Gender: a human right

You have a right to present yourself in the way in which you wish to be received – so does a transgender person.

How proud of your presentation are you? Do you take time over it? Transgender people should be able to be proud of their presentation too.

How far would you go to protect your right to present yourself how you want? Transgender people all over the world put their lives at risk for this right.

In 2012, at least 265 trans people were murdered (data from 29 countries only). In only 13 cases has any arrest been made. In at least 2 cases the murders were committed by the police. In 56 cases the victim’s name has not been recorded. (Source: TDoR, 2012)

70% of children who are uncertain about their gender are subject to bullying, 88% of transgender employees experience discrimination or harassment in their workplace, and there has been a recent rise in hate crime against transgender people of 14%. (Source: UK Home Office report, 2011)

41% of transgender people in the United States have attempted to commit suicide; more than 25 times the rate of the general population, which is 1.6 percent. (Source: National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, 2010)
woman makeup mirror
These statistics are alarming for the friends and families of people coming out as trans. We hasten to add that trans* people in Jersey do not tend to experience bullying, discrimination or harassment on the same scale as elsewhere. Britain has a much better track record than most countries regarding crimes against LGBT people. Surrounding yourself with educated people who understand the importance of tolerance and diversity in a civilised society can also help to minimise a trans* person’s exposure to discriminatory behaviour.

What is gender?

Firstly, your gender is not the same as your sex. It seems obvious but it is so deeply embedded in all of us that most people don’t think about it and use the terms interchangeably. According to the OED, sex is “either of the two main categories (male and female) into which humans and most other living things are divided on the basis of their reproductive functions”. A look at the reproductive organs or chromosomes of an animal will scientifically prove what sex they are. (There are a number of rare and specialist medical conditions where this is not the case. They are called intersex conditions, sometimes wrongly termed “disorders of sexual development” (DSDs), and occur before birth.) The OED defines gender as “the state of being male or female (typically used with reference to social and cultural differences rather than biological ones)”. There are two parts to gender: how you perceive yourself, i.e. man or woman, and how society receives your gender presentation, i.e. masculine or feminine. The genderbreadman (below) calls this your gender identity and your gender expression. To find out whether someone is a man or a woman, you have to ask them. Where sex is a physical state, gender is a mental state. It is about how you feel. Do you feel like a man or a woman? The answer to this question will, of course, be informed by the individual’s definition of what a man and a woman are, their life experiences, the society in which they live, etc. To decide what someone’s gender expression is you simply look at the way that an individual presents themselves to the world. Do they act, react, dress, in a more feminine or masculine way? This is all about society’s definition of what constitutes masculine/feminine behaviour and it changes as one moves around the world through other countries, tribes, and cultures. For a man to wear a skirt in Edinburgh is acceptable masculine behaviour but may not be so in Chelsea! It is about how an individual conforms to society’s norms for masculine/feminine behaviour, or chooses not to conform, and how other members of that society receive that individual’s presentation. genderbread So, to recap: Sex is biological – male or female Gender is psychological – man or woman Presentation or expression is an external representation of sex and/or gender – masculine or feminine Gender is how you would like to be perceived but, crucially, it is also how society receives your expression of that.