Trans 101: Gender Identity

By Eva Guarnero

From the moment we are born, we are taught that there are two sides of this world: Male and female.

The reality, however, is not so simple. Research into the psychological and biological aspects of gender have shed some light on what actually constitutes “gender” and how we construct it.

This is TRANS 101, and today we are going to talk about Gender Identity and the Gender Binary.

Gender identity is a core aspect of being transgender, and relates to the idea that one’s gender is constructed, not a biological truth. In short, one chooses their gender, or has their gender decided for them, based on a series of traits related to a perceived gender binary. I know this is confusing, but bear with me for a second.

Much of what we claim is core to being “male” or “female” has little to do with the actual biology of those we call men and women. Instead, we assign these traits to people based on perceived gender norms and build a cohesive “gender identity” around that, removing one’s ability to construct their identity based on their own feelings.

Such traits can be related to mental capabilities, physical prowess, choice in clothes and media, romantic interests, and many other things.

We create stereotypes based on what we assume men and women are, and ignore any evidence to the contrary.

The practice of forcing people into distinctly male or female categories has often been referred to as the “Gender Binary” and has come under scrutiny in recent years, leading some to adopt a different option known as the “Gender Spectrum.” Underneath the gender spectrum, people are the sum of their chosen parts and are the gender they choose/identify as, with “male” and “female” simply being extremes. Those who choose to not identify as fully male nor fully female are known as “nonbinary.”

In a way, all people have a “gender identity.” It is the set of beliefs you have about yourself and your gender which dictate how you act, how you dress and who you are. For some, it is something imprinted upon them by their parents. For others, it’s something they chose for themselves. Whatever the reason, however, it is something which we act out.

We are all performing our gender roles. Some of us just rewrote the script.