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  • feedwordpress 10:00:28 on 2017/05/06 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , Female, , Gender Expectations, Gender Norms, Gender Revolution, , , Language, , , Understanding   

    Breaking Free from Gender Expectations 

    “Why does gender still play such a defining role in our society?” – Nicolas, Copenhagen, Denmark 

    One of the oldest origin stories in our culture lays the ground for our binary system of gender: Adam and Eve. The Old Testament set up this duality of man and woman. And old stories are deeply rooted in us.

    From the very moment a woman is pregnant, we ask: is it a boy or a girl? We create two categories with very little room for anything outside of these prescribed definitions.

    My colleague Jean Malpas who studies transgender children, and will speak about his work on the TED stage in May, explains that gender is one of the fundamental ways we humanize each other. By assigning gender we turn something abstract (a fetus) into a concrete concept that will accompany us throughout our entire life. Gender is story. The story that culture has bestowed upon us – a legacy that comes laden with expectations. Expectations of how a man and a woman must be, must think, must act.

    You and I know these stories well. For instance: men are described as rabid biological creatures always looking for a sexual outlet. But for women, it is expected that sexuality is more subjective, that desire is complicated and conditional. These are just a few of the narratives we have learnt. But if you look closely at yourself and the people you know, you will find these narratives are riddled with contradictions and that individuals are far more nuanced.

    So what happens if you don’t meet the cultural narrative of your gender? If you are a woman who doesn’t like clothes shopping, for instance, or don’t use “feminine” gestures. What if you are a man who hates sports? You may feel in conflict. You may feel deficient, insufficient and incomplete.

    So how do we approach gender today? One of the greatest challenges is that we have seen gender as being consistent with the body and the sex that we were assigned as a baby. But we are finally beginning to understand that gender is not an assignation, that biology is not destiny. Or as transgender man Sawyer DeVuyst aptly describes it: “Gender is who you go to bed as and sexuality is who you go to bed with.”

    As I talked about in my Language of Gender piece, the gender revolution has arrived. We have a whole new lexicon to choose from. And with it, freedom for self-expression. So, let’s turn the page and create a new story for ourselves.

    What stories about gender have you learnt that have accompanied you throughout life? In what ways have they shaped, helped or hindered you? I would love to know your thoughts. Please comment below.

    The post Breaking Free from Gender Expectations appeared first on Esther Perel.

     
  • feedwordpress 18:15:06 on 2017/04/21 Permalink
    Tags: , , , Gender Revolution, Gender Vocabulary, , Language of Gender,   

    The Language of Gender: Beyond Boy and Girl 

    From the debate around bathrooms to transgender celebrities on magazine covers, gender has become the new frontier for self-expression and self-determination.. The sexual revolution is far from over, but the gender revolution has arrived. An entirely new vocabulary is emerging for people to understand the differences between body, sex (i.e. anatomy prescribed at birth) and gender.

    So how do we begin to talk about gender? How do we understand gender beyond the simple binaries of, boy and girl, man and woman that we have been raised with?

    Similarly to sexuality, it comes down to linguistics. When we have the language it helps us identify who we are, but more importantly, it helps us understand the other. When we only have two categories and think in shades of blue and pink, we end up stigmatizing and rejecting those who don’t fit  these boxes.

    We need a glossary of terms to navigate the colorful spectrum of possibilities. With that in mind, National Geographic released a stimulating issue on gender at the beginning of 2017, in which they redefined gender in a glossary of 21 terms (although there are many more that could be added).

    Having a vocabulary is crucial. Language shapes our experience, it gives us access, understanding, emotional resonance and meaning. So let’s begin with a few terms from Nat Geo as we expand our understanding and join this cultural revolution:

    Genderqueer: Someone whose gender identity is neither man nor woman, is between or beyond genders, or is some combination of genders.

    Cisgender (pronounced sis-gender): A term to describe a person whose gender identity matches the biological sex they were assigned at birth. (It is sometimes abbreviated as “cis.”)

    Intersex: An umbrella term that describes a person with a genetic, genital, reproductive, or hormonal configuration that does not fit typical binary notions of a male or female body. Intersex is frequently confused with transgender, but the two are completely distinct. A more familiar term, hermaphrodite, is considered outdated and offensive.

    Check out the entire piece to begin to understand the gender revolution. And look out for next week’s blog post in which we’ll talk about why gender is so important and the deeply seated roots of our old gender binary system.

    How do you define your gender? How has the gender revolution opened your mind or challenged you? Let me know your thoughts.  

     

    Photography by Robin Hammond/National Geographic

    The post The Language of Gender: Beyond Boy and Girl appeared first on Esther Perel.

     
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