5 Things You Should Know About Gender Fluidity

5 Things You Should Know About Gender Fluidity

Everything you were afraid to ask but could have Googled a long time ago.
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I had a somewhat aggravating conversation with a coworker recently about gender fluidity. It wasn't just that I disagreed with their point of view. I understand that not everyone can comprehend the concept of not identifying with the gender that they were given at birth (re:cisgender). But what annoyed me about this conversation was that he didn't even try to understand gender non-conformity. He went as far as citing some of his gay friends who didn't understand gender fluidity. Because obviously any LGBT member can speak for the whole.

Okay, moving away from my shade, I want to take the time to explain gender fluidity as I know it to be. While I am a cisgender woman, I attempt to explain it to others as well as myself. While only .5% of the national population aged 18-64 identifies as transgender (and this number may be skewed due to surveying issues), this is still a significant portion of the American population (try in the millions). While a minority, their rights still matter. And often enough, people help people better when they understand them. So here are some clarifications about gender fluidity for those of you out there with some questions.

1. It's not always about their genitalia.


Yes, it is a legitimate desire of many transgender folks to want MTF (male-to-female) or FTM (female-to-male) surgery including removing breasts and genitalia. Trans folks also seek hormone treatment and puberty suppression at a younger age. And that's fine. It helps people who often feel like they're in the wrong skin finally feel like they're in the body they belong in. But not everyone wants to go through the full transition. For gender nonconforming people, it can be as simple as the underwear they wear or the way they style their hair.

P.S. Also remember that a person's genitalia is none of your business unless they make it your business.

2. Gender identity and expression are two different things.

You know those times when you're feeling like a tomboy and just want to wear flannel and sweats? Or you want to wear a bright color with your suit but you're afraid that people will call you gay for it? Those are minor elements of gender expression. While people can identify as male/men, female/woman and anything in between, how they express is a bit different. One of my friends who doesn't identify with either binary gender feels like they can wear a breast binder or a sports bra and low-cut tank top and still be themselves.

The idea that there are only two genders is conflicting for nonconforming people. Another friend born male appreciates expressing himself in both fashions because just toting masculine characteristics feels constricting for him. While the vast majority feels comfortable in their body and cisgender expression and identity, some people don't. AND THAT'S FINE.

P.P.S. Also remember that a person's gender identity and expression is none of your business unless they make it your business.

3. There is a long history of gender fluidity globally.

From the hijras of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, to the two-spirit culture of transgender Native Americans, there are accounts of gender fluidity spanning well back in human history. And while it's not always easy to understand why certain identities exist, there is no denying that trans folks do in fact exist in human bodies. They are even revered as a spiritual council, such as with the hijras and two-spirit people. There is also the modern visibility of trans folks including Christine Jorgensen and Jan Morris in the 20th century as well as Laverne Cox today.

And remember, these are trans folk. We aren't talking drag queens dressing up in women's clothes and performing. We are talking about people specifically not identifying with their birth gender because it just didn't fit who they are. And while there are no unified lists or classifications for those not cisgender, people have conducted thorough research and acknowledgment of their own identities as well as others. Think intersex, trans, queer, gender nonconforming, third gender and many others. It's a spectrum, not a binary.

P.P.P.S. Also remember that a person's pronouns (e.g. he/she/they) are none of your business unless they make it your business. That's their history and it's their right to share it.

4. There is also a recent history of increasing violence against gender fluid people.

Just read this Guardian article about transgender deaths. Read it. That's only in the last couple of years that they're counting specifically homicides counted as hate crimes against the trans community. According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), trans people are much more likely to experience violence based on their gender identity. In fact, transgender folks are 28% more likely to experience violence than cisgender folks. NCAVP also incorporated race into their report, saying that trans people of color are a disproportionate majority of trans folks murdered (87%). Intersectional identity plays a part as always. Thank you intersectional feminism.

P.P.P.P.S. Also remember that these are real people being murdered with preferred gender pronouns you may not agree with. They're still people.

5. Really, it's really none of your business unless it's your gender identity and expression. Really.

What seriously bothered me about my coworker's stance on gender identity was that he wouldn't accept that it was not his business. He was caught up in what genitalia they would have and how he couldn't accept a different gender than what he considered right. But there are many things differentiating a person's anatomy from who they are as a person.

Living Anthropologically explained in an article that, "[The phrases related to the social construct of gender] simply indicate that many observed behavioral characteristics and life experiences are heavily influenced by social expectations, norms, and roles." Our idea of gender is much more than a sum of body parts and clothing. It's how we feel, how we express ourselves, and how our culture interprets our gender. So for the love of all of those cuddly trans, queer, intersex and everything in between folks, just accept how they identify even if it doesn't make sense and move on.

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To The Girl Struggling With Her Body Image

It's not about the size of your jeans, but the size of your heart, soul, and spirit.

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To the girl struggling with her body image,

You are more than the number on the scale. You are more than the number on your jeans and dresses. You are way more than the number of pounds you've gained or lost in whatever amount of time.

Weight is defined as the quantity of matter contained by a body or object. Weight does not define your self-worth, ambition or potential.

So many girls strive for validation through the various numbers associated with body image and it's really so sad seeing such beautiful, incredible women become discouraged over a few numbers that don't measure anything of true significance.

Yes, it is important to live a healthy lifestyle. Yes, it is important to take care of yourself. However, taking care of yourself includes your mental health as well. Neglecting either your mental or physical health will inflict problems on the other. It's very easy to get caught up in the idea that you're too heavy or too thin, which results in you possibly mistreating your body in some way.

Your body is your special, beautiful temple. It harbors all of your thoughts, feelings, characteristics, and ideas. Without it, you wouldn't be you. If you so wish to change it in a healthy way, then, by all means, go ahead. With that being said, don't make changes to impress or please someone else. You are the only person who is in charge of your body. No one else has the right to tell you whether or not your body is good enough. If you don't satisfy their standards, then you don't need that sort of negative influence in your life. That sort of manipulation and control is extremely unhealthy in its own regard.

Do not hold back on things you love or want to do because of how you interpret your body. You are enough. You are more than enough. You are more than your exterior. You are your inner being, your spirit. A smile and confidence are the most beautiful things you can wear.

It's not about the size of your jeans. It's about the size of your mind and heart. Embrace your body, observe and adore every curve, bone and stretch mark. Wear what makes you feel happy and comfortable in your own skin. Do your hair and makeup (or don't do either) to your heart's desire. Wear the crop top you've been eyeing up in that store window. Want a bikini body? Put a bikini on your body, simple.

So, as hard as it may seem sometimes, understand that the number on the scale doesn't measure the amount or significance of your contributions to this world. Just because that dress doesn't fit you like you had hoped doesn't mean that you're any less of a person.

Love your body, and your body will love you right back.

Cover Image Credit: Lauren Margliotti

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Saying You "Don't Take Political Stances" IS A Political Stance

All you're doing by saying this is revealing your privilege to not care politically, and here's why that's a problem.

bethkrat
bethkrat
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I'm sure all of us know at least one person who refuses to engage in political discussions - sure, you can make the argument that there is a time and a place to bring up the political happenings of our world today, but you can't possibly ignore it all the time. You bring up the last ridiculous tweet our president sent or you try to discuss your feelings on the new reproductive regulation bills that are rising throughout the states, and they find any excuse to dip out as quickly as possible. They say I don't talk about politics, or I'm apolitical. Well everyone, I'm here to tell you why that's complete bullsh*t.

Many people don't have the luxury and privilege of ignoring the political climate and sitting complacent while terrible things happen in our country. So many issues remain a constant battle for so many, be it the systematic racism that persists in nearly every aspect of our society, the fact that Flint still doesn't have clean water, the thousands of children that have been killed due to gun violence, those drowning in debt from unreasonable medical bills, kids fighting for their rights as citizens while their families are deported and separated from them... you get the point. So many people have to fight every single day because they don't have any other choice. If you have the ability to say that you just don't want to have anything to do with politics, it's because you aren't affected by any failing systems. You have a privilege and it is important to recognize it.

Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "history will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people."

We recognize that bad people exist in this world, and we recognize that they bring forth the systems that fail so many people every single day, but what is even more important to recognize are the silent majority - the people who, by engaging in neutrality, enable and purvey the side of the oppressors by doing nothing for their brothers and sisters on the front lines.

Maybe we think being neutral and not causing conflict is supposed to be about peacekeeping and in some way benefits the political discussion if we don't try to argue. But if we don't call out those who purvey failing systems, even if it's our best friend who says something homophobic, even if it's our representatives who support bills like the abortion ban in Alabama, even if it's our president who denies the fact that climate change is killing our planet faster than we can hope to reverse it, do we not, in essence, by all accounts of technicality side with those pushing the issues forward? If we let our best friend get away with saying something homophobic, will he ever start to change his ways, or will he ever be forced to realize that what he's said isn't something that we can just brush aside? If we let our representatives get away with ratifying abortion bans, how far will the laws go until women have no safe and reasonable control over their own bodily decisions? If we let our president continue to deny climate change, will we not lose our ability to live on this planet by choosing to do nothing?

We cannot pander to people who think that being neutral in times of injustice is a reasonable stance to take. We cannot have sympathy for people who decide they don't want to care about the political climate we're in today. Your attempts at avoiding conflict only make the conflict worse - your silence in this aspect is deafening. You've given ammunition for the oppressors who take your silence and apathy and continue to carry forth their oppression. If you want to be a good person, you need to suck it up and take a stand, or else nothing is going to change. We need to raise the voices of those who struggle to be heard by giving them the support they need to succeed against the opposition.

With all this in mind, just remember for the next time someone tells you that they're apolitical: you know exactly which side they're on.

bethkrat
bethkrat

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