Debates on exactly what gender is and how it should be defined as we, as a globe, move forward have developed as more and more people come forward with their stories of struggling with gender identity issues and the lack of care available. Many consider when Caitlyn Jenner came out as transgender and ignited a new conversation about gender identity issues across the world to be the turning point for the transgender movement. Many transgender celebrities–Laverne Cox, for example–have come forward to discuss their experiences. The Atlantic recently covered an interview of Caitlyn Jenner about her journey to understanding who she is inside and changing her exterior to match it.
Caitlyn Jenner’s Story
Caitlyn commented on a time her daughters were asked, “When did you know you were a girl?” Their response was what many other people, young and old, would say, “No one has ever asked me that question before.” For most people, our gender identity has always Unless you’re transgender, when did you know? For most people, it’s innate, it’s not something you think about because your exterior confirms what you feel on the inside. Now think about your exterior being the opposite of what you feel you are inside–this is where things get confusing.
Gender, according to the World Health Organization, “refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women.” There are many questions concerning what gender identity and gender expression mean and how they differ. The American Psychological Association says gender identity is a “person’s internal sense of being male, female, or something else,” while gender expression “refers to the way a person communicates gender identity to others through behavior, clothing, hairstyles, voice, or body characteristics.”
A person’s gender identity drives how they see the world, interact with others, portray themselves, and develop a sense of self–so imagine what happens when you’re told your gender identity is supposed to be the opposite of what it is. As a teen this cannot only be confusing, but traumatizing.
This is the reason suicide and suicide attempt rates are so high among transgender individuals; around 41 percent of transgender people have attempted suicide at least once. This isn’t always due to psychological distress, it’s often due to distress over not being accepted by family and friends, not having access to necessary hormones, and society’s general misunderstanding of gender identity issues.