I just started school at Le Moyne College as a freshman, only a month ago. And for our core class, we were asked to pick out a subject that interested us. So I decided on a gender studies class called Boy, Girl, or What? Gender, sexuality, and the LGBTQA+ community have always been very important to me. So I really wanted to learn more about gender and go deeper into studying what gender means. Because really, what is gender?
Going into class, I knew some things. I knew that gender was fluid. I also knew that gender was more than just a title, it was an identity. I knew names of lots of different genders, but I didn’t know everything about each one. And I still don’t, but it’s safe to say that after just one month I’ve learned things I didn’t know before.
For one, it seems a lot of scientists seem to think that gender is a binary, which means it is either one or the other. While I don’t personally believe this, a scientist who studies gender went deeper into the idea of either being male or being female. They also addressed the fact that you can never really know someone’s gender without getting to know them. Or without having a conversation with them. For example, people tend to see someone who’s wearing a dress, and automatically assume they are a woman. This is what is called Gender Attributions, the assumptions we make when guessing someone’s gender. And Gender Components are the things such as clothing or personality that cause a person to assume one gender or the other.
Because when you’re walking down the street and you see people do you actually think to yourself, “I think that person is a girl?” No. Instead, your head says “That is a girl.” Because society has trained us to assume one way or the other, with what we think is absolute certainty. Stereotypes such as ‘girls wear dresses’, or ‘boys play sports’, are what is known as a gender role. This is the role that society has given to each gender. The opposite of this though is gender role identity which unlike gender role, are the rules you make for yourself. Like if a boy decides to wear a dress, this would be his gender role identity.
So if you’ve made it this far in the article you’re probably asking, just what does this have to do with what gender really is? Well, I’ll tell you. While these are only boring scientifical components that help to determine a person’s gender, they are the building blocks to people’s identities.
And if that didn’t answer your question, think about this. What does your gender mean to you? Is it a big part of who you are? Or just a piece of who you are? Because after listing off the scientific explanations and probably boring you to death, it probably seems like I haven’t answered the question. And that’s because, in my opinion, gender means something different to everybody.
All we know at the end of this really is how complicated gender really is. And how you should never just assume anything.