Different Genders: How Many Genders Are There?
How many genders are there in the world? That could be a tricky question to answer because the truth of the matter is, each culture has its own interpretation of gender, and there could be many types of genders that haven’t been categorized yet. There might not be one all-encompassing gender identification list, but here is a bit of a guide to the known genders and the number of genders that have been codified in the mainstream.
In 2020, we can expect to have been familiarized with some common gender identities. Sex and gender are different. Gender is a conceptual thing that has been constructed by society while most would agree that sex biological and there are a lot fewer variations on criteria for sex.
This being said there are still variations of sex that stray from a binary of man and woman. Society groups people in a certain way, but there are instances in which a person would like to disregard the way society views them and live their life in a way that feels authentic to them. If you want to find a list of all gender identities, you might be hard-pressed because there are so many ways that people identify within different cultures, it would be difficult to accumulate a total list of genders.
Why are there so many genders? Because there are so many different people and so many different cultures and traditions in the world, that definitions of what constitutes gender differ greatly in different societies. Even if an anthropologist created a master gender identity list that included all known genders in the world, it would need to be updated quite frequently because just as society changes rapidly, so does the way that the people in that society define themselves and their identity.
If that all sounded a little bit vague, it’s because describing gender for the entire planet shouldn’t include too many overarching statements. So instead of discussing all of the genders that could possibly exist on the planet, let’s break down how sex is involved in gender, and how mainstream Western civilization categorizes popular gender identities.
When a baby is born, it is assumed that this baby will be either male or female. While that is true a majority of the time, some babies are born intersex, meaning that they have some combination of both male and female sex organs or hormones. In the past, doctors have pathologized intersex people and done quick surgeries to commonly “turn the babies into girls” sometimes without even asking for consent from the parents. This practice is incredibly harmful to the child because not only is the doctor putting the otherwise completely healthy baby through life-threatening surgery for aesthetic reasoning, this child may grow up to be incredibly confused in their identity, and have a lot of health or pain problems related to their genitalia or hormones.
Most intersex adults who had surgery done as babies or children to make them look as though they fit into the category of either male or female wish that their genitals had been left alone. Those who never had such surgeries are generally happier in their day to day lives as well as their sex lives. While intersex is the catch-all term for people who do not physiologically fit into the category of male or female, there are many different configurations that can lead to someone being intersex.
The three main components that makeup sex are chromosomes, hormones, and genitalia. An intersex person could be born with XX chromosomes and organs from both sexes, such as one teste and one ovary, or XY chromosomes with testes and no ovaries but female genitals or XY chromosomes, male genitals, and ovaries. There are many combinations that could occur, and because in most societies we assign gender with sex, this makes fitting into the gender spectrum as an intersex person more complicated.
What we understand about gender is that while sex is something genetically pre-determined to be typically binary, gender is on a spectrum. Because gender is a spectrum rather than a binary, there can be women who behave in masculine ways but whose gender expression is still woman, but there could also be someone who was born female who feels more in the middle of masculine and feminine expression and might identify as gender non-conforming or genderqueer.
Many people who were born in specific sex that is assigned on one side of the gender spectrum but who feel closer to the other end of the gender spectrum may struggle with gender dysphoria. Gender dysphoria happens when someone doesn’t recognize themselves or feels alien in their body due to their gender and sex or identity not being aligned.
If you want to see a list of genders to help you figure out and relate to people or help you identify your own questioning about gender, we can start by talking about different genders that exist in mainstream Eurocentric culture.
Here Are a Number of Genders That People Identify As
Cisgender people identified as the gender they were assigned at birth. This means they fit into the gender binary as either a man who was born male or a woman who was born female. If you are cisgender and also happen to be heterosexual, you might also be referred to as “Cishet,” but be wary, sometimes this term is used as an insult. Most of the population identifies as “Cishet” but this does not mean that most of society is completely binary. If you are a cisgender woman, it does not mean that you can’t enjoy drinking beer, playing baseball, or wearing suits. Just like if you are a cisgender man, enjoying baking, the color pink, or ballet will not change the fact that you are a man.
Transgender people also referred to as trans, are not the gender they were assigned at birth. Usually, transwomen were born male, and transmen were born female. There is also the possibility that a trans person will have been born intersex. Just like cisgender people, trans people lay somewhere on the gender spectrum, but wherever they land on the gender spectrum is too far away from where society decided they were at birth for them to feel that they feel comfortable with their assigned gender.
Someone who does not feel that they fit into either category of man or woman in society’s gender binary might identify as non-binary. You can be assigned male or female at birth and identify as non-binary
Queer is a term that can encompass all expression that is outside of the norm and just the term queer usually relates to sexuality. Specifically genderqueer means that you do not fit into society’s norms around gender and do not wish to identify within society’s categorizations.
Agender people do not associate with either gender in the binary or any specific gender expression. Some agender people refer to themselves as genderless or genderfluid. They do not feel that they are on the gender spectrum at all.
Someone who is gender fluid can go between self-expression that trends toward masculine or trends toward feminine regularly in their life. They recognize that their gender expression is not a fixed spot on the spectrum, but changes as their life changes.
Someone can identify as multiple genders from this list. For example, you could be genderqueer, non-binary, and gender-fluid at the same time. You could also be transgender and genderqueer or transgender and non-binary.
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