Pre-Teens: Gender & Identity

Children start coming into their own. They begin to identifying with a particular gender-biology-sexuality matrix.

These are a few concepts that you need to get your head around before you can explain it to your child:-

Gender identity is all about how you, in your head, think about yourself.  It’s about how you internally interpret the chemistry that composes you (e.g., hormone levels).  As you know it, do you think you fit better into the societal role of “woman,” or “man,” or do neither ring particularly true for you?  That is, are you somewhere in-between the two?  Or do you consider your gender to fall outside of the spectrum completely?  The answer is your gender identity.

Gender expression is all about how you demonstrate your gender through the ways you act, dress, behave, and interact–whether that is intentional or unintended. Gender expression is interpreted by others perceiving your gender based on traditional gender roles (e.g., men wear pants, women wear dresses). Gender expression is something that often changes from day to day, outfit to outfit, event or setting to event or setting. It’s about how the way you express yourself aligns or doesn’t with traditional ways of gendered expression. And like gender identity, there is a lot of room for flexibility here.

Biological sex refers to the objectively measurable organs, hormones, and chromosomes you possess.  Being female means having a vagina, ovaries, two X chromosomes, predominant estrogen, and you can grow a baby in your stomach area.  Being male means having testes, a penis, an XY chromosome configuration, predominant testosterone, and you can put a baby in a female’s stomach area.  Being intersex can be any combination of what I just described.

Sexual orientation is all about who you are physically, spiritually, and emotionally attracted to.  If you are male and you’re attracted to females, you’re straight.  If you’re a male who is attracted to males and females, you’re bisexual.  And if you’re a male who is attracted to males, you’re gay.

The Genderbread Person illustration can help you understand this continuum better:-