What is Gender Diversity?
Gender diversity is an umbrella term that is used to describe gender identities that demonstrate a diversity of expression beyond the binary framework. For many gender diverse people, the concept of binary gender – having to choose to express yourself as male or female – is constraining. Some people would prefer to have the freedom to change from one gender to another, or not have a gender identity at all. Others just want to be able to openly defy or challenge more normalised concepts of gender. For gender diverse people, their identity is about presenting something more outwardly authentic to the world, whether they understand themselves to be differently gendered, or have no gender at all. It is important to recognise that many cultures throughout history have recognised gender diversity beyond masculine and feminine. Today the internet has provided a platform where people can explore common experiences with gender diversity and a lot of the language used to describe these experiences is still evolving. There are often misunderstandings that report of there being hundreds of genders, each with unique rules, language and pronouns. A lot of these claims are exaggerated, taking into account very niche and specialised terms, or very personal explorations of gender.
Umbrella terms such as non-binary, genderqueer or X gender are adequately broad descriptors for gender diverse people. Individuals, however, may use more specialised personal terms to describe themselves within their own peer group and safe spaces. There is a lot of debate around what pronouns are acceptable, or should be used to describe gender diverse people. The singular ‘they‘ (e.g. “they are taking their dog for a walk”) is widely recognised as an existing pronoun structure that is courteous of gender diversity, if not always considered ideal. There are many other gender neutral pronouns that people may use (such as fae and eir), but ultimately it is best to use the pronoun the gender diverse person asks for.
A change of name and/or a change of pronoun can appear to be be difficult for some people to accept and respect. However, socially, we learn to accept and respect changes people make to their names all the time – think about people changing names when they marry! Many people, regardless of their gender identity, expect nicknames to be respected, and some cis-gender people (someone whose gender identity correlates to their birth sex) can be offended when they are misgendered (for example if a woman is called “he“). The same principles apply to people who are gender diverse. While it is okay to make a mistake when someone has recently shared their new name and/or pronoun, it is important to practice and work towards getting it right all the time.
- Gender diversity is about acknowledging and respecting that there are many ways to identify outside of the binary of male and female.
- Presenting as gender diverse is not about attention seeking or receiving special treatment, it is about being one’s authentic self.
- There is not a need for people to to know about every gender identity out there. What is more important is that people respect those who are gender diverse and the choices they make about their life.
- Using the correct names and pronouns for gender diverse people, as well as gender neutral language are reasonable expectations that is inclusive to gender diverse people.
- Inclusivity not only benefits gender diverse people – it benefits everyone!