they are afraid their family will not accept them. So a transgender woman like this might have a female gender identity, but have a male sex and a male gender presentation. She might want to have a female gender expression, but does not because of fear.

Medical diagnosis[change | change source]

When a person's gender identity and body do not match, they may go to see a doctor. The doctor may help them change their body if that is what they want. A psychiatrist diagnose this person with Gender identity disorder. Principle 18 of the Yogyakarta Principles, a document about international law on human rights states that "any classifications to the contrary, a person's gender identity is not in and of itself, medical condition".[5] And "Activist's Guide" to them says that "gender identity" or "gender identity disorder" exists still in categories of mental illness, contrary to the "sexual orientation" removed from such categories.[6]

This is a controversial subject.[source?] Some transgender or transsexual people do not think they have an illness or disease. They may feel like this because disease and illness can make it seem like something is wrong with a person. They see being transgender or transsexual as a trait or characteristic, like being left-handed.

However, some transgender people may not mind the words illness or disease. This is especially important for transgender people who get medical treatments. Some national health insurances pay for transsexual treatments. But if these were not seen as an illness, they might not pay.

References[change | change source]

  1. Pamela J. Kalbfleisch; Michael J. Cody (1995). Gender, power, and communication in human relationships. Psychology Press. pp. 366 pages. ISBN 0805814043.
  2. ABC News. "Technology and Science News - ABC News". Retrieved 28 September 2016.
  3. A., R. (August 1965). "Book Reviews and Notices: Sexual Hygiene and Pathology". American Journal of the Medical Sciences 250 (2): 235. doi:10.1097/00000441-196508000-00054.
  4. Oliven, John F. (1965). Sexual Hygiene and Pathology. p. 514.
  5. The Yogyakarta Principles, Principle 18. Protection from Medical Abuse, and its annotations, p. 43 saying that such diagnosis as mental disorder once made a cause to do electroshock therapy to "cure" a gender identity differing from body sex at birth
  6. Activist's Guide to the Yogyakarta Principles, p 100

Other websites[change | change source]