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General society would have us believe that gender (and sexuality, and romantic attraction, and countless other identifiers) exist within a binary system. But the reality is that identity is much more complicated than that.
And the concept of multidimensional spectra can be overwhelming. Check out this video for an introduction into the spectra of identity!
Click for the Transcript
ASHLEY: More than once in Beer and a Chats, I’ve tried to make my light match my drink. Have you ever noticed that? This is not a beer, but it’s all that was in my fridge. Oh, I feel like I’m in college again!
Hello, YouTube! So on this channel, we have talked a lot before about how complex identity is. If you missed it, you can click there, but you had to be fast. Classy! But today I would like to dive in more specifically about just one concept that can make identity so complex, and that is spectrums. Identity spectrums are literally one of the most fascinating things in the world to me, and I could talk for hours on them. But the thing is, even if I did, I wouldn’t even scratch the surface on how dimensional a person can be.
So if at the end of the video, you think I missed or did not touch on one particularly important spectrum, you’re probably right. Feel free to share or raise awareness about any spectrum in the comments below, especially if it relates to you, and especially if you think it’s underrepresented.
Also, this video is not 100% fact! It’s full of many thoughts, feels, and opinions, so there is a decent chance that we might disagree about something. Again, just an awesome opportunity for you to enlighten me and this channel’s audience in comments. Because #learning, #mutualrespect, #communication, #arethebest. Those are the best things. #safespace!
So first let’s jump into one potentially major aspect about a person’s identity that exists on a spectrum, and that is gender. Now unfortunately, we live in a society that can view gender in a very binary way. It sees males, females; men, women — not much else. But one day, somebody said, “No! Gender is a social construct and therefore there is no correct way to define it! Also, it exists on a spectrum.”
There are men, women, and an infinite amount of identities in between! Examples of just a few of these identities — just a tiny amount of them — include men, women, trans men, trans women, effeminate men, masculine women, gender-neutral people, gender fluid people, and a zillion more.
And while I love the idea of the spectrum and I love how it challenges cisnormativity, what I love even more is that some people still didn’t think that this model was gender inclusive enough, and they took it even further. They thought the idea of gender being male, female, and everything that falls in between was too linear and still ultimately feeding into the binary, when the reality of this identity is it’s not such a straight line. It is in fact more wibbly wobbly, gendery wendery. Leave a comment if you get the reference.
And one of the funnest visual aids that I recently came across that depicts gender in a nonlinear multidimensional way is the gender planet. This model might be a little cutesy and sort of oversimplified, but I love the ultimate message it communicates, and that is that gender is often too complex to fall within a linear model. That some people identify as bigender, or third gender, or pan gender, or two-spirit, or agender, and that you can be born in one place, but travel across the planet as your identity changes, or that you can have houses in two places, or three places, or four places! So many dimensions!
And it’s not just gender that exists on a multidimensional spectrum, but a zillion other parts of your identity as well! For example, sexual orientation or who you’re attracted to. So, the same sex, the opposite sex, both, everyone? Does it change? Are you fluid? Also, romantic orientation, so who you see yourself falling in love with or spending the rest of your life with. And fun fact, it’s totally normal for romantic orientation to be different than sexual orientation! Also just how sexual you are. Do you identify as asexual, sexual, or also there are a lot of cool things in the middle like graysexual and demisexual. I like that one. I identify as demisexual.
Also, expression of any of these qualities also exists on a spectrum. Just because you identify one way doesn’t mean you necessarily express that way, and that’s totally fine! And none of these things have to line up in a certain way for you to be doing them right.
If you like, you can plot yourself, draw a line, and then have a map of your awesome complex and multidimensional identity like I just did. That’s me! There you go. Me in a map! A nonlinear, multidimensional squiggly line of Ashley. Wibbly-wobbly, gendery-wendery, sexually…
ARIELLE: My name is Arielle! My sex is female, although I could probably pass for a male if I wanted to. My gender identity has always been woman, although when I was really young and I realized that I had crushes on girls I felt like in some way I should’ve been born a man, not in a transgender way but in a way that it would’ve been easier for me because I liked girls. But just because I felt like it could’ve been easier for me to be born a guy doesn’t mean that I don’t love being a woman and identify as such.
That definitely showed growing up in my gender expression which used to be much more masculine than it is now. It turns out that I was one of the weird ones. I came out of the closet as a lesbian, which is my sexual orientation, and I became more and more feminine, and I am still becoming more and more feminine as each day passes. I don’t know, I’m like the strange one. Most lesbians when they come out of the closet, they become much more butch, much more masculine in their gender expression and I was the odd one out, I was the opposite. I feel like being butch and masculine was definitely a way to hide my body in the clothes that I wore and now, because I’m much more happy with myself, I get to show it off, like wearing bras in my videos.
My romantic orientation and my sexual orientation definitely match up perfectly. I have only been sexually attracted to women, and I have only been romantically interested and attracted–can you be romantically attracted? I guess–to women.
Although I don’t identify as demisexual, I definitely understand how they feel more than anyone else. I can look at a woman and be sexually attracted to her, but I won’t sleep with her. I do need to get to know them on an emotional level before I do.
ASHLEY: Another important thing to note is that one key component that gives these spectrums meaning that makes them functional is labels. And labels definitely don’t work for everybody. Some people don’t find them helpful, healthy, or accurate when identifying and everyone has the right to reject or create new labels. Bam!
Moral of the story: your identity does not have to fit in a linear model. It can be multidimensional and that is super cool.
Leave me a comment about something interesting or nonconforming about your identity and we can get to know each other. Okay, bye!
Ashley Mardell is a vlogger and entertainer based in Minneapolis. She makes videos about gender and sexuality, as well as about travel and her life on her YouTube channel. Follow her on Twitter @AshleyMardell.