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Gender Identity: One’s Innermost Concept of One’s Gender

Introduction

Gender identity is one’s innermost concept of one’s gender and an expression of one’s authentic character. Unlike lifestyle choices or phases, which can change over time, one’s gender identity tends to be stable across different situations. In this article, we will explore the concept of gender identity as one’s innermost concept of one’s gender, dispelling myths and misconceptions that suggest it is a “fad” or a “phase”.

Understanding Gender Identity

Gender identity refers to an one’s profound and deeply held understanding of one’s own gender. It encompasses how a person identifies and relates to themselves in terms of being male, female, a blend of both, neither, or a different gender altogether. This sense of self is not something that can be forced upon someone, but is an authentic aspect of one’s character that forms through one’s unique experience as a embodied agent embedded in the world.

The Authenticity of Gender Identity

  • Early Awareness: Many people are aware of their gender identities from young ages. Others may not know until they are teenagers or adults. Some trans people may experience gender incongruence as children but may not have the language to express this until they are adults. This emphasises how gender identity development is a complex spectrum and each person’s experience is unique.
  • Stability Over Time: For many people, gender identity remains stable over time. The vast majority of young people who identify as trans in adolescence continue to do so years later (van der Loos et al., 2022). For other people, gender identity may be more fluid. Again, this highlights how gender identity is a diverse spectrum.
  • Gender Identity Across Cultures: Gender diverse people exist across different cultures and societies. Trans identities are not limited to specific geographic regions, ethnicities, or cultural backgrounds.
  • Medical and Psychological Recognition: Leading medical and psychological organisations, such as the American Psychological Association (APA) and the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH), acknowledge that gender identity is part of a person’s innermost concept of self and is not simply a lifestyle choice.

Dispelling Myths and Misconceptions

Unfortunately, misconceptions about gender identity persist, often due to ignorance, prejudice, or misinformation. It is essential to address these myths:

  • Lifestyle choice: One of the most common misconceptions is that gender identity is a lifestyle choice. Gender identity development is complex and involves interactions between multiple diverse factors. The affirmation of one’s gender identity involves one’s agency, autonomy, and self-determination, but it cannot be characterised as a lifestyle choice. Gender identity pertains to a much deeper aspect of a person’s character than a mere lifestyle choice.
  • Phase or Trend: Some mistakenly believe that gender identity is a phase or trend that individuals will outgrow. Research demonstrates that gender identity remains stable for the vast majority of individuals (van der Loos et al., 2022). Of course, some people may experience their gender identities as being more fluid. However, this does not mean it is a “phase” or a “trend”, as a genderfluid identity still pertains to one’s innermost concept of one’s character.
  • Caused by Peer Pressure: Gender identity is not caused by peer pressure and cannot be forced upon someone. Of course, people may come to understand they are trans through their relationships with other people, but this does not amount to peer pressure. After all, we are social beings, and so almost all our desires are influenced by our interactions and our environments. What is important is not what caused these desires, but whether we endorse these desires as authentic parts of our characters.

Conclusion

Gender identity is not a “fad”, a “phase”, or a product of peer pressure. It is an authentic aspect of whom a person is. Acknowledging and respecting each person’s gender identity is essential for promoting inclusivity, dignity, and mental wellbeing. By dispelling misconceptions and recognizing the authentic nature of gender identity, we can contribute to a more compassionate and understanding society where every person’s sense of self is affirmed and valued.

References

van der Loos, M. A. T. C., Hannema, S. E., Klink, D. T., den Heijer, M., and Wjepjes, C. M. (2022). “Continuation of Gender affirming Hormones in Transgender People Starting Puberty Suppression in Adolescence: A Cohort Study in the Netherlands”. Lancet Child and Adolescent, 6: 869–875.

Updated on February 20, 2024

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