Gender has been, at least for the last few centuries owing to sexual conditioning by major established religions such as Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, etc seen only as a body-appearance based polarity. Male and Female have been the only options available for people to identify as belonging to.
This is because organized religion emphasizes heterosexual marriage (monogamous, largely, or, in some cases polygynous and polyandry is never given as a choice to any woman by any modern religion, I suppose) and limitless production of progeny (abortion is condemned in every organized religion).
Any idea or reality that challenges this paradigm established for human societies around the world by various religions, which are all remarkably the same in sexual conditioning emphasizing marriage and reproduction despite the marked differences in beliefs on other aspects, is deemed unnatural, sinful, evil, deserving punishment by humans here on earth itself, instead of letting their so-called God post-mortem in their so-called hell decide the matters.
People, who don't believe they are male or female purely based on how the physical body they were born with is seen by society, have faced confusion, depression, frustration and always lived a secret or self-torturous life because society just doesn't want to understand or accept them. Being a miniscule minority, such gender-non-conforming people have been unable to come together and challenge mainstream beliefs, many of which had been challenged and socially amended such as abortion rights, right to divorce for women, precisely because of numbers of people affected-nearly half the society of birth-biological women. Religious beliefs have been largely challenged, if they affect the basic rights of the majority. But, when it comes to minorities such as LGBT people, many so-called feminists and human rights activists themselves had, until very recently, the same views and prejudices vis-à-vis LGBT and LGBT themselves had to face harsh ridicule and oppression of society, particularly gender-non-conformists, of whom the most visible in India have been the traditional hijras.
Fortunately, the world has woken up to the plight of LGBT and Trans identity is slowly getting social and political attention around the world, in a positive light. Personally, I, Rose Venkatesan, India's first transgender TV anchor, radio jockey, film director/actor and possible politician with the launch of Sexual Liberation Party of India, changed my gender on Facebook from 'Female' to 'Tranwoman', the very same day that Facebook announced and launched the options for gender other than Male and Female for the first time. Months ago, in my own status post on FB, I expressed my dissatisfaction with FB's only two option-policy for gender.
I don't know whether FB had it as a policy not to allow other gender options until this last-magnificent change, but, I totally appreciate this shift, it's an attempt towards global Trans inclusion and believe FB has finally woken up. It's beautiful that an FB employee who was undergoing gender change themselves worked on this project and come up with 56 options for gender under the sub-option 'Custom' that appears after Male and Female.
Let me approximately explain the meaning of every option
- Agender - Not belonging to any gender,
- Androgyne - Belonging to both male and female,
- Androgynous- Possessing characteristics of both male and female,
- Bigender- Similar to androgyne
- Cis- The same gender as the birth biological body identity
- Cis Female-Birth body is female-identified and is the assumed self-identity also,
- Cis Male- Born with a male body and accepted by self as male too,
- Cis Man- Born as a man and self-identifies as man too,
- Cis Woman- Born as a woman and self-identifies as a woman,
- Cisgender- Accepting and identifying with the birth-biological body identity,
- Cisgender Female- Born with female body and accepted by self as female,
- Cisgender Male- Born with male body and accepted as male gender by self.
- Cisgender Man- Born man and gender-identifies as man,
- Cisgender Woman- Born woman and gender-identifies as woman,
- Female to Male-Transitioning/transitioned from female to male social-identity,
- FTM- short for Female To Male,
- Gender Fluid-Gender is not fixed, but flowing from one to another, reversibly,
- Gender Nonconforming- Not according to any gender-based conditions, living life beyond gender-based conditionalities,
- Gender Questioning- Self-questioning one's own gender, most of the time not sure what gender on is,
- Gender Variant- Defying norms prescribed for gender assigned at birth,
- Genderqueer- Not in accordance with norms for birth-assigned-gender,
- Intersex- A biological condition in which genitalia of both genders is present at birth, possibly because of a rare chromosomal condition-XXY,
- Male to Female- Changing from male to female
- MTF- Short for the above,
- Neither- Not one of the two-male or female
- Neutrois- This one is a challenge to me too, hmmm , let me think. I guess it's the same as gender-neutral, not belonging to any gender,
- Non-binary- Not according to social binary view of male and female,,
- Other- Other than male and female,
- Pangender-All genders in one,
- Trans- Beyond birth-assigned gender,
- Trans Female- Changed from birth-assigned male to female,
- Trans Male- Changed from birth-assigned female to male,
- Trans Man- Changed from birth-assigned gender to man,
- Trans Person- One who changes from birth assigned-gender,
- Trans Woman- HEYY!! This is mine! A person who changed from birth-assigned boy/man/male to self-confirming-with-what-the-heart/inner voice-says WOMAN. I love it!!!! I love to be a woman, beyond and despite all the social problems that come with this identity,
- Trans*- Beyond birth-assigned gender,
- Trans* Female- Now I don't know what this '*' is supposed to mean in between the prefix and the main word, anyways, I guess it's the same as Trans Female,
- Trans* Male- Trans male
- Trans* Man- Trans man,
- Trans* Person- Trans
- Trans* Woman-Trans woman (again me, I could be Female, Trans female, trans woman, trans*female, trans*woman and, likely, half the terms here would fit my identity)
- Transgender Female-Gender changed to female by self-identification and expression from birth-assigned male,
- Transgender Person- Person who has changed from birth biological gender,
- Transgender Woman- Trans woman,
- Transmasculine- Another challenging word to me, but, I guess it's someone who has changed to masculine from birth-assigned feminine,
- Transsexual-Medical term for someone who is medically identified as having a Gender Identity issue with birth-assigned gender. A medical assessment is necessary for the medial industry to provide surgical and other medical assistance in transition to the inner-voice gender that one wants to physically be seen as by society. Medical assessment requires psychiatric assessment and then medical assistance is given in the form of hormone therapy and recommendation for and provision of gender-altering surgery.
- Transsexual Female- Medically diagnosed to be female different from birth-assigned male,
- Transsexual Male- Medically assessed to be male,
- Transsexual Man- Medically assessed to be man from woman,
- Transsexual Person- Medically not the birth-assigned gender,
- Transsexual Woman- Medically assessed to be woman from birth man,
- Two-spirit- a person who contains both the male and female spirit,
(Post script: Oh my God! Did I actually finish the above list? Hmmm, it's really exhaustive and sometimes redundant. I am in no way a medical expert nor do I attempt to claim that I have provided a 100% accurate definition of each term. I believe I have done best justice in explaining each. Take it as guidance instead of as a standard dictionary. Did I say 'oh my God'?, ok, read it as an exclamation of relief so commonly used that it's hard not to use it for such situations, instead of reading me as a believer in God, please! I am Oshoite. And, finally, thank you Facebook, IBNLive and readers for being interested in the 'trans' issues. Understanding is the key to acceptance. Human gender and sexuality are beyond human control, and let us just accept that and not try to play 'God' by telling people to conform to what we perceive to be right.)
(Rose Venkatesan is India's first transgender TV host. The views expressed here are her own.)