A Guide to Understanding Gender in 2021

A Guide to Understanding Gender in 2021

Reagan Reed, Staff Writer

March 31 was Transgender Day of Visibility (TDOV) and in honor of that, I would like to provide a ‘crash course’ on how to understand and be more inclusive of gender. Not only of transgender people, but also of genderfluid and non-binary people. So bear with me as I stand on my soapbox and try to toe the line of being informative without being preachy. 

I understand that some people reading this might be hearing those words for the first time, especially those that are not a part of Gen Z, who have normalized looking at gender as more of a construct rather than a set male or female. While not all of the people my age have accepted changing how they’ve always viewed gender with open arms, there is a much larger amount of young people who have familiarized themselves with these concepts. However, no matter what age you are, it’s always important to educate yourself on new things, and while people pushing the boundaries of gender norms is a concept as old as time, it is one that’s being newly embraced as something to be proud of rather than something to hide. 

To start, I think it’s important to define terms so that everyone’s on the same page. Most people are aware of what being transgender (‘trans’) means, but in case you are unaware, it means to feel as if your gender you are born with is not the gender you feel you truly are as a person. People who are transgender will transition from male to female or vice versa. 

The concept of gender fluidity is one that might be a bit confusing at first, but in reality it really is very simple. People who identify as genderfluid typically don’t feel as if one gender properly defines their identity, so they can move freely identifying with two or more genders. This identification can change depending on how that person feels that day, and it might not always be an extremely expressive change. Regardless of whether or not you can tell a direct change in how they express themselves, (i.e. how they dress, their appearance), it is important to still be respectful of that person’s gender if they tell you they identify differently than they did the day before. 

Lastly, being nonbinary is to not identify with either a male or female gender. This is not to say that nonbinary people have no gender at all, which is a common misconception. Instead it’s more like the two set roles of man and woman just don’t define who they are. Nonbinary people can still look and dress and sound male or female, but just because they seem to line up with our expectations of those two genders externally does not mean that as a person they feel that way.  

Now that we have the brief introductions over with, I would like to explain the importance of pronouns. Pronouns are gender identifying terms. Females can be addressed as “she/her,” males as “he/him,” and nonbinary people use “they/them.” As for gender fluid people, it could be any of the three, so when in doubt just ask them.

A while back it became common place for transgender people to put their pronouns in their bio (online biography). This was so that people could refer to them as their proper gender, even through their transition when it’s not obvious to everyone that they identify with it. Later on it also became more normalized for nonbinary people to put their preferred pronouns of “they/them” in their bios as well. 

At some point cisgendered people (people who identify with their natural born gender), decided that it would be a good idea to put their pronouns in their bios as well. This was not only as a way to normalize this action more, but to also stand in solidarity with transgender people. 

I know I just threw an enormous amount of potentially new information at anyone reading this so I’m going to take a moment to explain why all of this matters. Understanding these different definitions, and the concept of pronouns is not just people making a fuss or wanting to overcomplicate things. It’s much deeper than that. This is about being able to clearly express themselves the way they feel on the inside, and for us to simply recognize that and respect what pronoun they would like to be called is really an easy fix. 

It is hard for people who didn’t grow up in a time where this was talked about to immediately grasp and implement all of these things into their everyday lives. I understand that it’s hard; you’ve never had to deal with this before and it feels confusing at first. A lot of people feel it’s unnecessary or ridiculous, and they even try to make a joke out of it. However, for other people the question “what are your preferred pronouns?” is as natural as someone asking you what your name is.