Posted by: Karen (Betty Bear) | June 9, 2014

gender identity

I know, it’s been a while. Sorry. But now the thoughts inside my head have gotten loud enough I need to let some of them out, so here goes:


Girl child is an ardent feminist and a staunch believer in LGBTQIA rights. (If I didn’t get the acronym quite correct, let me know, I have trouble remembering ALL the letters.)  And so, she and I have many interesting and fervent discussions about such. Some of these take place at the dinner table for the edification and bemusement of Boy Child and Husband. Some take place in the car or wherever we happen to find ourselves. We’ve been having an ongoing discussion about gender identity and the difference between sex and gender and what it all means.

I have always thought of sex, as in what is your biological sex, basically the same as gender. I am learning that current thought on gender identity says it ain’t so. I refer you here: Breaking Through the Binary for a good article on it. However, I have a bit of an issue with the gender expression part of it. If you don’t want to go to the link and read, briefly gender expression is about how you demonstrate gender through what you wear, say, how you act, etc. I get that society or culture assigns behaviors toward one gender or the other quite often and also that we use someone’s gender expression to determine what pronoun to use for them.

But here’s where it breaks down for me. I identify myself as female. My biology says I’m female. I self-identify as a woman and because of my biology and my self identity I am a cisgendered female.  In terms of my thinking of my own identity, everything I do and say and wear comes from that female identity. For instance, I may be aggressive in a situation but I don’t perceive that trait as masculine, I perceive the trait as a simple descriptor of behavior. I may be passive in a situation, but, again, I don’t perceive that trait as feminine. I feel like assigning gender to behaviors creates more of a dichotomy between, or among, the genders than truly exists. Example: studies have shown that women have a better sense of smell than men. However, and this is important, the overlapping group of men and women is far, far greater than the few outliers of women with keen senses of smell and men with abysmal senses of smell. And so it is for almost all traits. I was trying to find a nice Venn diagram as illustration, but you’ll just have to imagine it.

But whatever the trait or behavior, for me, because it’s mine, it’s womanly even if someone else would deem it a manly behavior.

I get that these discussions are important and that they are needful out in the world given the lack of acceptance for people who don’t fall into neatly assigned gender roles. But I feel like too much definition can end up creating even more rigid boundaries and dichotomies.

I’m open to discussion on this, so comment away, but be nice or you’ll be gone.



  1. I think like you do. I understand gender identity, but gender expression seems to take us back to the old days of what women are supposed to be like and what men are supposed to be like. One of my female friends and I very definitely identify as female. We also tend to wear men’s jeans (Levi’s 501s) for gardening or hiking, as well as men’s oversized shirts or t-shirts often. I wear my hair shorter than my male housemate. Does that mean we are expressing ourselves as male? Nope. Does being a stay-at-home parent mean one is expressing a female gender? Those seem to be old-fashioned gender stereotypes.

    I agree that it’s possible to overlabel and create too many boxes to put people into. Such compartmentalizing restrains freedom of expression. At least to my way of thinking.

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