You have spent years on the journey that is your life, and you have always carried the Male Label. Why should you care about Gender Identity? Here are three reasons –
1. Suicide, Depression and Anxiety (Gender Dysphoria)
2. Ignorance breeds violence
3. The trauma of a society’s discrimination
I will look at each of these in a moment.
But first, a word about categorisation
As a society we love to categorise: Male or Female, as simple as Blue or Pink. The trouble is that when we categorise people, the categories do not always reflect reality.
When a child is born, we slap the Male or Female Label of them, without much of an idea why. There are no consistently applied criteria to determine if someone is Male or Female, and if you would like to read more about this, please have a look at my article Gender Identity Myths.
In reality, a person is more complex than the binary Blue or Pink. A person’s true Gender Identity could be Cisgender Male, Cisgender Female, Transgender Male, Transgender Female, Non-Binary, Gender Queer, Gender Questioning, or a number of other Gender Identities along the gender spectrum.
Your true Gender Identity - Yours to identify
However you truly identify, this is deeply personal, and unique to you. It is how you see yourself in relation to yourself, but also in relation to others. And it is something that you may not have fully identified or acknowledged for several years.
There may be all sorts of reasons why it took you a long time to identify your true Gender Identity. For example, you might not have known that there are more Gender Identities than the Male or Female Labels. Or, even if you did know, you assumed these other Labels were not available to you. Or perhaps you feared reprisals, because of the way society assumes that the Cisgender Identity is somehow the ‘norm’.
But why care about Gender Identity?
Your Gender Identity goes to your core. It is as intrinsic as any other aspect of your identity, including your sexuality and your ethnicity.
Reason #1 to Care About Gender Identity –Suicide, Depression and Anxiety (Gender Dysphoria)
If you have been given the Male Label at birth, but you do not truly identify as Male, this can cause you extreme emotional distress. This is known as Gender Dysphoria. Gender Dysphoria can lead to depression, anxiety, or even suicidal thoughts and feelings. You essentially feel trapped in your own body.
This leads to one big reason to care about Gender Identity: Suicide is a big problem for people who are Gender Diverse: ‘40% of transgender adults have made one or more attempt’ compared with just 0.6% of cisgender adults (Emmie Matsuno and Tania Israel, 2018)
Reason #2 to Care About Gender Identity - Ignorance breeds violence
Another reason we should care about Gender Identity is other people’s discrimination. When people have limited knowledge and experience, they react with fear and mistrust, and, as a result, there are higher rates of violence committed against people who are Transgender, Non-Binary, Gender Diverse, Gender Questioning, or Gender Queer (collectively referred to as Gender Diverse). Whether it is violence, verbal abuse, employment disputes, or barriers to health care and housing, people who are Gender Diverse are more likely to experience discrimination. If someone who is Gender Diverse is also a Person of Color, the likelihood for discrimination is much higher.
Reason #3 to Care About Gender Identity - The trauma of a society’s discrimination
The end result of all of this is a high potential for trauma from these multiple instances of discrimination:
A society can heal a person’s trauma
If society’s discrimination is responsible for the mental distress inflicted on people who are Gender Diverse, it is society’s responsibility to alleviate that mental distress. A society can heal an individual as much as it can traumatise someone.
As a result, we have a duty to care about Gender Identity. Gender Diversity exists, so we need to understand it. We need to think of people Beyond the Blue or Pink that we have been conditioned to accept. We need to accept that a person’s identity, including their true Gender Identity, is as multi-coloured as a spectrum.
So what do you think?
Does any of this resonate with you? Get in touch by sending me a message privately via the Contact Page, or add a public comment below, and engage in the debate.
Chris Warren-Dickins LLB MA LPC
Therapist, writer, educator, and LGBTQ+ advocate