What’s Gender Identity Got to Do with It?

I really should know better than to look at the comments section of certain articles on my Facebook news feed. Okay, probably all of the comments sections on all of the articles on my Facebook news feed. I know for a fact that the comments section is where civil discourse has gone to die. But I’m a masochist at heart, so I take that first look. Soon, I become enraged. Like, Incredible Hulk angry. Seriously, I’ve lost more than one nice shirt over the last six months.

You probably saw the recent tweet from our esteemed President about how he doesn’t think transgender men and women should be allowed to serve in our country’s military. Let’s forget for just a minute than our commander in chief effectively threatened the careers of thousands of people on social media. Instead, let’s focus on the idea of gender as a roadblock to serving your country—or as a roadblock to anything.

The idea that a person isn’t fit to serve because of their gender identity is patently absurd. That’s like saying your social class or your race should prevent you from serving—it’s a bogus notion rooted in nothing. The idea of gender identity making a person unfit to do anything is ridiculous.

So, that means it’s time to talk about gender and gender identity.

I can’t tell you how many people I’ve heard say “Those people are just confused” or “Those people just want attention”—where “those people” are transgender women and men. I beg to disagree. Here’s the thing—I would say “those people” are the opposite of confused. I would say they’re much less confused than a lot of people because they have figured out who they really are and are willing to live their lives authentically in the effort to be true to themselves.

I’m going to make a bold statement here that may confuse some people: Gender and sex are not the same thing. This is where I believe the confusion for many people begins. They think that if you’re born with female genitals, you’re a woman. If you’re born with male genitals, then you’re a man. That’s not how it works at all.

Gender is a social construct. In our society, we are assigned gender based on our sexual characteristics, and that is supposed make us fit neatly into the appropriate “man” or “woman” box. Transgender men and women are challenging that, and it makes some people uncomfortable.

I implore you to learn all you can about gender identity and then educate those around you about it as well. I think that, when they are challenged and asked to really consider it, a lot of people will find that they don’t fit neatly into the socially constructed gender box either. By learning about gender identity and educating others, we can create a more progressive society and help the transgender people we care about, who are being true to themselves by expressing who they truly are.

Breaking down the gender wall is one of the most important things we can do in the feminist movement. Let’s tear it down together!