Understanding Gender

What is Gender?

When someone is pregnant, inevitably the first question they’re asked is whether they’re having a boy or a girl. The next set of utterances is often about their current family composition, whether they “want” the gender they’re having, or whether another boy or girl will complete their ideal family. We’re heavily socialized to celebrate a baby’s worth based on whether they are the right gender for their family’s wishes and whether that baby will conform to society’s idealized gender expressions.

Imagine a US, then, in which gender is recognized for exactly what it is: a social construct. A social construct is a set of expectations and beliefs created by humans for other humans who live in the same society. In other words, it has no solid basis in objective reality or in the laws of nature. Instead, our society’s idealized gender roles were created as a way to subjugate others to a rigid set of ideals to which they’re expected to conform.

 And What if They Don’t?

The United States has a long, repressive history related to gender, just as it does with race. Although we are in the initial stages of developing a more fluid mindset around gender and gender conformity, we have a long way to go to understand gender the way other cultures do. A wonderful example of a gender-affirming society is the Bugis society in Indonesia. They honor multiple gender identities:

  • CIS female
  • CIS male
  • Calalai (a woman who looks and acts like a man)
  • Calabai (a man who looks and acts like a woman)
  • Bissu (priests who are a mix of all genders and sexes)

The Bugis aren’t the only society that affirms the fluidity of gender. Many Native American tribes honor two-spirit gender identity as a third loved and respected gender expression within their societies. Some even honored a fourth gender. They are far ahead of mainstream US culture in recognition of, and love for, all gender expressions.

Change is Coming

We are making progress. For example, recognizing preferred personal pronouns has recently become a visible part of mainstream culture. Using preferred personal pronouns is, simply, a way to honor who an individual is on the inside and how they express their identity on the outside. Pronouns can include::

  • She/her – used by someone whose gender identity is female
  • He/him – used by someone whose gender identity is male
  • They/them – used by someone whose gender is nonbinary (both or neither female or male)
  •  Ze/Hir or zir – used by someone who wants to be known in a gender-neutral way

This list of pronouns is not exhaustive, and all are acceptable. Using the appropriate personal pronouns when talking to someone is critical in honoring who they are intrinsically. Using the correct pronoun (whether you understand it fully or not) is a way to love, accept, and completely respect an individual whose gender identity is fluid.

Claiming Your Identity

Becoming comfortable in one’s body and with one’s gender and/or sexual identity is the ultimate form of rebellion against the rigidity of the society in which we live. It’s also a process that requires love, respect, exploration of self, and support. If you’re in the Park Slope area of Brooklyn, Meisel NP Psychiatry provides affirming therapeutic support in an LGBTQIA+ safe space. We also provide virtual mental health services for those in New York state, New Jersey, and Connecticut.

We offer diagnostic/evaluations, medication management, therapy, as well as medical marijuana and ketamine compounding therapies. Our therapeutic approach sees you, affirms you, and supports you. Contact us at 740-777-6184 or info@meiselpsychnp.com to help you become you.

Disclaimer: The information contained here is intended for informational purposes only. This is not a substitute for medical advice.

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