Taking some liberties as these things are evolving and reaching for most effective way to describe a reasonable way to handle these ideas for the purposes an organization’s D&I considerations in relationship to gender. Working towards diversity and inclusion is and will always be a work in progress, so if you are at this step, hop in!
Gender is not the same as the sex written on your paperwork as a newborn based on physical characteristics and it’s not the same as romantic or sexual orientation.
Gender is multi-faceted
Most of our societies view gender as an extension of sex and have expectations and biases associated with each. How completely a person’s gender presentation meets those expectations to others, how a person chooses to present their gender in relation to those expectations, how a much of that expectation meets who the person is inside, and how directly all these things match up all have a part in the conversation about gender. Let’s walk through these concepts step by step in the context of marginalization.
There are two ways to be privileged or marginalized by gender presentation. The man vs woman marginalization is often addressed, but not falling into those binary buckets is a second dimension, often not addressed.
1. People presenting as women
2. Those with non-binary presentations
Expression and presentation are often equated, but sometimes are defined as “how one chooses to present their gender” and sometimes as “how one’s gender is seen to the outside world.”
For the sake of recognizing (1) the importance of someone’s choices about expression and (2) the marginalizing consequences of how society interprets a person’s gender, I’m separating them out and assigning the former definition to “expression” and the latter to “presentation”.
I’ll use “Gender Presentation” for considering privilege, representation, and marginalization.
There are two ways to be privileged or marginalized by gender identity. The man vs woman marginalization is sometimes addressed, but not falling into those binary buckets is a second dimension, often not addressed.
3. People identifying as women/femmes
4. Those with non-binary identities
Cis-gender is the term we use when Gender Presentation, Gender Identity, and Sex Assigned at Birth are all the same.
Trans-gender is the term we use when at least one of these does not match the others
5. Trans-gender individuals
Example! Let’s walk through an understanding of privilege vs marginalization in an individual context.
Jenn is seen by the world as a woman (1-marginalized), but society considers that a “normal” gender (2-privileged), and while she hasn’t internalized the negative attitudes about women’s capabilities (3-privileged), she is constantly reminded she is “different” by being forced into genderized structures that she doesn’t have a place in (4-marginalized), while navigating the dis-connect between how folks see her and treat her as a woman and how she very much isn’t that (5-marginalized).
Evaluating marginalization for each separate gender attribute offers a better picture of diversity and inclusion. If an organization is composed of those 50% marginalized for 1 & 3, but 0% for 2, 4, & 5, then “women” may be safe there while other marginalized genders are not. I made this assessment up, but I’m sure there are other ways of approaching diverse gender considerations.
And that gives us an easy assessment of gender marginalization. Offering a “Man-Woman-Other” radio button for gender is no longer reasonable, giving our expanded understanding of gender marginalization, so what might we replace it with? Here’s an option :)
Personal Identification Information
While the questions that speak to marginalization are useful as a measure for diversity and inclusion, gender identity does exist beyond these parameters, so in a general information section, a short answer box offers a space to capture that where you ask for their pronouns.
Also note that medical forms looking for sex will still likely need to survey Sex: male, female, or intersex, but for diversity and inclusion purposes, gender is what folks are looking for. That said, from drug research to patient care, those with female and intersex bodies do face marginalization and so capturing that might be worthwhile to some.
Like any other minority experience, anyone in the majority is likely to have a hard time imagining what marginalization for these populations looks like how they are built into our systems and organizations. Simply googling will get you some things to consider, hiring folks in these communities who can speak to this experience for a chat in your organization (please do not reach out to an individual and ask them to do this labor for free), or find a nice “Free emotional labor club” to throw some questions into.
And finally, I say this because it is a super common issue in these conversations that you are looking to engage in: If someone pushes back on the concept of gender identity or is suspect of the idea that something personal and intrinsic “is a man” or “feels like a natural woman”, often it turns out they are Agender and hadn’t known that was a thing.
Build well, my friends!