- Gender identity is a person’s own sense of identification as male, female, neither, both, or somewhere in between.
- Sometimes people get confused about the difference between gender and sex. Gender refers to the gender that someone identifies with, while sex is usually refers to the sex someone is assigned at birth. It can be helpful to think of it as: sex is between your legs and gender is in your head/heart.
- You’re sex is usually determined by a variety of things including chromosomes, reproductive organs and secondary sex characteristics. Sex also works as a continuum, with male and female at either end, and in between is intersex. Intersex refers to the people who are are born along the continuum between male and female. Someone can be intersex due to chromosomes, hormones or reproductive organs. Its a lot more common than what a lot of people are aware of.
- Gender refers to how you identify, someone can identify as male, female, in between, both, or neither. Gender identity can be influenced by culture, feelings, thoughts, clothing, people around us, and more. It can be helpful to think of gender as a continuum, with male and female at either end. Our ideas, and social constructs influence what male and female at either end of the spectrum look like, and you can identify any where in between.
- Transgender is usually used to describe people who were assigned a sex at birth and identify with a different gender identity.
- A recent study found that in New Zealand 1% of young people identified themselves as transgender, and 3% were unsure of their gender identity. So if you feel like you weren’t born with a body that aligns with how you feel about yourself, or even feel somewhere in between, you’re not alone! RainbowYOUTH runs a group specifically for young people who are Trans* or questioning their gender.
- At RainbowYOUTH addition of an asterix to the end of the word ‘trans’ is a special effort to indicate that the term functions as an umbrella term for an extremely varied range of identities, including culturally specific ones. We here at RY use the term trans* to indicate that they include identities such as: whakawahine, tangata ira tane, FtM, MtF, transsexual, fa’afafine, transgender, whakawahine, transmen, transwomen, akava’ine, leiti, genderqueer and gender-neutral people.
Some things to be aware of :
When someone comes out and asks you to use different pronouns, it’s really important that you do your best to use them. It can be difficult, and everyone makes mistakes so just make sure you say sorry if you slip up. It means more than you can imagine!
Deciding what name to use can be tricky, and some people change their name more than once before finding something they feel they identify with, so it’s important to be respectful and do your best to use the name they ask you to.
A lot of people who don’t identify as cisgendered go through a mental battle every time they have to use public toilets. It might not sound like a big problem, but can be scary as hell! Public toilets are like gender guarded forts, with soldiers protecting them with their disconcerting looks and subtle comments. So if you see someone in the toilet , just assume they know which one they are in.
If someone tells you they are transitioning, don’t ask whether that makes them “gay or straight”. Gender and sexuality are two completely different things, and people who come out as trans don’t do it so that “they can finally be straight”.
Don’t ask questions about genitals, surgeries, or former names. They are very sensitive subjects and its important to be respectful.
- Surgeries and Hormones
Everyone takes a different transition path.Some people go on hormones, some people don’t. Some people have surgery some people don’t. Just because someone identifies a particular way doesn’t necessarily mean they want to take hormones, or have surgery. So be careful not to pressure people into following the transition path you think is right for them, they will find the right path for them.
- Respect privacy
If someone comes out to you reassure them that you will keep it private. And thank them, its a huge compliment to your trustworthiness.
- Be a good friend
Reassure them that you are there if they want to talk and tell them they aren’t alone.
RainbowYOUTH has a group specifically for people who aren’t cisgendered, or who are questioning their gender, called Star*, and there are also a number of other groups around NZ which are supportive. These can be a great safe way of meeting people who are going through or are going through what you are, and they can be a great source of support. For information, check out I’m Local.