Imagine you’re a man. You think everything about you looks like a man should look. You have short hair and a little scruff on your face. When you were born, the doctors said, “It’s a boy!” and that’s how your parents raised you. You’ve always shopped for guys’ clothes and no one has ever called you anything other than a boy, guy, dude, or man. Then one day at a restaurant, the waiter asks you, “Can I get you anything to drink, ma’am?”
If feeling like a man, but being called “ma’am”, would be uncomfortable, jarring, or at least surprising, perhaps you can imagine what it might feel like to be perceived as a gender other than your own.
Most of us never question or think much about our gender, but it’s an essential part of our identity. And given the endlessly diverse ways people experience their gender, their bodies, and their masculinity or femininity, it’s a wonder there are so few words to describe it. Except there are actually (at least) dozens of gender terms, and Facebook is now offering its users numerous options to present their gender identity to their Facebook friends in the same way they do in the real world (or a different way – because, hey, and it’s your gender identity and you can do what you want).