Category Archives: recruitment targets

Understanding Gender

What is Gender?

For many people, the terms “gender” and “sex” are interchangeable. This idea has become so common, particularly in western societies, that it is rarely questioned. Yet biological sex and gender are different; gender is not inherently connected to one’s physical anatomy.

Sex is biological and includes physical attributes such as sex chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, internal reproductive structures, and external genitalia. At birth, it is used to identify individuals as male or female.  Gender on the other hand is far more complicated. Along with one’s physical traits, it is the complex interrelationship between those traits and one’s internal sense of self as male, female, both or neither as well as one’s outward presentations and behaviors related to that perception.

The Gender Spectrum

Western culture has come to view gender as a binary concept, with two rigidly fixed options: male or female.  When a child is born, a quick glance between the legs determines the gender label that the child will carry for life. But even if gender is to be restricted to basic biology, a binary concept still fails to capture the rich variation observed. Rather than just two distinct boxes, biological gender occurs across a continuum of possibilities. This spectrum of anatomical variations by itself should be enough to disregard the simplistic notion of only two genders.

But beyond anatomy, there are multiple domains defining gender. In turn, these domains can be independently characterized across a range of possibilities.  Instead of the static, binary model produced through a solely physical understanding of gender, a far more rich texture of biology, gender expression, and gender identity intersect in multidimensional array of possibilities. Quite simply, the gender spectrum represents a more nuanced, and ultimately truly authentic model of human gender.

Falling Into Line

Gender is all around us. It is actually taught to us, from the moment we are born. Gender expectations and messages bombard us constantly. Upbringing, culture, peers, community, media, and religion, are some of the many influences that shape our understanding of this core aspect of identity. How you learned and interacted with gender as a young child directly influences how you view the world today. Gendered interaction between parent and child begin as soon as the sex of the baby is known. In short, gender is a socially constructed concept.

Like other social constructs, gender is closely monitored by society. Practically everything in society is assigned a gender—toys, colors, clothes and behaviors are some of the more obvious examples. Through a combination of social conditioning and personal preference, by age three most children prefer activities and exhibit behaviors typically associated with their sex. Accepted social gender roles and expectations are so entrenched in our culture that most people cannot imagine any other way. As a result, individuals fitting neatly into these expectations rarely if ever question what gender really means. They have never had to, because the system has worked for them.

About Gender Variance

Gender variance is when a person’s preferences and self-expression fall outside commonly understood gender norms. Gender variance is a normal part of human expression, documented across cultures and recorded history. Non-binary gender diversity exists throughout the world, documented by countless historians and anthropologists. Examples of individuals living comfortably outside of typical male/female identities are found in every region of the globe. The calabai, andcalalai of Indonesia, two-spirit Native Americans, and the hijra of India all represent more complex understandings of gender than the simplistic model seen in the west.

Further, what might be considered gender variant in one period of history may become gender normative in another. One need only examine trends related to men wearing earrings or women sporting tattoos to quickly see the malleability of social expectations about gender. Even the seemingly intractable “pink is for girls, blue is for boys” notions are relatively new. While there is some debate about the reasons why they reversed, what is well documented is that until the 1950s, pink was seen as a more decided and stronger color, and thus more suitable for a boy, while blue, viewed more delicate and dainty, was commonly worn by girls.

Gender Terminology

Given the complexity of gender, it is not surprising that an increasing number of terms and phrases are developing to describe it. Below are some of the key terms you might encounter:

Biological/Anatomical Sex.
 The physical structure of one’s reproductive organs that is used to assign sex at birth. Biological sex is determined by chromosomes (XX for females; XY for males); hormones (estrogen/progesterone for females, testosterone for males); and internal and external genitalia (vulva, clitoris, vagina for assigned females, penis and testicles for assigned males). Given the potential variation in all of these, biological sex must be seen as a spectrum or range of possibilities rather than a binary set of two options.

Gender Identity. One’s innermost concept of self as male or female or both or neither—how individuals perceive themselves and what they call themselves. One’s gender identity can be the same or different than the sex assigned at birth. Individuals are conscious of this between the ages 18 months and 3 years. Most people develop a gender identity that matches their biological sex. For some, however, their gender identity is different from their biological or assigned sex. Some of these individuals choose to socially, hormonally and/or surgically change their sex to more fully match their gender identity.

Gender Expression. Refers to the ways in which people externally communicate their gender identity to others through behavior, clothing, haircut, voice, and other forms of presentation. Gender expression also works the other way as people assign gender to others based on their appearance, mannerisms, and other gendered characteristics. Sometimes, transgender people seek to match their physical expression with their gender identity, rather than their birth-assigned sex. Gender expression should not be viewed as an indication of sexual orientation.

Gender Role. This is the set of roles, activities, expectations and behaviors assigned to females and males by society. Our culture recognizes two basic gender roles: Masculine (having the qualities attributed to males) and feminine (having the qualities attributed to females). People who step out of their socially assigned gender roles are sometimes referred to as transgender. Other cultures have three or more gender roles.

Transgender. 
Sometimes used as an umbrella to describe anyone whose identity or behavior falls outside of stereotypical gender norms. More narrowly defined, it refers to an individual whose gender identity does not match their assigned birth gender. Being transgender does not imply any specific sexual orientation (attraction to people of a specific gender.) Therefore, transgender people may additionally identify as straight, gay, lesbian, or bisexual.

Sexual Orientation. 
Term that refers to being romantically or sexually attracted to people of a specific gender. Our sexual orientation and our gender identity are separate, distinct parts of our overall identity. Although a child may not yet be aware of their sexual orientation, they usually have a strong sense of their gender identity.

Gender Normative/Cisgender. Refers to people whose sex assignment at birth corresponds to their gender identity and expression.

Gender Fluidity. Gender fluidity conveys a wider, more flexible range of gender expression, with interests and behaviors that may even change from day to day. Gender fluid children do not feel confined by restrictive boundaries of stereotypical expectations of girls or boys. In other words, a child may feel they are a girl some days and a boy on others, or possibly feel that neither term describes them accurately.

Reprinted from: Gender Spectrum

Latina lesbians face discrimination: study

By Esther Cepeda

To be studied is to be acknowledged, and if you are a Hispanic woman who is either a lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer — or questioning whether you are any of the above — your time has come.

The first research of its kind, “Latina portrait: Latina queer women in Chicago,” was released last week after years of struggling to gain funding for a comprehensive study of a population of women who have flown completely under the radar.

That’s despite the fact that, according to data analyses from the Williams Institute at the UCLA school of Law Census, women com­prise almost 60 percent of all Illinois same-sex couple households, and Hispanics are the largest ethnic minority in the state.

Through a joint project between Mujeres Latinas en Accion, a Latina advocacy organization, and Amigas Latinas, a support agency for lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning Latinas, this study, based on a sample of 300 women, begins to tell us how these women see themselves.

Aside from sharing a Hispanic heritage, 50 percent of respondents identified as lesbian/gay/homosexual; 9 percent as bisexual; 6.5 percent as queer; 4.5 percent as uncertain/questioning, and 10 percent didn’t use any of those labels. In terms of identity, 9.1 percent identified as “butch”; 26 percent as “femme,” and 29.2 percent said they don’t use these types of labels.

More importantly, the study shows us what these women face.

About 48 percent said they feel that there is a lot of racism in the Caucasian lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered community.

Similarly, 17 percent agreed that they are discriminated against because of their race/ethnicity in places specializing in services for predominantly Caucasian LGBT communities. Nine percent of the respondents indicated that racism was currently one of the greatest sources of stress in their lives.

They fare no better in the Latino community: 25 percent agreed that they feel discriminated against because of their sexual orientation in places servicing the Hispanic community and 54 percent of women revealed that they feel that most Latinos are not accepting of LBTQ women.

In terms of domestic violence, 49 percent reported that a female partner had tried to keep them from contact with family and friends. Forty-three percent of Latina LBTQ women reported having been pushed or hit by a partner. And 31 percent stated that a female partner had threatened to kill them.

Women not only stated that they were victims of female-on-female violence, but also admitted that they, too, had perpetuated violence. Forty-five percent said they had punched or hit a female partner and 23 percent had threatened to kill a past or current partner.

“The findings overall were shocking,” co-author Lourdes Torres told me. “We were surprised at the degree to which Latina queers felt discriminated against in the LGBT community and the numbers and nature of the domestic violence experiences.

“But though this is distressing information, there’s no reason to think there’s a pathological link to the community. There’s domestic violence in straight communities, too,” Torres said. “The purpose of releasing this data was to highlight issues so we know where we need to focus our efforts to meet the needs of the community.”

Torres said there is good news, too.

“We found that the vast majority of LBTQ women are out and have support from the people in their communities,” she said. “Part of what this information will allow us to do is learn about people’s positive experiences and develop ways to help others have positive experiences as well.”

Being studied is a double-edged sword. Awareness can lead to acceptance, but also to stereotyping.

Nevertheless, the risks of uncovering previously guarded secrets are far exceeded by the benefits of putting a lifestyle out in the open where it can be celebrated, nurtured and, when necessary, healed.

Jobs for disabled workers up 70%

There has been a 70 per cent increase in the number of disabled workers recruited into mainstream jobs during the first three months of the year, representing a record high and indicative of changing attitudes towards disabled works in the UK.

The increase shows that more disabled workers are finding work alongside able-bodied colleagues, suggesting that employers may be doing more to accommodate disabled workers and exploit the talent that is available.

Bob Warner of Remploy, the company that published the statistics, asserted that positive change is being put into effect in the area of disability in the workplace.”

These new figures show that investing in preparing and training disabled people for mainstream employment works,” he said.

Mr Warner continued to state that on the whole, disabled workers prefer to work in a mainstream environment where they can make the most of their skills and assets.”

Disabled people tell us that they would prefer to work in open employment with non-disabled colleagues and employers are now more aware of the skills and abilities disabled people bring to their business,” he explained.

Visit the Remploy website