GENDER & SEXUALITY GROUP
We have our own ideas about our gender identity.
As much as the world wants to define it for us, we have our own ideas about our gender identity. In general, gender is assigned at birth based on a baby’s sex. And, once assigned, the cultures of the world are off and running, ready to put into action every tool at their disposal to define expectations.
In the beginning, the predominant paradigm is binary – pink cap or blue cap. The culture starts putting the pressure on – like the survival of the society depends on it. The world delights in boyish boys or girly girls. Non-conforming kids face a different path, often risking marginalization.
Thank goodness there is more fluidity today, but the framework and traditions still run deep. Traditional roles and patterns that have worked for eons provide a good place to begin – a basic framework in which to grow until we find our own paths.
Whether we want to or not, we send messages about our gender. There is no avoiding it. It seems everyone feels quite adept at assessing the extent to which someone fits the model. We think that, once we know the gender, we can then attribute tons of cultural expectations onto that person. Shorthand. Stereotyping.
As teens and young adults, we want to become a walking beacon of coolness, the kind of coolness that announces to the world that we are ready to mate – to pair up. We know who we are attracted to and we want to present ourselves to them in a way that gets their attention. The problem is, at that age, we are in a sea of other people our age seeking relationships too. Oh, to be a peacock and stand out in a spectacular way!
We get the message loud and clear about how to be attractive – the ideal to which we should aspire. Everywhere we turn men, women and the LGBTQ community see those unreachable examples. These ideals tell us how to be wanted. How to be popular.
We find our spot along the spectrum from overtly masculine to overtly feminine. We might celebrate excess or feel more comfortable keeping our messaging quiet. It’s all good.
In this section we explore some of the cultural expectations related to gender that are ours to follow and celebrate – or not.