The Beginner’s Guide to Gender Identity Part 1
As we’ve been talking about inclusivity, we wanted to make a beginner’s guide for Gender Identity and LGBTQ inclusion. It’s important to be inclusive in all areas, but if you don’t know about them then how can you? To be inclusive either in the workplace or the classroom you have to welcome all types of people. Inclusion should be an ongoing process regardless of your sector. This is why we created this handy guide off the back of our newest CPD course! The Award in LGBTQ+ Inclusivity in Education. These are some brilliant starting points to get familiar and comfortable with LGBTQ inclusion.
Let’s take it right back to basics with this one. What is gender identity? It’s been an increasingly hot topic over the past couple of years and it’s not going away any time soon. It’s perhaps getting even bigger, so there is a need to know about it, especially in teaching. You may be thinking why do I need to know this? Well bear with me and I’ll talk you through this guide.
Gender identity refers to one’s concept of their own gender. You might identify as male, female or both. You can also identify as neither. Gender identity is a spectrum and it takes many forms. Gender is a distinct identity from biological sex. Which is assigned at birth by medical professionals. Based on the sex we then assume someone’s gender. However, the personal gender identity of someone may differ from the biological sex, which may not be seen by others.
Another term you have to be aware of is social gender. But what is that? Social gender is the assumptions we make about other people based on their external appearance. Each culture has its own assumptions about the roles, rights and responsibilities of men and women. This then adds to the idea that there are only two genders. However, its become known that gender is a spectrum and a lot of people don’t conform to the set norms of masculine and feminine.
Difference between gender and sexual orientation
If you’re new to all this you may be feeling slightly confused. Don’t worry! We’re going to go over the difference between sexual orientation and gender. You might be thinking, ‘But they’re the same?’, nope not at all! Sexual orientation, in short, is who someone is attracted to. A person can be attracted to the same sex, opposite sex, none, or all sexes and genders. The acronym LGBTQ refers to Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual and Queer are sexual orientations, whereas the T stands for Transgender, which is a gender identity.
Gender identity doesn’t always equal sexual preference. It’s your personal sense of who you are. How someone wants to present themselves. A person who may identify as a male could be attracted to men, women, both or neither. Someone could present as one gender but they actually identify with another. So for example, a transgender woman might present as masculine or a non-binary person could present as feminine and masculine. It’s possible to make assumptions about a person’s exterior when they identify with something completely different. This is why it’s important to not try and make assumptions, based on how someone looks. When in doubt, ask.
Key terms you may see
There are a lot of terms when it comes to gender identity inclusion. It may be a bit confusing to begin with, but here are a few key terms that you will generally see when you research or read about gender identity.
Trans: gender identity and an umbrella term for people whose gender differs from or does not align with the gender they were assigned to at birth. An example is when a trans woman is assigned a male gender at birth or vice versa.
Cisgender: this is someone whose gender identity aligns with the gender they were assigned at birth. In other words, if you were assigned male at birth, you are a male. The same goes for women.
Non-Binary: gender identity and an umbrella term for people whose identity falls outside of the binary male and female. In some cases, people do not identify fully or at all with their assigned gender at birth – some have no gender at all. But they could also interchange between male and female, it’s a spectrum.
Gender fluid: this is when someone is fluid between both genders. It may fluctuate over time across a range of masculine and feminine identities. It can also be part of the non-binary umbrella term.
Why does language matter?
The language we use is an important part of either being an ally or not at all. It’s important to understand the language you use, so you know what it means. Language is an important part of understanding and know-how to be affirming and supportive of other people’s genders. However, it can also be confusing.
There are so many gender terms out there, many of which overlap. Some also have definitions which may shift over time or change meaning across different platforms. Nevertheless, having language that helps demonstrate the many ways people experience, express or identify their gender allows us to see and understand the gender spectrum.
We’re not finished here though! We’ve got part 2 on the way!