Accessible resources for public education about gender diversity are critical to increasing understanding and solidarity with LGBTQ Americans, many of whom are fearful in the wake of the 2016 Presidential Election. Greater public knowledge could reduce fear and discrimination towards gender and sexually diverse people, which may be essential to their safety as the United States inaugurates a President who has promised to rescind protections for transgender Americans and a Vice-President who actively opposes a wide range of LGBTQ protections.
The Genderbread Person, now in its third revision, is a clear and comprehensible tool easily available to the public. The Genderbread Person deconstructs gender and sexuality to clarify the differences and interrelationships but, critically not interconnectedness, of five dimensions of human identity and behavior. The graphic emphasizes the distinct, disconnected spectrums of gender identity, gender expression, biological sex, sexual attraction, and romantic attraction along which people might place themselves. Whether a person identifies strongly with “woman-ness” in terms of gender identity is independent of their biological sex.
The Genderbread Person also goes a step past the separation of biological sex and gender identity to describe gender expression – someone’s presentation of their gender through dress, appearance, and behavior, in the context of gender norms – and to separate romantic and sexual attraction. Each of these characteristics is a spectrum rather than a dichotomy. For instance, someone might place themselves near the center of the maleness spectrum and the far right end of the femaleness spectrum within the gender expression dimension to describe the collection of appearance, dress, and behavior characteristics which describe them.
While some social and legal progress has occurred around same-gender romantic and sexual attraction, people whose places on the sex, gender, and gender expression spectrums do not conform to presumptions of cisgender identity and expression face enormous social, political, and legal jeopardy in the United States and globally. The Genderbread Person’s comprehensive attention to the distinct nature of sex, gender, gender expression, and attraction supports improved understanding of how these dimensions can differ and how to embrace those whose combination of identities within those dimensions don’t reflect societal assumptions about gender, sexuality, identity, and behavior.
Image: The Genderbread Person was created by Sam Killermann and available uncopywrited for use via the website It’s Pronounced Metrosexual.
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