Statesman

How vast is the gender spectrum?

REVEALING IDENTITY.  Standing side by side, these students portray how individuals may consider themselves differently from societal expectations and restrictions.

Alexandra Shafran

REVEALING IDENTITY. Standing side by side, these students portray how individuals may consider themselves differently from societal expectations and restrictions.

Brenda Reyn, Graphics Editor

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People are typically labeled as either male or female. However, often times, society tends to forget that as human beings, there is no concise or conclusive method of how to define us. Nothing is written in black or white; in fact, the world is filled with many gray areas. Nowadays, our gender identity is not restricted to two choices: boy or girl.

“The gender of the person you truly are can be different from your physical [features] to your mental [characteristics],” English teacher William Fritz said. “We are not a one size fits all species.”

Even before one’s birth, blue is meant for boys and pink is meant for girls. These gender specifications follow people throughout their lives. Gender stereotypes tell girls they must be feminine, while telling boys that they must be masculine. For girls, they are told to be soft and kind, while men are stereotyped to have more rugged and strong characteristics. Women are expected to stay home and take care of children, while men are expected to go to work and bring money home to support their families.

“Certain things are specific for girls, and certain things are specific for boys,” Jen Geary ’15 said. “There is no overlap. If a guy does girly things or a girl does manly things, they are called ‘gay’ or ‘weird’.”

However, others choose to not label themselves as male or female. For instance, some people are assigned male at birth, but as they grow older, they find that they are women. People can be genderless, or consider themselves as all genders or pangender. These associations often relate back to the overarching question of how people wish to define themselves.

“To break free from conforming [stereotypes] is a very courageous thing to do,” Kathryn Tenbarge, gender studies blogger, said. “It means that you have reached a level of understanding yourself that most people haven’t.”

For those people, breaking away from average gender rules may often times lead to judgement. According to Tenbarge, society should try to stop pressuring people to fit into little boxes and encourage them to break the boundaries between men and women. Often times, as one is trying to fit into society’s expectations, one might find that they are not smart enough, thin enough, masculine enough or feminine enough.

“It is a hard thing for people to understand,” Fritz said. “Women and men can achieve based on who they are, not based on who they’re told to be. If you want to be who you want to be, and you can be a better person because of it, then let it be.”

For the future, Tenbarge believes that if people take the time to educate themselves about gender identification, they will be more likely to understand it and be accepting of it. She acknowledged that although being who you are can make you feel like you are alone, it is helpful to reach out to find people who can support you. For now, Fritz, Geary and Tenbarge agree there is nothing to lose from expanding the strict labels and categories our society tries to squeeze everyone into.

“Healthy behavior comes from acceptance, not oppression,” Fritz said. “It is harmful to put limits on it. People can’t breathe in tight boundaries.”

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How vast is the gender spectrum?