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April 2023

Laura Desirée
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Featured Article

Gender Nonconformity and You

How understanding the evolving concepts of gender can create a richer sense of self.

“Gender is a social construct.” Maybe you’ve heard that before. Maybe you agree with it, but you don’t see how it applies to you or your experience. If you are cisgender—meaning you identify with the gender that was assigned to you at birth—there’s a good chance that you don’t think much about gender at all. But what does it mean that gender is a social construct? And how can understanding the differences between identity, presentation and sexuality create a richer sense of self? 

It’s not just gender that is a social construct. Our understanding of concepts as broad and complicated as time, race, money, sex and love are all in some ways determined by the culture we live in, as well as the norms that have been adopted and discarded over time. Just because something has been socially constructed doesn’t necessarily make it less meaningful. The value in thinking about the things we have come to assume as the default is realizing that while they may be true for us, they don’t have to be. For example, there is nothing wrong with heterosexuality, or monogamy, or ascribing to current notions of masculinity or femininity. What can be limiting is the feeling that those are the only options available and that there isn’t any room for real, considered choices. 

The arbitrary nature of what we see as gender norms is especially evident when you realize, for example, that blue was associated with baby girls until the 1940s, or that high heels were created for men in the 10th century.

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