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  • Writer's pictureThe Lavender Space

Intro to Gender

Contrary to common belief, gender is not an identity you were born with, neither is it confined to the sex you were assigned to at birth. Before I explain that, let’s dissect that sentence a bit. Sex is exclusively biological, i.e. sex is genetic characteristics, hormones and genitalia; a trans man would be female according to his sex, but a man according to his gender. Gender can be defined in more than one way. Gender has a sociological, political and cultural meaning among others. For the sake of simplicity, we will tackle the sociological aspect of gender: the way gender came about is the way society both perceives you as well as imposes behaviour onto you based on your sex.

The first feminist philosopher to think about the question of sex as opposed to gender was Simone De Beauvoir. Born in France, this eminent feminist talked about the separation of gender and sex. She saw sex as what someone is born into- male and female- and gender as role society places upon you based on what your sex is. 'One is not born, but rather, becomes a woman', she said. With this, it is made clear that the role you play is placed on you. It depends on society and henceforth the socialisation one undergoes, which means that gender is something people feel as opposed to something they are given.

Gender, while now considered a spectrum of belonging, was initially meant to be a bracket term for two sexes. Gender was the male and the female ends of a whole range that was buried underneath what we can only assume was ignorance and subconscious fear. In India, prior to British colonisation, Hindu texts described not two but three genders. The ‘Tritiya Prakriti’ was a gender associated with neither male nor female nature. Ancient texts described, and were tolerant of varying genders and gender expressions. While most people against the concept of fluid gender believe this is something social media is imposing on young minds, fluid gender identities have been a part of almost every culture in the world today!

Genderqueer individuals range from non-binary, agender, genderfluid, gendervoid to simply queer and transgender. Gender has always been seen as a form of self expression, no matter which sex you were assigned at birth. Neo-pronouns are ways in which people can express themselves better- they aren’t a new phenomenon. Neo pronouns like Xe/Xem/Xyr, Ey/Em/Eir might be new, but neo-pronouns like ‘o(u)’, ‘ne’, ‘ha’ and even ‘they’ date back to anywhere from the 1300s to the 1800s. While things like neo-pronouns are difficult to understand for most people, even in our generation, they are just a more comfortable way for someone who doesn't find themselves fitting into the gender binary to address themselves. Even if you don't understand or agree with neo-pronouns, you should respect someone who chooses to use them.

Diversity and differences should serve as opportunities for us to educate ourselves and we should always take them as such.

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