Gender – Always Ask, Never Assume
What if you were eighteen, but people told you you’re twenty three just because “you look like it”? What if you were a vegan, but people called you a vegetarian saying “it’s pretty much the same thing”? What if you had Burgundy hair, but people laughed at you, and said your hair was black, just because they couldn’t see it? Wouldn’t this make you angry? Wouldn’t you feel like they were forcing their opinions on you without knowing the truth? Well, that is exactly how one feels, when you, without knowing their identity, just go ahead and assume their gender and their preferred pronoun.
What is Gender Identity
Gender identity is the personal sense of one’s gender and it may or may not correlate with their birth/biological gender. Gender identity is about how one experiences their own gender, despite what society expects. Gender can be shown through your identity (eg. labels, pronouns), body (eg. appearance), etc.
The Struggle for Identity
Chris Fernandes (he/him) who is the CEO and Founder of Goa Rainbow Trust talks about the different issues he had to tackle as a trans man.”I have always been attracted to females, but I didn’t know how to explain (my sexuality and identity) to my parents or relatives at that time (at a young age) so I dated boys to please my family and society”. But after a few years, when the pressure from his parents became unbearable, he told them the truth.
“In 2013, I started working as a veterinary nurse as I was passionate about animals. Getting back home, I would go online and search for people from the LGBTQ+ community. That is when Goa Rainbow started.” But since section 377 was still enforced then, not many people showed up. However, soon after the decriminalisation of section 377, the Goa Rainbow Trust was re-established and is now legally registered as an NGO for LGBTQ++ community. “We now ensure to have regular meetings every fortnight, weekend or Sunday. LGBTQ+ individuals as well as allies are always welcome to come and be a part of such meetings” he adds.
In 2019, The Psychology department of our college held a discussion forum to raise awareness about the LGBTQ++ community and Chris was invited as the Guest speaker.
Francis Fernandes (he/him) who is a member of the Trust, says “I think we need to respect what people identify themselves as and not force our assumptions of their gender on them based on their appearance or behavioural characteristics.” He further tells that he identifies as an androgynous man, but people often assume he is a cross-dresser, the two being completely different things. He says in order to spread awareness about Gender Identification, we must educate the masses starting fron schools, colleges and work places.
What can be done?
Gender identification is more serious than one believes it to be. One’s ignorant nature towards someone’s identity could lead to great harm to that person’s physical and mental health. We as a society must respect others’ preferences with respect to their gender. A small step towards a bigger change would be always asking someone their preferred pronouns instead of assuming it. Discussing this issue on social media, holding meets, and even talking about it to your friends and family can be of great help.