The Gender Unicorn and Their Pronouns
- Written by Nancy Hoi Wong OTD, OTR/L, RYT200
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It’s transgender awareness week
Today’s post may be elementary to some but nonetheless important!
How is gender different from sexuality? How does gender exist outside the binary of male & female?
The Gender Unicorn is a brilliant resource developed by Trans Student Educational Resources (TSER) that shows the differences between gender identity, gender expression, biological sex, and physical & emotional attraction.
It’s all a Continuum
Notice that gender identity, gender expression, sex assigned at birth, and physical & emotional attraction exist on a continuum, not a binary, i.e. a person will fall along the length of a single arrow, rather than fall into a single checkbox or category. Also note that, for some, these qualities can can shift and move on that continuum: for example- I may express myself and dress super feminine today, and less feminine tomorrow.
- Gender Identity: An internal sense of gender, which may or may not match their biological sex. One can identify as being male, female, neither of these, both, or another gender(s). Everyone’s gender identity is unique.
- Gender Expression: Outward manifestation of gender expressed through a person’s pronoun (they/ze/she/he), clothing, haircut, voice, and physical characteristics.
- Sex Assigned at Birth: The assignment and classification of people as male, female, intersex, or another sex based on a combination of anatomy, hormones, chromosomes.
- Sexually Attracted to: An individual’s physical attraction to another. Gender expression and sexual orientation are not dependent; for example, a trans person can be heterosexual, bisexual, homosexual, asexual, pan sexual, or another orientation.
- Romantically/Emotionally Attracted To: An individual’s romantic/emotional attraction to others. Just as gender expression and sexual/romantic orientation are not dependent; sexual attraction and romantic attraction are not necessarily tied either; for example, someone could be bisexual but romantically attracted to people of the opposite sex.
- Transgender: An umbrella term for people whose gender expression differs from what is typically associated with the sex they were assigned at birth. Many transgender people are prescribed hormones by their doctors to change their bodies; some undergo surgery. But not all transgender people can or will take those steps, and a transgender identity is not dependent upon medical procedures.
Let's talk about pronouns.
Pronouns are the words that take place of a person’s name. Some people feel more comfortable with certain pronouns than others. Not everyone identifies with, nor uses, binary pronouns (she/her/hers, he/him/his), but prefer gender neutral pronouns (they/them/theirs).
When addressing someone whose pronouns you don't know, it's always good practice to default to gender-neutral language (they/them/theirs). Or if you know their name-- use it until you know more about their pronouns.
Some example pronoun usage:
"This is Nancy, I don’t believe you’ve met them before.”
“They are an occupational therapist and work for themself. Their clients love them.”
The staff at Fusion Wellness and PT are always striving to create an inclusive environment, with that learning we know that we must constantly be learning to stay informed, as well as doing self-inventory to identify our own biases and practicing inclusivity.