The day we are born, society assigns us a gender. There are thousands of markers and traditions that humans use to identify themselves to one another. These can include things like art, naming traditions, music, and clothing. Gender is arguably the earliest marker attached to a person in order to help them find their place in their given social setting.
For many people, the journey of self-discovery from childhood into adulthood can be exciting, fascinating and empowering. The gender label in many western societies is a binary marker, which means that there are only two options: male or female. For many non- western societies, the idea of the existence of more than two genders is ancient. Places like India, Hawaii, and the Navajo nation (to name just a few) recognize different gender expressions outside the binary. For a brief overview of gender variance over time, take a look at Teen Vogue. Unfortunately, many people find that their gender is weaponized against them. People who are assigned female at birth, and people who are not read as cis gender, have systematically been oppressed in the struggle for social and material power. LGBTQIA+ people experience gender oppression disproportionately. This can be intimidating to discuss because for many people it can cause social friction. Western society has only recently begun to openly discuss the topic. Because the conversation is relatively new in America, it is totally understandable that people experiencing confusion about their gender identity, their sexuality, or their romantic leanings might have a difficult time finding resources.Trans Student Educational resources is an organization that seeks to empower LGBTQIA+ students.
In the words of their organization: ‘Trans Student Education is a youth-led organization dedicated to transforming the educational environment for trans and gender nonconforming students through advocacy and empowerment.' Landyn Pan and Anna Moore designed an infographic called the Gender Unicorn.
The unicorn is a mythical creature that draws great power from a combination of strength, agility, and healing powers. The idea behind using the unicorn symbol is that each individual person is a unique and valuable. This symbol takes the possibly overwhelming experience of learning about gender identity, expression, and romantic attraction, and presents it in a manageable, informative, validating format. Cartoons have the capacity to distill complex information in ways that thesis length papers can't. They also make information accessible to people who might have difficulties with reading comprehension, or who simply prefer to consume information visually. The infographic is designed for anyone who is seeking information on gender identity or LGBTQIA+ issues, it is not directed at any specific age group. Anyone can experience confusion about their identity.
Part of what makes the unicorn a great resource is that it is non-threatening and accessible. The design is like The Genderbread Man by @itspronouncedmetrosexual with changes made that reflect the difference between gender, sex assigned at birth, and sexuality. The creators of the cartoon also recognize that the resource has its limitations. For example, they acknowledge that because gender experience and expression is infinite, it's impossible for all gender identities to be represented fully, so the infinite nature of the lines and arrows are meant to represent a variety of expressive options without being exclusive. The creators also provide a glossary of definitions for the language they use. They also address the limitations of the language used to describe gender and sexuality. Language is not infinite, but it can be expanded by those who use it, so the creators make several caveats about the terms they use and give explanations for each definition.
The right side of the graphic lists gender identity, gender expression, sex assigned at birth, physical attraction, and emotional attraction. Each of these labels is paired with a different color arrow. This key reflects the colors used on the unicorn graphic. The unicorn has three symbols that roughly label the places on the body traditionally associated with sexual interaction, DNA, and gender. The genital area is labelled with a DNA symbol with colors showing how sex characteristics interact in various ways. The chest is labelled with two hearts, one to represent romantic attraction, and one to represent physical attraction. This shows that romantic attraction and physical attraction are separate, although for many people, they intersect and influence each other. The brain is marked with a thought bubble containing a rainbow to show how complicated (and beautiful) gender identity and attraction can be.
This is not meant to be a conclusive resource, but rather, a solid starting point for people beginning to explore their identities, or that of a loved one. More information on gender expression, resources for students, and information on trans youth empowerment can be found here.