Understanding gender identity

The binary model of gender suggests an inherent link between sex and gender. In fact, there are a variety of ways in which people interpret and express their gender which fall outside of this binary.

i eat gender norms for breakfast

The trans umbrella

The term trans originates from the term ‘transgender’ and can include any person who experiences gender variance. The trans umbrealla includes people who:

  • Experience disconnect between their true gender identity (how they feel in themselves) and the gender or sex they were assigned at birth.
  • Are undertaking gender reassignment or ‘transitioning’ to live in their preferred gender, in order to live comfortably in accordance with their true gender identity.
  • Are living in a gender which is different to the one they were assigned at birth, with or without medical treatment.
  • Do not identify as male or female, or reject the binary model of gender.
  • Occasionally take on gender roles or wear clothes usually associated with the opposite gender but have no intention of permanently living in that gender.


Expanding on Gender Variance: The Trans* Umbrella

The right to self – identify

Trans people may identify as androgynous, polygender or genderqueer, gender fluid, non-binary, agender, or third gender, transsexual, transvestite, or as a trans man or woman. Some people self-identify as trans in recognition of their trans history, while others prefer to simply be acknowledged in terms of the gender in which they are living.

A person whose preferred gender is female may identify as a ‘trans woman’ and a person whose preferred gender is male may identify as a ‘trans man’. It is important to respond sensitively to the way in which individuals identify and to bear in mind that not all people who experience gender variance will identify as trans.

655px-For_the_non_binary_folk_by_tonytoggles-d620r4zImage: For the non-binary folk. TonyToggles

Too Queer for Your Binary: Everything You Need to Know and More About Non-Binary Identities 


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Non-binary media visibility – the next ceiling to break
Article by Julius Jokikokko, BA Journalism LCC.


When was the last time you saw someone called “he or she” in your course material? In academic world it still haunts us in most of the texts. As a third year student preparing for my dissertation I’m reading a lot about research at the moment. If I paused at each binary pronoun that could’ve been easily omitted with our good friend singular ‘they’, I would never finish an academic paper.

Course books aren’t the only culprit. Even though we might see more gender neutral language in some mass media publications, I took a look at a couple of press codes and was more than a bit disappointed with what I saw.

There’s a handful of guidelines on how to write about trans people. Many of the current guidelines contain terms such as transsexual, which in modern use might feel outdated, and encourage journalists to write about which gender they perceive the person to be. But you might not be able to tell a person’s gender.

The BBC guidance seems more up to date; they encourage writing about people according to their gender identity, and only using terms like trans men or trans women in coming out stories and other specific occasions. But the BBC guide could show greater recognition of non-binary identities. That would be the next ceiling to break.

A lot of media representation focuses on coming out stories, people within the binary, people who are rich, and people who are white. People who might be cis-passing (or in other words, wouldn’t be expected to be trans by cis people scrutinising them) and people who have the access and will to go through medical transition. That in itself leaves out a vast part of the trans and nonbinary population who might not want to go through transition’s medical side or might not be able to access it.

When Chelsea Manning came out, she was first a hot topic for not only the tabloids but the speculative journalists wondering how to write about trans people. Journalists wondering whether to refer to her with her birthname or the wrong pronouns. Surprisingly or not, Wikipedia was one of the first sources to get it right and use the correct name and pronouns for her.

As the next generation of academics and writers, it’s our responsibility to represent people in the way they identify, and look to organisations who work with trans and non-binary people to lead the way.

Check out:

• Guide for writing about non-binary identities: http://nonbinary.org/wiki/Guide_for_journalists

• Trans media watch’s style guide: http://www.transmediawatch.org/Documents/Media%20Style%20Guide.pdf

• Glaad guidance: http://www.glaad.org/reference/transgender