Everyone should feel free to be themselves, without an imposed norm from outside. Unfortunately, the reality is different, and our emancipation is often far from complete. In the Netherlands, too, people are still discriminated against and beaten up every day because of who they are or who they love. In recent decades, our struggle has mainly been about ‘being allowed to love who we want’ and it is time to broaden the focus to ‘be allowed to be how we feel’. In other words, time to pay attention to the diversity of gender identities and our right to self-determination. We have the right to deviate from the norm and the sex we were given at birth. Gender identity is central during Pride Amsterdam from July 30 to August 7, 2022, with the theme ‘My Gender, My Pride’.
MY GENDER, MY PRIDE
The past 25 years have mainly been dominated by our sexual orientations and the struggle to deviate from the hetero norm. “The struggle to deviate from the norm in terms of gender identity and the sex we were given at birth is often underexposed, also within the community. We are going to try to change that this year,” said director Lucien Spee de Castillo Ruiz. “It is not an easy subject, and it is also very diverse. What is typically considered male or female is also not an undisputed fact. It can differ per culture and country. For example, we see that some professions that used to be male are now seen as female and vice versa.
What is gender identity?
Gender is about masculinity and femininity and everything in between. It’s about ideas and expectations. About how a boy or a girl should behave. What kind of clothes a man or a woman should wear. Sex is your gender, your body and your physical characteristics. When you are born, it is determined whether you are a boy or girl. This will appear on your birth certificate, and in your passport. Gender identity is about who you are, based on your own feeling. “Some people don’t identify with their gender and have a different gender identity. They don’t feel like a boy but a girl, or the other way around, or they don’t think the whole division into male/female is appropriate, they feel something in between, or varying. There are also people whose sex characteristics are not unequivocally male or female.”
‘My Gender, My Pride’
With the theme ‘My Gender, My Pride’ stands the emancipation of persons belonging to the categories; transgender, non-binary, genderqueer, genderfluid, gender nonconforming, agender and intersex central, regardless of their sexual orientation. This emancipation has lagged behind sexual emancipation and therefore deserves our full attention.
Transgender is a term people use to describe themselves if they don’t feel comfortable with the gender they were given when they were born. It can mean different things. Transgender can include people who:
- Feeling (more) like a girl or woman, but having the body that according to society suits a boy or man.
- Feeling (more) like a boy or man, but having the body that according to society suits a girl or woman.
- Feeling both male and female (both).
- Feeling between man and woman (in between).
- Feeling neither a man nor a woman (ie neither).
- Find the boxes and ideas about ‘man’ and ‘woman’ limited and do not recognize themselves in them.
Cisgender is the term for people who are comfortable with the gender they were given at birth. It is the opposite of transgender. Most people are cisgender. Cis comes from Latin and means ‘on this side’. Trans stands for ‘on the other side’. A cis woman is therefore a woman who was born with the sex characteristics of women and who also feels feminine. A cisman is a man who was born to be a man and who feels comfortable with it.
If you were born as a boy or girl, but you don’t look like the majority expect from a boy or girl, or you don’t behave as ‘should’ as a boy or girl, you are gender non-conforming: you don’t comply to the social norm of how boys and girls look. The gender norm. This can be because of your build (sex) but also because of your clothing or hair preference (gender identity and gender expression). You may be lesbian, gay, or bisexual, but you don’t have to be.
Genderqueer, non-binair, genderfluïde
We often divide people into ‘male’ or ‘female’, but there is more diversity. The male/female dichotomy is a simplification of reality. More is possible. Between ‘man’ and ‘woman’ there are all kinds of variations on masculinity and femininity, or rather: humanity. These terms all indicate that you are putting yourself out of the box, but also that you don’t agree with the boxes. Gender is not a given, it comes in all kinds of forms, and you can shape it yourself however you want.
Non-binair en genderqueer
If you find the male/female division too narrow or too limited, you can name yourself in all sorts of ways. For example, you can call yourself non-binary: that means you are not one or the other; you transcend the dichotomy. Genderqueer also means that you do not have a fixed gender identity, or that you move between masculinity and femininity.
Genderfluid is also a nice word for people who don’t suit a man or a woman. Fluid literally means liquid. As if the norms and fixed ideas about boys and girls, men and women can melt and merge or flow away.
Agender is a gender identity that is characterized by complete gender lessness, or the lack of gender. Agender is a non-binary gender identity where you don’t feel male, female, or any other gender. Agender people can identify most strongly as just a person, rather than as a particular gender.
Everyone is different and so are our bodies. Just over 1% of the world’s population is born with a body that does not quite match the social ideal/norm of man or woman. In the Netherlands this concerns about 190,000 people. Intersex people have always existed, but are hardly visible in our society. A dichotomy between men and women is the norm.
Intersex is a variation of what is considered the male or female sex. The norm for “man” is XY chromosomes, penis, testes, testosterone and a certain physique. ‘Female’ is based on XX chromosomes, vagina, ovaries and uterus, estrogen and a different physique. Yet girls are born with XY chromosomes and boys with XX chromosomes. Or boys with a vagina and girls with a clitoris the size of a small penis. The variation between intersex people is large. Sometimes it is known from birth that there is an intersex child. But there are also people who do not know that they have an intersex condition. They can struggle with unexplained physical or mental complaints throughout their lives.
Intersex is not about sexual orientation or gender identity. Most intersex people have a male or female gender identity and are heterosexual. But just like other people, they can also have a lesbian, gay or bisexual orientation or identify with another gender identity, such as transgender or non-binary.