The LGBT+ community is growing and everyday more and more people are finding their home under our umbrella. But as more and more people join us, more and more of our labels just don’t fit anymore.
At StartOut we prefer one label for everyone: DSG. To us, people are people, you are not a defined by being lesbian, or straight, or trans, or pan or an ally; you’re a person and as people we can be range of Diverse Sexualities, Sexes, Genders and Gender Expressions (DSG).
These categories have room for everyone, from straight, cis men; to pansexual, non-binary people. You are a combination of where you know you fit on these (often non-linear) spectrums. All too often non-straight, non-cis DSG identities can be misrepresented and in mainstream media, they are often misunderstood and radicalised.
Need help understanding the basics? We are going to run through some of the nuances of being a “non-traditional” DSG person…
Don’t forget! Your personal identity is your own and the definitions you feel aligned to don’t have to fit the descriptions that we are using, this is not comprehensive, it’s just a little helping hand.
Today’s Episode! Gender.
Your gender could be described as how you – in your own thoughts and mind – feel most comfortable as a man, a woman or neither. Gender is not about your body or how you dress or act; it is about your own sense of self.
Some common words used to describe gender include boy, girl, man, woman, non-binary or queer. People who are non-binary or queer often do not feel connected to either of the “traditional” two genders, instead being off that scale altogether represents them best.
Trans is a word that is often associated with gender, but it is not in and of itself a gender. It is a description regarding your gender. To be trans means your most authentic self is one that does not associate with the gender you were assigned at birth (which is usually based on your physical body/sex – more on that in another episode).
Being trans does not mean you have to go from girl to boy or the other way around, it just means you are not the gender you were assigned at birth. The opposite of trans is cis. Cis means that you do associate with the gender you were assigned at birth.
Being trans or cis is a little more concrete than the concept of gender, you are one or the other, if you are not cis, you are trans, by whatever definition of trans that best represents you.
Quicktip: Transgendered is not a word, being trans is not something that happens to you or has happened to you. You can be transgender, you are never transgendered.
Gender is often conflated with a person’s body, but that is not what it means at all. Being trans or cis is related to the alignment of your gender and the gender you were assigned at birth, but gender on its own can be completely independent of your physical body.
In the context of gender, pronouns are words that refer to someone in the third person, two of the most common pronouns in English are gender-specific; he and she. To some people – particularly trans and queer people – being referred to as he, she, him, her, his or hers can be uncomfortable and even insulting.
In order to feel happiest, people may prefer to use gender-neutral pronouns such as they, them and their. However, because they, them and their can be confused as plural pronouns, some people opt for pronouns such as ze and hir, which are derived from pronouns in older languages including Middle English and German. Feeling most comfortable with the use of a particular set of pronouns is something a person will decide on their own and will often share with people they interact with if it is going to make them feel more comfortable.
If you are ever unsure, gender-specific third-person pronouns (and gendered honorifics – such as Mr, Mrs, Sir and Madam) can easily be removed from a sentence without issue by using a person’s name, using the gender-neutral they, them and theirs, or by dropping the word altogether (“good afternoon” loses nothing when compared with “good afternoon sir”).
Always remember, the words that you use to describe yourself are your own. No one can tell you who you are or how you should identify. But words you use to describe someone else can impact them greatly, always ensure you are respectful of who someone else is.