Recently, you may have seen phrases like "she/her", "he/him", and "they/them" while browsing your social media accounts or in an email signature. These phrases are to indicate a person's preferred gender pronouns. While that might seem confusing at first, it's all part of an important national conversation we're having about gender and gender identity. If you have been exploring your own gender identity and would like some assistance, a gender therapist such as B'well Counseling Services can help guide you on your journey.
The Difference Between Sex and Gender
Though sex and gender often go together, they don't always. 'Sex' refers to the physical attributes of a person: genitals and chromosomes. Gender is assigned at birth based on sex; that is, a baby born with a penis is presumed to be male. Sometimes babies are born with what's called ambiguous genitalia and are called intersex.
What is Gender Identity?
A person's gender identity may not always match their assigned gender. When a baby's sex matches their assigned gender at birth, they are referred to as a cis (or cisgender) male or a cis female. However, that's not the only gender expression. Other examples of gender expression include:
Non-Binary and Genderfluid: A non-binary person feels neither wholly masculine nor wholly feminine. Some feel androgynous, while other non-binary people (colloquially called 'enby' or 'enbies') avoid any gender presentation at all. Genderfluid people are most comfortable switching between various gender presentations.
Transgender: A transgender person feels as though their birth sex and assigned gender are not in alignment. Transgender people may decide to transition at some point in their lives, to a gender different than the one they were assigned at birth. If you are transgender and would like to speak with someone, a gender therapist can help.
Gender and Sexual Orientation
Someone's sex and gender have little influence on their sexual or romantic orientation. Sexual orientation refers to the gender or genders a person is attracted to, not how they feel about their own gender. A trans woman who identifies as heterosexual, for instance, is attracted to men. 'Queer' is a common term referring to anyone not heterosexual and cisgender.
Understanding Gender Pronouns
Respecting someone's gender pronouns is extremely important and has been shown to help reduce depression and suicidal ideation among young people. Apart from the common 'he' and 'she', singular 'they' is used by non-binary or genderfluid people. Some people use neopronouns, like 'xie' or 'fae'. Avoid using 'it' unless specifically requested by an individual. If you're unsure of someone's pronoun or you don't know how to pronounce a neopronoun, just ask! It is important to open up conversations surrounding pronouns and gender identity in order to push the conversation forward. Pronoun pins, small flair people wear to let others know how to refer to them, are also becoming more common in order to open up the conversation surrounding gender identity and gender pronouns.
B'well Counseling Services: A Gender Therapist in Baltimore County, MD
The process of realizing one's gender identity can be a scary, thrilling, and affirming journey. If you're questioning your gender or have a gender-nonconforming loved one, the B'well Counseling Center has appointments available with affirming and aware gender therapists.
About B’well Counseling Services
B'well Counseling Services is a mental health therapy practice offering a full range of therapeutic services including online counseling in Towson, MD and the Greater Baltimore area. We believe in helping people rekindle their curiosity and reconnect to their core selves so that they can truly be well. We value wellness and connection over happiness because we understand that being able to experience the full range of human emotions and experiences is what helps us heal and grow. At B'well, we are dedicated to creating a space for anyone who has ever felt unwelcome because of their identity, orientation, or expression.