Confessions of a cisgender student My identity matches the one I was born with, but that does not mean that I am closed-minded

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I think it is time to admit that I don’t know as much as I should about gender identity. According to gender taxonomy and from what I have learned about gender identity, I am a cisgender, heterosexual female whose preferred gender pronouns are she and her.

However, just because I am a practicing Muslim woman who wears a hijab, does not mean that I align myself with heteronormative ideals and beliefs. I believe in being able to practice and define personal identity on an individualistic level manner as a human right and an obligement to personal freedom.

But with that being said, I should disclose that, before attending McMaster, I was unconsciously ignorant to gay pride and gender identity. The sexual taxonomy I knew was what I learned in my Grade 11 biology class, and it wasn’t until my second year at McMaster, when I entered an office of open-minded and gender-conscious individuals that I began to do my research.

After walking into the middle of a discussion on Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble and having no idea what anyone was talking about and feeling like I was a tourist in a foreign country, I felt the need to educate myself. I googled, I read, and I studied. But even then, as someone who came from a pretty binary-minded small town, I was still lost. I am now realizing that I can’t be the only one that is nervous about being in the midst of a discussion on gender identity.

Coming from an educational background that did not speak about topics of gender identity and sexuality, university was a whole new ground for me. People seemed far more educated on these topics than I am and amongst this huge congregation of identities, I found myself feeling like I was significantly less informed than those around me.

All it took for me was to put my fear aside, and, when appropriate, modestly ask those around me to help me learn how to define their identities and tell me how I can respect their gender identity. 

I was lucky to be placed in the middle of a discussion about gender expression and surrounded by people who are from the LGBTQ community. If I hadn’t been, I may not have taken the initiative to do my research and inform myself on a topic I have never looked into about before.

Gender identity is one’s personal choice and experience of one’s own gender, and from what I have learned, it does not have to be binary. Yes, gender identity can correlate with an individual’s assigned sex at birth, but it can also differ completely from that based on one’s persona choice and experience. This is something I now understand, but admittedly, never did before.

Today, different societies have a different set of categories to define gender that can serve as the basis of the formation of a person’s social identity in relation to other members of society. Along with this definition, Google also taught me the meaning of terms like cisgender, transphobia, gender normative, queer, bisexual, cissexism, pansexual, gender fluidity and two-spirited. As you can tell by me needing to define the word queer, I really did not know much.

What I learned from my mission to understand gender identity was that experience is the best way to learn. All I took for me was to put my fear aside, and, when appropriate, modestly ask those around me to help me learn how to define their identities and tell me how I can respect their gender identity.

Though I am a cisgender, heterosexual female whose preferred gender pronouns are she and her, I am trying and I am learning.

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Author: Reem Sheet

Reem Sheet's name alone indicates she is meant for a career in journalism. A second year English and Philosophy student, she is the Opinion Editor for Volume 88. An avid writer and volunteer (to the point of volunteering for an organization that organizes volunteers), Reem is firm in her opinions and takes great pride in having a lot of them.