Sunday, November 29, 2015

Understanding Gender

[Author’s note: This article is designed to introduce the topic of transgender people to those who don't understand why someone would want to change their gender. I also add a few of my thoughts on the topic of gender. I have many more related articles in the works, so check back in the next few weeks, more interesting content is on the way.]

Boys are more aggressive and less social than girls. Girls are more nurturing, compassionate and caring than boys.



As a society, we often talk about the differences between boys and girls, men and women. Inevitably, someone says boys are one way and girls are another. I have no doubt there are meaningful differences between the average personalities of men and women — but there are so many exceptions. I know lots of men who are very compassionate and caring. I know some women who have difficulty controlling their anger, a trait often associated with men. It is overly simplistic and misleading to say all men are one way and all women are another. It just isn’t true.

When we discuss and research gender we should always have these exceptions in mind.

Friends and family often ask, “Is it a boy or is it a girl?” when they hear a new baby is on the way. Based upon this information, they start making all kinds of assumptions about a person that hasn’t even been born. If an assumption turns out to be true, it’s seen as proof of the differences between boys and girls. If a prediction is proven false, it’s ignored.

Society generally believes that gender is determined by whether someone is born male or female. Traits such as a person’s genitals or hormones that are used to label them as a boy or girl describe their biological sex.

Everyone has a list of personality traits, interests and behaviors they understand as being boy things or girl things. Not everyone’s lists are identical, but there is often considerable overlap between people’s lists within a given society.

But gender isn’t determined by whether you are born male or female, it’s determined by whether you feel male or female. Most boys look at their list of boy and girl things and feel the boy list matches them better. Most girls feel the girl list fits them better.

However, some boys feel the girl list is a better description of who they are. And some girls are more comfortable with the things in the boy list.

These people are known as transgender.

Decker Moss was born female but identifies as male. How someone feels about their gender is known as their gender identity. When someone’s gender identity matches their biological sex, they’re known as cis-gender. Decker and those like him whose biological sex doesn't match their gender identity are known as transgender. 

Decker gave a Ted Talk explaining his experiences in 2013.

Rikki Arundel was born male, but identifies as female. Rikki gave a Ted Talk explaining her thoughts on gender earlier this year.

Many transgender people feel depressed because others don’t accept them for who they are. I will share the stories of transgender people dealing with mental health problems in my next article. 

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