Are you he, she or non-binary in gender identity?

Gender identities can be highly complex for many individuals, and it can be an inadequate exercise describing themselves as just a man or just a woman. Gender identity can also be a huge source of anxiety for individuals and can often be an extremely lonely experience for those struggling with their identities. 

The importance of language is very important when speaking about gender identity. Whilst the old either/or options of “male/female” or “straight/gay” may represent a working model for some of us, for others a greater degree of nuance and distinction is necessary.

When Maria Munir addressed Barack Obama at a Q&A conference in London earlier this year she came out as a non-binary person (footage is available on social media sites with an easy search). She received huge applause from the audience and went on to explain that in the UK there is currently no recognition of non-binary people under the Equality Act, 2010.

However, since 2014 the social networking site Facebook has offered its users no less than 71 different “other” genders with which to describe themselves. Bigender, intersex and transmasculine are just a few of the often overlapping terms. Here are some of the key ones:

Cisgender: This is when your gender identity corresponds perfectly with the body in which you were born into. So, for example, you might identify as female and your biological sex is female too. 

Gender fluid: A person who may, at different times and under different circumstances, identify themselves as male or female (or neutrois).

Neutrois: This is when someone who defines their gender identity as neither male nor female. “Agender”, “gender-neutral” and “null-gender” are some of the terms used in the absence of a definitive definition. If this is you, you’re also likely to consider yourself transgender and gender queer.

Genderqueer: This is an umbrella term for those who feel that their gender identity is outside of, not included within, or beyond the heads-or tails choice of female and male. It is important to understand that this has nothing to do with sexual preference. A gay man who identifies as male is not genderqueer, but a straight man who engages in transvestism may consider himself so.

Intersex: This term describes a person born with genitalia or a reproductive system that does not fit binary notions of male or female bodies. This term may have been previously referred to as hermaphrodites.

Pangender: This is a term whereby somebody has, or indeed attempts to have, aspects of all genders as part of their identity.

Transgender: This term can bring about a lot of confusion. It is when your mind says that you are one gender but your body says you are another. However, identifying as “trans” does not necessarily mean you have undergone any gender-reassignment surgery or hormone treatment.  It is that you do not conform to the sex you were born into. The thing to remember is that trans has nothing to do with what’s between your legs and everything to do with what’s between your ears.

Transsexual: This is when somebody has made a transition from one gender to another, via surgery and hormone treatments.

Trans*: The asterisk is crucial as it is indicative of any and all suffixes that may follow. Basically, “trans*” is a convenient way to refer to all individuals who may not be cisgender without having to list every different possible identity that this may include.

According to the authors Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam one of the most searched terms for online porn is the category of ‘shemale’. However, that term is seen as a derogatory term within the trans community since it refers to a role within the adult sex industry.

Many individuals find the experience of gender identity very confusing and it can be a very lonely time. Counselling and psychotherapy can help someone in this situation and offer the opportunity to talk through feelings and areas of worry and anxiety.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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London SE1 & SE26
Written by Noel Bell, MA, PG Dip Psych, UKCP
London SE1 & SE26

Noel Bell is a UKCP accredited clinical psychotherapist in London who has spent over 20 years exploring and studying personal growth, recovery from addictions and inner transformation. Noel is an integrative therapist and draws upon the most effective tools and techniques from the psychodynamic, CBT, humanist, existential and transpersonal schools.

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