What does gender mean to you?

Post 33 of 37
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

One of my students had his family paint pictures of what their gender means to each of them. The people who created the images include:

  1. My student, who presents as male
  2. His girlfriend
  3. His mother
  4. His mother’s girlfriend
  5. His 11 year old brother
  6. His teenage brother

The finished products range from the visceral to the beautiful. I wonder which painting you might guess each person made? Does it matter? What jumps out at you first in these paintings? What would your painting look like? What would your children’s paintings look like?





(Words that trail onto the side of the painting: I have taken the road less traveled.)



Gender – male or female or trans* or intersex or ze or zir or butch or femme or queer or so many of the other permutations of how we identify – it is integral to our understandings of ourselves, but it often goes entirely undiscussed. Young people and adults who feel no ambiguity or ambivalence surrounding their gender are lucky indeed. I have come to believe, however, that they are also relatively rare. Most of us are clear about our biological sex and gender, and they match up relatively well. This does not mean that we are free from gender issues and influence. The lessons that our culture teaches us are loud and clear: Men do this and not that, and here are the ways that they can express and even feel pain and suffering. Women, on the other hand, do these sets of things, and occasionally branch out to the masculine, to more or less approval.

We must start the conversation about biological sex, gender roles, and cultural messages.

, ,

This article was written by Dr. Karen Rayne


MariaSeptember 5, 2013 at 10:32 pmReply

At the ripe age of 54 I find myself baffled by gender identity issues. I took a women’s studies minor in college and back then was considered rebellious for being friends with a transgender woman. She agreed to speak at one of my classes and told us that her self-identified gender had never matched how her body looked. That she’d been born that way. Same with my Gay and Lesbian friends. “It’s biological” they said. “You don’t choose this, it chooses you,” they said. Am I correct that I’m hearing a very different message about gender and sexuality today? That it’s fluid. That it CAN be a choice? Help a middle-ager out, will ya? I am so confuuuuuuuuused!

Dr. Karen RayneSeptember 5, 2013 at 11:30 pmReply

It’s a great questions, Maria! So let me clarify a little, in brief. By how someone “identifies” I don’t mean to suggest that they’ve “chosen” that identification. It’s usually chosen them, and they’re now working to find language that fits. As for why we are who we are – regarding sexual orientation and gender identity – some of this has to do with biology, some of this has to do with experiences, almost none of it is overtly “chosen.” The people who are able to chose are really bisexual and/or gender queer. How lucky for them, eh?

If you want something in depth, I highly suggest Sam Killermann’s work. You can start here: http://itspronouncedmetrosexual.com/2011/11/breaking-through-the-binary-gender-explained-using-continuums/

I hope this helps a little!