CultureLearn

Gender identity and sexual orientation are two different but related things. The media sometimes confuses them and it makes it hard for high school and college students to really understand it. Everyone has their own preference of who they like and how they see themselves.

Let’s clear it up a bit as to what is what.

Gender Identity

It is about you. It is about how you see yourself. Do you think you are male, female, both, neither, or sometimes one or the other? Are you being okay being called he, she, or they, or ze? There are more than the ones listed here, but the ones that have been in the media lately have been a­gender, genderqueer, transgender, pan­gender, and gender fluid.

There is no wrong answer. There is no permanent answer. You are allowed to change your view of yourself according to how comfortable you are with it. If you do not feel comfortable being defined or you are unsure, that is okay too.

Sexual Orientation

It is about who you like. Do you like men, women, both, neither, or one or the other just sometimes? What do you like in someone? What characteristics do you find attractive in someone? The ones that have been in the media have been the lesbian, gay, and bisexual. There is also asexual and pansexual and heterosexual and demisexual. There are more than these here and they can be similar. You aren’t defined by your sexual orientation and you aren’t defined by your gender identity, either. These are just things that help you better understand yourself and it is up to you whether or not it is useful.

Sometimes gender identity affects sexual orientation, and sometimes it is the other way around. Everybody has their own understanding of who they are and how they came to be that way. Maybe you are pangender and pansexual. Maybe you identify as gender neutral and asexual. There are many ways a person can love and many ways people can see themselves. Both are decided by you and only you. Both can change.

My experience with these topics has gone from heterosexual to bisexual to demisexual. I’ve also come to feel comfortable with being gender fluid, but I have no problem being called she. It was kind of confusing, but I was surrounded by understanding and patient people and that made it easier. If you’re in a place that isn’t very open about this type of thing, that’s okay. There will always be people who are willing to listen, understand, and help in the future, if not now. As you grow and understand the world and meet new people and learn about yourself, you will find that your perspective may change, too.

Resources

Everyoneisgay.com is a place with advice and resources on sexual orientation, gender identity, and pretty much life itself. I’ve been following them on Tumblr for years and I have found the two co-owners to be open-minded, positive, and funny. They understand the difficulty of family pressure, the confusion and insecurity of being alone, and the joys of being supported and supportive of others in the community. They’re easy to access from various media platforms and you can spend hours scrolling through relatable content.

Embrace the change and don’t let anyone tell you any different. Just be you!

Image: lgbtq.missouri.edu

CultureInspiration

Gender identity is a complicated topic. It is very personal and there is a lot of media with conflicting information about what it is. Once upon a time, it was just “male” or “female,” but that has changed. High school and college are confusing times, and a lot of wrong or misunderstood information can hurt people who are figuring themselves out.

Tumblr and Facebook and a lot of other social media have embraced various gender identity situations. Even though labels aren’t always the best way to get information across (because it can lead to stereotyping and harmful actions), it can also help people find others in similar situations. For example, my school recently started a group for “Trans or Gender-Nonconforming,” and the club is meant to provide a safe space for students to discuss gender and personal experience.  Many schools and universities have such clubs, and people who attend the meetings often realize that they are not alone, and this is comforting. 

What is important is that people are happy with how they see themselves. Theoretically, someone shouldn’t be judged negatively for how they identify.

Even though there are environments that allow for people to be a-gender, bigender, pangender, gender fluid, transgender, and many others, there are also places that are unaccustomed to this variety. It may be because of certain local or social customs. It may be because of misinformation. Either way, such environments can be a scary place for someone who is trying to understand themselves or others. The fear of being judged, shunned, bullied, hurt, or worse because of how they identify shouldn’t’ be an issue, but it is.

Like sexual orientation, gender identity is now becoming a topic that is being more socially acceptable to talk about. I hope that our society is able to transition to a place in which tolerance, acceptance, and freedom are words that can be associated with gender identity. I hope that people are able to accept others and themselves. I hope people can be free and open-minded.

It is okay to not be sure right now and it is okay to explore and try to understand. Growing is a part of change, and change is a part of growing.

If the situation now is difficult or scary, that’s okay. There will be new places and new people. Things get better. Love yourself and accept others. Remember that being happy and safe are the most important things.

Image: le vent le cri

CultureHealth

Having sold over 100 million copies in 52 different languages and by breaking the record for fastest-selling paperback book, it is clear that Fifty Shades of Grey has left an impression on current readers. Not to mention the highly anticipated 2015 film adaptation and the board game- yes a game was actually made based on the book- to go along with the success of the franchise, one can only imagine why this novel has enraptured so many.

Since I am one of the few who have not read Fifty Shades of Grey or its sequels, I only have a superficial viewpoint of the books itself. But after reading an article by Edwin Smith of The Telegraph, I became curious about some of Smith’s points over the books influence and people’s reactions in their own relationships. Smith makes the point that in a very progressive era, specifically for feminism, Fifty Shades of Grey shows how our culture is still somewhat stuck in older gender roles- however in a more modern way- and how people today are willing to fit any norm to find a partner. Smith goes as far to say that for men “in 2014, we might often stand a better chance in the arena of dating if we appear to be a bit more like Mr. Grey, and a bit less like … well, ourselves.”

This point, though saddening, can be seen as somewhat true to today’s standards in relationships. For example, when prom season was rolling around, a girl I knew truly did not want her boyfriend to waste so much money on one night, so she paid for the tickets. However nice this gesture was, other girls thought it was bizarre because they truly believed that it was the guys place to pay for everything. And although the idea that one person must be dominant and the other submissive in the relationship no longer applies to all areas, it still exists in places such as who is paying for dinner?

These restrictions limit the amount of vulnerability and closeness that two people can share. If they were to act as themselves and not conform to roles, each partner would be given the opportunity to experience what a real, loving relationship feels like. However, people today are so engrained with stereotypes that it is hard to except people who are truly being themselves, who might spread themselves across many different types of roles instead of just the ones designated to their kind.

This alienation of total freedom from gender norms is how people get the idea in their head that they must change themselves to impress others and vice versa. One can find countless blogs and Youtube videos dedicated to how you should look or act to attract someone else. For example, earlier this year popular Vine maker Nash Grier posted a video about what he wanted from a girl. Albeit this video meant no harm, Grier received a ton of backlash seeing as he was telling his mostly young female audience how they should not be themselves to attain a guy. Yet girls are not the only ones who suffer from these pressures. These norms expect young men to be powerful and aloof, but do not allow them to be as emotionally invested in the relationship. Plus, we can’t forget how in gay and lesbian relationships society always expects one to be the “man” and the other the “women” of the partnership when clearly they are just two people enjoying a relationship.

Now, to an extent, it is debatable how progressive or digressive relationships like that of Grey and Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey is, depending upon how you view their dominant/submissive relationship and the entire nature of the book, but that is not the point. It is undeniable that the notion of changing yourself for love is predominant in the book, in other forms of media, and in our culture as well, and it is my hope that with a little more sensitivity to future partners that everyone can learn to use themselves to find their other half rather than looking to models of what people should be like because those forms are so grossly incompatible with modern day people and relationships.

Image: Unsplash