What is Gender?

I asked some people what gender means to them, and these were their responses:

“Currently, I identify as “femme” and “gender non-conforming”, and use she/her and they/them pronouns, but have explored many labels in the last decade. Since I was 13, I’ve been questioning my gender. My questioning included analyzing how masculine, feminine, or androgynous I felt, in my mind, body, and soul. It’s been hard trying to find something that “fits” who I am. Instead, I’ve gotten comfortable with the fact that gender, on a personal level, doesn’t mean something static to me. But gender does mean something specific to me socially.

Personally, I don’t align with any specific gender experience, feeling like I can float between any and all “genders” (male, female, non-binary, cis, trans, and especially agender) depending on the day. Socially, however, I have been treated as a woman and a transgender person through my positive and negative experiences with other people. These are two very different meanings to me, since the person is just me, and the social is how everyone else views and understands me” – Coryl (@CorylWrites)

“Gender to me really isn’t a straight forward answer. Gender is a bunch of things. It’s how someone perceives themselves on the gender spectrum but also how someone wants to be viewed by society based on their gender. It’s very multidimensional” – Max (@MaxTheAutist)

“I’ve always had a complicated relationship with gender, but I haven’t always had the right words it describe it. I grew up with an interest in dressing-up and history, and as I entered my teens this manifested as an exploring of identity that ultimately meant my gender expression became blurred and confused – and I liked that. I idolized historical figures and fashions, and musicians and artists that drew from these and distorted the binary – although I wouldn’t have known these words – which gave my choices of hair, clothing, interests, and attitudes legitimacy. I would meld a very mid-century feminine outfit with a masculine haircut, or a masculine outfit with feminine make-up. I modeled myself on women such as Anne Bonney and Mary Read, women of folklore such as in the song Sovay. I wanted people to second-guess themselves and not to rely on assumptions. That being said, I never questioned my assigned gender. I enjoyed being a young woman – with a very clichéd feminine body – with masculine traits and expression, and I continue to do so. Nowadays, with access to new language, I lean towards identifying as genderqueer and encourage the use of neutral pronouns, but will continue to use femininity as a base onto which I can dress-up. To me, that’s what gender means – a means of ‘dressing up,’ performing, presenting externally according to how an individual may feel drawn to. This may be set and unchanged, it could change over time, or change on a regular basis.

As an extension, I have often wondered if my gender is linked to my sexual and romantic identity. As a teen, I recognized that I found all gender aesthetics (or expression?) attractive, and initially identified as pansexual. I later realized that although I was aesthetically attracted, I was neither sexually or romantically attracted to the people behind the aesthetic. I have often wondered if my focus on distorting the expected is linked to a rejection of pressure to appear romantically or sexually available. I resent the link between being aesthetically attractive and being romantically/sexually available – I dress (and therefore express my identity and gender) for myself and myself alone” – Sovay (@MSsovay)

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