Imagine waking up in the morning and being in an unfamiliar place, not knowing who you are, where you are or how you got there. Imagine everyone around you looking at you as if you are an alien, feeling uncomfortable in your own skin and wishing that you knew who you were. You get dressed in clothes that you do not know why you have to wear, doing your hair a certain way and pretending you are an actor on Broadway, just trying to get through that night’s show, which just so happens to have a daily encore.
Those who identify as a different gender than their biological sex go through that sort of gender dysphoria on a daily basis. Gender dysphoria is defined by the American Psychiatric Association, as “a conflict between a person’s physical or assigned gender and the gender with which he/she/they identify. Sometimes described as being uncomfortable with their body [and] being uncomfortable with the expected roles of their assigned gender.”
Noticing this contrast between gender identity and biological sex is key among today’s society to inform and distribute information about sex, gender identity and ideologies of what makes them different.
The difference between biological sex and gender identity is simple — one has to do with physically identifying with the way the individual was born and the other is the identification of how they are portrayed through their identity.
For example, an individual who identifies as a man can either be born with male genitalia or go through the transgender process. This means they are identifying with their biological sex, or a transgender individual who identifies as a man by their gender identity. Whereas their biological sex could be female.
On a similar note, gender identity and biological sex are completely separated from sexual preference. This could be when an individual identifies as transgender man but also identifies as a gay male. This individual’s identity is male, which combined with their sexual orientation of being attracted to men, whether they are biologically male or a man according to their gender identity, their sexual preference is completely separated from their sex or gender. This qualifies those individuals as being trans and gay, not either-or.
Granted, this idea could be slightly hard to grasp and really confusing, although ignoring it could be futile in the lack of visibility transgender students have on Shippensburg University’s campus.
Understanding that someone you meet could be dealing with internal gender dysphoria, you could be unknowingly exiling them from receiving the comfort they need and enforcing their invisibility.
Basically, all of us have met someone who identifies under the transgender umbrella –— but not all of us know it. But at SU, it is our job to join together and spread this knowledge of gender identity versus biological sex and accept preferred pronouns, preferred names and allowing transgender folk to take their space on campus and feel valid without having to validate their existence to others.