Tough Stuff

Understanding the spectrum of gender

When you walk through the mall or down the hallways at school, it's likely that you see two types of people: males and females. But some of your classmates probably find that they fall somewhere in the middle of the two, or that they don't fall anywhere on the spectrum of gender at all. What's the spectrum of gender? This means that there are two common ways to identify—male or female—but there's also everything in between. Peep the graphic below for a visual representation.

Terms like agender and genderfluid are used by folks who don’t feel like they fit within the traditional distinction of boy or girl. Agender means without gender. Someone who identifies as agender doesn’t identify with any gender at all and, thus, is not anywhere on the spectrum. If someone is genderfluid, they can identify as male, female or any other combination of identities whenever they want to. They move freely along the gender spectrum depending on the way they feel. 

You may be curious as to how you can use the correctly address someone who identifies as agender, genderfluid or something of the like with the appropriate pronouns. GLAAD, a national organization striving for LGBT acceptance leading to cultural change, has some tips for when you might not know exactly how to address someone you just met.

First, ask yourself why you need to know what this person's gender is and make sure that the decision to identify someone’s gender is left up to that individual. Listening and paying attention to what pronouns people use is a huge clue into how you should address them, so be sure to keep those ears open! 

Then, start with an introduction. If you can’t get an answer from context clues, allow them to introduce themselves with the correct pronouns. Easy-peasy. 

Remember, don’t ever assume, but it is okay to make a mistake. As long as you make a real effort to correct yourself and be respectful, anyone will understand that you are working hard to make them feel comfortable. 

No matter what gender you identify with, know that it does not actually define your identity. It does not have to affect what you look like physically or what you should wear. You're free to be who you are and look the way you like, regardless of the way you do or do not label yourself.

Where on the gender spectrum do you feel most comfortable?

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by Hailey Albright | 8/20/2016