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Articles > LGBTQ+ June, 02, 2015

There’s more to gender than male and female

Alexander Scott
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Gender… it’s a very confusing and complicated subject that we hear a lot about; particularly with things like equality between men and women. But I want to talk about something a bit different. Caitlyn Jenner has brought this to the forefront of the media recently and I hope what she’s doing will raise awareness about the issue.

When you are filling out a form it will usually ask you what your gender is. Usually, you’re given two options: male or female. In the 21st century we need to start accepting that more people are defining themselves as gender fluid or gender neutral. This acceptance begins with understanding the difference between gender and sex.

  • Sex is biological (male/female/intersex)
  • Gender is identity (masculine/feminine etc).

Biologically, I’m male, but in terms of identity… I’m not really sure yet – it’s a difficult one to work out!

Recently, I have seen toilets that are “Inclusive restrooms”, meaning anyone can use them. But we are still seeing most toilets as “men’s” or “women’s”. Yes, men’s toilets are different to women’s toilets, but I don’t see why we can’t have more “Inclusive restrooms”.  If we got rid of urinals and men just locked the door on the cubical, there wouldn’t be an issue. We would all have our privacy, and, break down gender stereotypes.

It’s the same with clothes shops; you have “men’s shops” and “women’s shops” or “sections for men” and “sections for women”. Why can’t we just have all the clothes together, divided by category rather than gender? It can be very difficult shopping for clothes that are designed for “the opposite sex”.

Another issue is pronouns. People have to use the pronouns they assume you identify with. I’m not going to lie, I get mistaken for a woman, and this just makes things complicated when I’m trying to figure out my identity. Why can’t we just use people’s names, or if we don’t know their name refer to them as ‘customer’ (if you’re serving them in a shop or cafe). This is a lot more tricky than some of the other things I have mentioned, but we need to be so careful when using pronouns. A lot of people are using “they/them/their”, so these should be used more.

Some people are starting to use the gender neutral title of Mx (pronounced mix or mux) which can be used regardless of marital status. I asked my bank about changing the title on my bank card to Mx, but they said that wouldn’t be possible, so that was rather annoying.

We need to be a bit more creative and think outside the box about how we can break down gender stereotypes. I bet hardly any of you have thought about changing toilets and clothes shops to accommodate other gender identities! We also need to be sensitive and not look bemused when people talk about what they label themselves as, what pronouns they use, what name they use and what they wear! Human beings should be loved for who they are, and NEVER be referred to as “it” – because that word seems to me like you are referring to someone as if they are a creature.

So, I’m asking you all to change your attitudes about gender. And if you are struggling with gender identity, don’t be afraid to ask for help, and don’t be afraid to experiment and find out what your real identity is, rather than your perceived identity.

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  1. bill

    Well the big-rage about gender is mainly a matter of principles and opinion, or more matter-of-factly, ‘the way you see it’.

    Strictly the definition of gender is unequivocal and your article is pretty riddled with confusion on this matter. It is based on physiology, or more specifically, the XY-chromosome system.

    There are physiological exceptions, such as chromosome-copying errors, which disrupts the victims chromosomes. In this case the victim is strictly neither male nor female, but simply gender-undefined. An unfortunate case for some indeed.

    Your article focuses on the psychological side which, physically, doesn’t exist. In other words, it’s all a product of your brain and the connections within, an apparent reality which presents itself due to the experiences you have during being alive.

    Removing veils and abstractions, therapist-talk and excuses, the reality is you can choose to dress like, talk like, and act like the other gender, but you will always be, however troublesome this is for some people, the gender your chromosomes dictate at conception.

    This is just one of the many things that when you drill down to reality, what answers you seek become clear.

    I hope you understand, and reach a more real and positive outlook on gender and life in general.

    Thanks for reading!

    Bill

    • Kayleigh

      I’n afraid that it’s you that is poorly educated on the subject. What you are describing is sex, your physical sex dictated by your chromosomes and seperate from gender, as stated in the article. Perhaps you could consider Googling “difference between sex and gender” before you patronise people on a topic that you know very little about.

  2. Mx

    Just so you know for when you change banks, Santander, Halifax, and RBS all offer Mx as a title (others may too, but those I know for certain). I had to go around like 6 different banks to find where did it.

  3. Rhys

    Stuff like feminine and masculine are things that other people judge. I don’t feel id like to put feminine or masculine on forms or anything. I’m not female, that’s enough for me

  4. Krys

    Good article. A lot of good points. This is the type of stuff I want to see more of in the media. Just ordinary people breaking down the terms of the different ‘categories’. I do want to nitpick one part though…
    You’ve put masculine and feminine as the identity. This, I believe, is wrong. Masculine and feminine are states of being. The identity is that of man, woman, fluid, neutral, etc. because these are part of who you are as a person. Being feminine or masculine can change all the time depending on perception and stereotypes and are not a part of the gender or sex of a person. But as I said, it’s just a nitpick.

  5. bill

    Thanks on the reply Kayleigh!

    Well sex and gender were synonyms only a short time ago, and differentiated only when a microscopic minority of people demanded the separation. When there is a norm for several billion years of life on Earth, then a new way comes about in the last few years, and only for one of millions of species at that, I would say it’s rather ignorant and fantastical of you to take the opinion you do.

    However, I understand that a small minority of people have problems with the gender/sex they were determined at conception, and I also understand that changing the definition of words can sometimes help overcome these psychological problems and live a better life.

    Bill

  6. Charlie Botting

    Brilliant article – as an agender person this pretty much sums up my whole outlook on sex and gender. So many people don’t realise there’s a difference or understand some people want to be referred to as ‘they’ rather than ‘he/she’. Definitely something people need to know more about as I think the majority of the issues people have with this kind of thing are they simply don’t know anything about it – when it’s been explained to them most people are usually perfectly accepting.

  7. Tallie Dark

    As a nonbinary person that uses they/them pronouns, I was really happy to see this here. There are so many gender identities that don’t get spoken about often in the correct way in media but I would like to help the world understand these identities better.

  8. Tallie

    As a nonbinary person that uses they/them pronouns, I completely agree and recently found out that some banks like Santander will let me use “Mx” when I make an account there! I was overjoyed at having an option other than Mr or Miss.

  9. Rhys

    What is wrong with urinals? Id have one in the house if I could

    • Alexander

      There is nothing wrong with them, it’s just that to make toilets more inclusive and uni sex and maintain everyone’s dignity, we should only have cubicals. Or perhaps we should have urinals in cubicals as well as normal toilets??

      • Louise Blockwell

        I’ve worked in Japan were unisex toilets with urinals exist uncommented on. I’ve walked past a male colleague at a urinal as a woman and it’s fine. I think there is a fear that it would be awkward but it really isn’t so people shouldn’t worry about it.