Staff Editorial: Gender expression shouldn’t define you

A persons gender identity deserves respect no matter how they express themselves

Sophie Sena, JagWire reporter/photographer

In today’s society, it is important to be respectful of the identities of those around you, even if they may present in an unconventional way.

Gender expression is the way that a person expresses or presents their gender identity to those around them. This can range from the way someone dresses to the way that they act and are addressed by society. 

However, gender expression does not simply look one specific way depending on a person’s gender. Gender expression can, in fact, manifest in many different ways. 

For example, the way that one person views the epitome of their gender might be completely different than the way that another person views theirs. Some might choose to represent in a more feminine way while another may choose to present themselves in a more masculine way.

It was not too long ago when gender expression was a very rigid concept with lots of societal regulations and rules, such as the idea that only women could wear makeup and that men couldn’t wear skirts or dresses.

In recent years these rigid expectations have been challenged. One of the major factors that has played into this has been the rise of gender neutral expression and transgender identities.

According to Pew Research Center, in 2021, about 42% of Americans reported that they know someone who is transgender/gender non-conforming, up 5% since 2017. 

This rise of varying gender expressions has led many people to realize how gender expression can be very different and how it might appear differently from person to person. This makes identification of someone’s gender based on their expression nearly impossible.

This variation of expression means that pronouns should not be assumed. In this case, it is as simple as asking for the pronouns of the person that you are talking to along with giving your own in order to add an extra level of comfort for the person. If you are in a position where you cannot ask, just refer to them using the neutral they/them pronouns or their name.

It is especially important to respect the pronouns of transgender or gender non-conforming people because it will make them feel more secure and safe in their identity.

In fact, surveys from The Trevor Project concluded that by using a person’s preferred pronouns, you can decrease their risk for depression and anxiety as well as suicide.

This study shows just how important it is to respect those around you because you never know how much of an impact that can have on a person.

 Since gender expression is such a vast concept, you should never use the way that a person presents to decide their pronouns. You should always ask a person for their preferred pronouns because you can simply never guess. This way of thinking all revolves around the simple concept that outward expression does not equate to one’s gender identity. 

Respectfulness of all identities and forms of expression is a way to create an environment where everyone is able to feel safe to be themselves. 

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