by Hank Bernhardt
Talking about gender is hard to begin with, made even harder when one party doesn’t know the terminology. When I discuss gender and sexuality I try to stick with the terms I know, but when I sit and really think about terms I find myself with more questions than answers. I know I’m not alone in my lack of terminology, so the question that comes to my mind is, why? How come these terms aren’t more present in my day to day life. The conclusion I came to was how I, as well as many others, were raised.
Society has taught us to raise our children by their assigned sex, and to teach these children to be attracted to the opposite sex, and though recently our generation has been able to push these societal boundaries, it seems as though majority of people are still being brought up with these beliefs, including myself. I was born and raised a boy, I always have been attracted to girls, my assigned sex always present and congruent. My lack of understanding and knowledge is a direct symptom of me being a cis gender male. Because I was brought up without the option or need to explore my gender, I simply never was taught the terminology. As exploring oneself has become far more mainstream, so have the terms.
When searching for definitions for our language when discussing gender and sexuality, one word is always lingering; spectrum. All words hold meaning to the speaker and those listening, but definitions may differ. One article by GenderSpectrum.com labeled “Understanding Gender” says it best: “Individuals do not choose their gender, nor can they be made to change it. However, the words someone uses to communicate their gender identity may change over time; naming one’s gender can be a complex and evolving matter.” To me, I identify as a male and the term “male” has always fit my own identity, but for others that is not always the case.
So where do we go from here? 331 words written none of which tell the definition and terms of anything, here lies the answer. The definition of one’s gender cannot be described with prefixes and a simple explanation. Yes one’s gender has a definition but for some it is static and others it is forever evolving, and being explored and defined by the holder. This can make gender be a difficult topic of conversation given we all have one, but we are not all equipped with the terminology or understanding to share, articulate and understand the many layers and spectrums of gender.