Upon hearing my middle child’s admission that he identifies as non-binary or more so on the outer edges of maleness, I’ve been thinking a lot about gender identity and expression. I would like to share a few of my thoughts with you.
Gender identity is internal, deeply-rooted, and a central part of many people’s senses of self.*
Gender expression, on the other hand, is what everyone around us can see.*
wear pink, dresses, make up
play house, with dolls
want to be moms, teachers, nurses
wear blue, jeans, baseball caps
play sports, cars, with Legos
want to be dads, lawyers, construction workers
It looks silly when it’s laid out before you in print. While this might be something we grew up believing, or maybe we didn’t but we knew it was the expectation….. it went along with the idea that there were only two genders- male and female- and the molds were pretty straight forward. We know that even 20, 30, 40 years ago, these stereotypical descriptions just did not hold true. As more time passes, we are finding that outside of society influencing/dictating what is considered acceptable, the reality looks nothing like those two cookie cutter molds- one wearing a dress, one wearing pants.
I have never fit in the girl mold, even though I do not doubt for a second that I’m a girl. Dresses and I have had a love/hate relationship over the years. I’m not into make up. I hate cooking. My favorite clothing is my jeans, hoodies and gym shoes. I’m not a fan of bugs but have no problem beating them to death with my shoe or something else that’s nice and solid (sorry eco-system and circle of life and all that) but the sight of a mouse sends me screaming from the room like….well, a girl. But, here’s the thing about all of that. None of it makes a difference to me being a girl because that’s who I am.
Growing up in the 70’s, there was a definite girl mold out there and the expectations were very clear. There were times when I was expected to wear a dress whether I wanted to or not. My toys were dolls. The books I read all had female characters who, for the most part, fit that mold. The television shows I watched were filled with girls perpetuating that image. I wasn’t always comfortable with all of it but that’s the way it was.
As I reached adulthood and had my own daughter, I made a concentrated effort to not force her into that same mold. It’s probably a good thing, too, because my daughter ended up actually being my son. And my son ended up not being a boy who fit the boy mold.
Unfortunately, so many want to hold onto those molds- one in each hand- so neat and simple—- and so wrong. Hopefully as the idea of gender being something that is defined by a person’s innate sense of who they are and not what’s between their legs AND that every person has the right to express themselves in a way that feels right for them, we will bridge the gap between the old school boy/girl molds and the concept that there is more to a person than simpy boy or girl (and there always has been.)
I’m sharing this article on Gender Identity and Gender Expression. I think it does a good job of laying it out there for everyone to read. It is written with examples that we can relate to and understand.
What about you? Do you fit into your mold?