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Understanding Transgender People: The Basics
See other materials like this at our About Transgender People resource hub !
Understanding what it is like to be transgender can be hard, especially if you have never met a transgender person.
Transgender is a broad term that can be used to describe people whose gender identity is different from the gender they were thought to be when they were born. “Trans” is often used as shorthand for transgender.
To treat a transgender person with respect, you treat them according to their gender identity, not their sex at birth. So, someone who lives as a woman today is called a transgender woman and should be referred to as “she” and “her.” A transgender man lives as a man today and should be referred to as “he” and “him.”
(Note: NCTE uses both the adjectives “male” and “female” and the nouns “man” and “woman” to refer to a person’s gender identity.)
Gender identity is your internal knowledge of your gender – for example, your knowledge that you’re a man, a woman, or another gender. Gender expression is how a person presents their gender on the outside. That might include behavior, clothing, hairstyle, voice or body characteristics. Everyone has a gender identity, including cisgender – or non-transgender – people. If someone’s gender identity matches the gender they were assigned at birth, then they are cisgender , or “ci s" for short.
Sex is often used in a medical or scientific contexts . Sex is a label — male or female — that you’re assigned by a doctor at birth based on the appearance of the genitals you’re born with. It doesn’t define who you are, or what your gender identity might turn out to be.
When a person begins to live according to their gender identity, rather than the gender they were thought to be when they were born, this time period is called gender transition . Deciding to transition can take a lot of reflection. Many transgender people risk social stigma, discrimination, and harassment when they tell other people who they really are. Despite those risks, being open about one’s gender identity can be life-affirming and even life-saving.
Possible steps in a gender transition may or may not include changing your clothing, appearance, name, or the pronoun people use to refer to you (like “she,” “he,” or “they”). If they can, some people change their identification documents, like their driver’s license or passport, to better reflect their gender. And some people undergo hormone therapy or other medical procedures to change their physical characteristics and make their body match the gender they know themselves to be. All transgender people are entitled to the same dignity and respect, regardless of whether or not they have been able to take any legal or medical steps.
Some transgender people identify as neither a man nor a woman, or as a combination of male and female, and may use terms like nonbinary or genderqueer to describe their gender identity. Those who are nonbinary often prefer to be referred to as “they” and “them.”
It is important to use respectful terminology, and treat transgender people as you would treat any other person. This includes using the name the person has asked you to call them (not their old name) as well as the pronouns they want you to use. If you aren’t sure what pronouns a person uses, just ask politely.
Visit our About Transgender People resource hub for more information! Some suggestions:
For more information about transgender people generally, see Frequently Asked Questions about Transgender People .
For more information about non-binary people, see Understanding Non-Binary People .
For more information about how to be supportive of the transgender people in your life, see Supporting the Transgender People in Your Life .
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- J Int AIDS Soc
- v.19(3Suppl 2); 2016
Transgender social inclusion and equality: a pivotal path to development
1 United Nations Development Programme Consultant, Delhi, India
2 United Nations Development Programme, HIV, Health, and Development Group, New York, NY, USA
3 United Nations Development Programme Consultant, New York, NY, USA
4 University of California, San Francisco, Center of Excellence for Transgender Health, San Francisco, CA, USA
The rights of trans people are protected by a range of international and regional mechanisms. Yet, punitive national laws, policies and practices targeting transgender people, including complex procedures for changing identification documents, strip transgender people of their rights and limit access to justice. This results in gross violations of human rights on the part of state perpetrators and society at large. Transgender people's experience globally is that of extreme social exclusion that translates into increased vulnerability to HIV, other diseases, including mental health conditions, limited access to education and employment, and loss of opportunities for economic and social advancement. In addition, hatred and aggression towards a group of individuals who do not conform to social norms around gender manifest in frequent episodes of extreme violence towards transgender people. This violence often goes unpunished.
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) views its work in the area of HIV through the lens of human rights and advances a range of development solutions such as poverty reduction, improved governance, active citizenship, and access to justice. This work directly relates to advancing the rights of transgender people. This manuscript lays out the various aspects of health, human rights, and development that frame transgender people's issues and outlines best practice solutions from transgender communities and governments around the globe on how to address these complex concerns. The examples provided in the manuscript can help guide UN agencies, governments, and transgender activists in achieving better standards of health, access to justice, and social inclusion for transgender communities everywhere.
The manuscript provides a call to action for countries to urgently address the violations of human rights of transgender people in order to honour international obligations, stem HIV epidemics, promote gender equality, strengthen social and economic development, and put a stop to untrammelled violence.
Those who have traditionally been marginalized by society and who face extreme vulnerability to HIV find that it is their marginalization – social, legal, and economic – which needs to be addressed as the highest priority if a response to HIV is to be meaningful and effective. Trans people's experiences suggest that although HIV is a serious concern for those who acquire it, the suffering it causes is compounded by the routine indignity, inequity, discrimination, and violence that they encounter. Trans people, and particularly trans women, have articulated this often in the context of HIV [ 1 ].
For a reader who is not trans, imagine a world in which the core of your being goes unrecognized – within the family, if and when you step into school, when you seek employment, or when you need social services such as health and housing. You have no way to easily access any of the institutions and services that others take for granted because of this denial of your existence, worsened by the absence of identity documents required to participate in society. Additionally, because of your outward appearance, you may be subject to discrimination, violence, or the fear of it. In such circumstances, how could you possibly partake in social and economic development? How could your dignity and wellbeing – physical, mental, and emotional – be ensured? And how could you access crucial and appropriate information and services for HIV and other health needs?
Trans people experience these realities every day of their lives. Yet, like all other human beings, trans people have fundamental rights – to life, liberty, equality, health, privacy, speech, and expression [ 2 ], but constantly face denial of these fundamental rights because of the rejection of the trans person's right to their gender identity. In these circumstances, there can be no attainment of the goal of universal equitable development as set out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development [ 3 ], and no effort to stem the tide of the HIV epidemic among trans people can succeed if their identity and human rights are denied.
The human rights gap – stigma, discrimination, violence
The ways in which marginalization impacts a trans person's life are interconnected; stigma and transphobia drive isolation, poverty, violence, lack of social and economic support systems, and compromised health outcomes. Each circumstance relates to and often exacerbates the other [ 4 ].
Trans people who express their gender identity from an early age are often rejected by their families [ 5 ]. If not cast out from their homes, they are shunned within households resulting in lack of opportunities for education and with no attempts to ensure attention to their mental and physical health needs. Those who express their gender identities later in life often face rejection by mainstream society and social service institutions, as they go about undoing gender socialization [ 6 ]. Hostile environments that fail to understand trans people's needs threaten their safety and are ill-equipped to offer sensitive health and social services.
Such discriminatory and exclusionary environments fuel social vulnerability over a lifetime; trans people have few opportunities to pursue education, and greater odds of being unemployed, thereby experiencing inordinately high levels of homelessness [ 6 ] and poverty [ 7 ]. Trans students experience resentment, prejudice, and threatening environments in schools [ 8 ], which leads to significant drop-out rates, with few trans people advancing to higher education [ 9 ].
Workplace-related research on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans (LGBT) individuals reveals that trans workers are the most marginalized and are excluded from gainful employment, with discrimination occurring at all phases of the employment process, including recruitment, training opportunities, employee benefits, and access to job advancement [ 10 ]. This environment inculcates pessimism and internalized transphobia in trans people, discouraging them from applying for jobs [ 11 ]. These extreme limitations in employment can push trans people towards jobs that have limited potential for growth and development, such as beauticians, entertainers or sex workers [ 12 ]. Unemployment and low-paying or high risk and unstable jobs feed into the cycle of poverty and homelessness. When homeless trans people seek shelter, they are housed as per their sex at birth and not their experienced gender, and are subject to abuse and humiliation by staff and residents [ 13 ]. In these environments, many trans people choose not to take shelter [ 14 ].
Legal systems often entrench this marginalization, feed inequality, and perpetuate violence against trans people. All people are entitled to their basic human rights, and nations are obligated to provide for these under international law, including guarantees of non-discrimination and the right to health [ 2 ]; however, trans people are rarely assured of such protection under these State obligations.
Instead, trans people often live in criminalized contexts – under legislation that punishes so-called unnatural sex, sodomy, buggery, homosexual propaganda, and cross-dressing [ 12 ] – making them subject to extortion, abuse, and violence. Laws that criminalize sex work lead to violence and blackmail from the police, impacting trans women involved in this occupation [ 15 ]. Being criminalized, trans people are discouraged from complaining to the police, or seeking justice when facing violence and abuse, and perpetrators are rarely punished. When picked up for any of the aforementioned alleged crimes or under vague “public nuisance” or “vagrancy” laws, their abuse can continue at the hands of the police [ 16 ] or inmates in criminal justice systems that fail to appropriately respond to trans identities.
The transphobia that surrounds trans people's lives fuels violence against them. Documentation over the last decade reveals the disproportionate extent to which trans people are murdered, and the extreme forms of torture and inhuman treatment they are subject to [ 16 – 18 ]. When such atrocities are perpetrated against trans people, governments turn a blind eye. Trans sex workers are particularly vulnerable to brutal police conduct including rape, sometimes being sexually exploited by those who are meant to be protectors of the law [ 15 ]. In these circumstances, options to file complaints are limited and, when legally available channels do exist, trans complainants are often ignored [ 19 ].
These experiences of severe stigma, marginalization, and violence by families, communities, and State actors lead to immense health risks for trans people, including heightened risk for HIV, mental health disparities, and substance abuse [ 20 , 21 ]. However, most health systems struggle to function outside the traditional female/male binary framework, thereby excluding trans people [ 22 ]. Health personnel are often untrained to provide appropriate services on HIV prevention, care, and treatment or information on sexual and reproductive health to trans people [ 20 , 23 ]. HIV voluntary counselling and testing facilities and antiretroviral therapy (ART) sites intimidate trans people due to prior negative experiences with medical staff [ 21 , 24 , 25 ]. Additionally, when trans women test HIV positive, they are wrongly reported as men who have sex with men [ 4 ]. Consequently, testing rates in trans communities are low [ 26 ], which serves to disguise the serious burden of HIV among trans people and perpetuates the lack of investment in developing trans-sensitive health systems. The economic hardships that trans people face due to their inability to participate in the workforce further complicate access to HIV, mental health, and gender-affirming health services. In short, hostile social and legal environments contribute to health gaps, and public health systems that are unresponsive to the needs of trans people.
In addition, understanding of trans people's concerns around stigma, discrimination, and violence, related as they are to gender identity, is often limited due to their being combined with lesbian, gay, and bisexual sexual orientation issues. However, trans people's human rights concerns, grounded in their gender identity, are inherently different and necessitate their own set of approaches.
Imperatives for trans social inclusion
In order to overcome the human rights barriers trans people confront, certain measures are imperative and should be self-evident, given the standards that States are obliged to provide under international law to all human beings. Paying attention to these is key to effectively addressing the systemic marginalization that trans people experience. Such action can have immeasurable benefits, including the full participation of trans people in human development processes as well as positive health and HIV outcomes. For trans people, the change must begin with the most fundamental element – acknowledgement of their gender identity.
The right to gender recognition
For trans people, their very recognition as human beings requires a guarantee of a composite of entitlements that others take for granted – core rights that recognize their legal personhood. As the Global Commission on HIV and the Law pointed out, “In many countries from Mexico to Malaysia, by law or by practice, transgender persons are denied acknowledgment as legal persons. A basic part of their identity – gender – is unrecognized” [ 19 ]. This recognition of their gender is core to having their inherent dignity respected and, among other rights, their right to health including protection from HIV. When denied, trans people face severe impediments in accessing appropriate health information and care.
Recognizing a trans person's gender requires respecting the right of that person to identify – irrespective of the sex assigned to them at birth – as male, female, or a gender that does not fit within the male–female binary, a “third” gender as it were, as has been expressed by many traditionally existing trans communities such as hijras in India [ 27 ]. This is an essential requirement for trans people to attain full personhood and citizenship. The guarantee of gender recognition in official government-issued documents – passports and other identification cards that are required to open bank accounts, apply to educational institutions, enter into housing or other contracts or for jobs, to vote, travel, or receive health services or state subsidies – provides access to a slew of activities that are otherwise denied while being taken for granted by cisgender people. 1 Such recognition results in fuller civic participation of and by trans people. It is a concrete step in ensuring their social integration, economic advancement, and a formal acceptance of their legal equality. It can immeasurably support their empowerment and act as an acknowledgement of their dignity and human worth, changing the way they are perceived by their families, by society in general, and by police, government actors, and healthcare personnel whom they encounter in daily life. UN treaty bodies have acknowledged this vital right of trans people to be recognized. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has recommended that States “facilitate legal recognition of the preferred gender of transgender persons and establish arrangements to permit relevant identity documents to be reissued reflecting preferred gender and name, without infringements of other human rights” [ 28 ].
Freedom from violence & discrimination
Systemic strategies to reduce the violence against trans people need to occur at multiple levels, including making perpetrators accountable, facilitating legal and policy reform that removes criminality, and general advocacy to sensitize the ill-informed about trans issues and concerns. Strengthening the capacity of trans collectives and organizations to claim their rights can also act as a counter to the impunity of violence. When trans people are provided legal aid and access to judicial processes, accountability can be enforced against perpetrators. Sensitizing the police to make them partners in this work can be crucial. When political will is absent to support such attempts in highly adverse settings, trans organizations and allies can consider using international human rights mechanisms, such as shadow reports made to UN human rights processes like the Universal Periodic Review, to bring focus to issues of anti-trans violence and other human rights violations against trans people.
Providing equal access to housing, education, public facilities and employment opportunities, and developing and implementing anti-discrimination laws and policies that protect trans people in these contexts, including guaranteeing their safety and security, are essential to ensure that trans individuals are treated as equal human beings.
The right to health
For trans people, their right to health can only be assured if services are provided in a non-stigmatizing, non-discriminatory, and informed environment. This requires working to educate the healthcare sector about gender identity and expression, and zero tolerance for conduct that excludes trans people. Derogatory comments, breaches of confidentiality from providers, and denial of services on the basis of gender identity or HIV status are some of the manifestations of prejudice. The right to non-discrimination that is guaranteed to all human beings under international law must be enforced against actions that violate this principle in the healthcare system. Yet, a multi-pronged approach that supports this affirmation of trans equality together with a sensitized workforce that is capable of delivering gender-affirming surgical and HIV health services is necessary.
Building on the commitments made by the UN General Assembly in response to the HIV epidemic [ 29 ], the World Health Organization (WHO) developed good practice recommendations in relation to stigma and discrimination faced by key populations, including trans people [ 30 ]. These recommendations urge countries to introduce rights-based laws and policies and advise that, “Monitoring and oversight are important to ensure that standards are implemented and maintained.” Additionally, mechanisms should be made available “to anonymously report occurrences of stigma and/or discrimination when [trans people] try to obtain health services” [ 30 ].
Fostering stigma-free environments has been successfully demonstrated – where partnerships between trans individuals and community health nurses have improved HIV-related health outcomes [ 31 ], or where clinical sites welcome trans people and conduct thorough and appropriate physical exams, manage hormones with particular attention to ART, and engage trans individuals in HIV education [ 32 ].
Advancing trans human rights and health
For all the challenges faced by trans people in the context of their human rights and health, promising interventions and policy progress have shown that positive change is possible, although this must be implemented at scale to have significant impact. Change has occurred due to the efforts of trans advocates and human rights champions, often in critical alliances with civil society supporters as well as sensitized judiciaries, legislatures, bureaucrats, and health sector functionaries.
Key strides have been made in the context of gender recognition in some parts of the world. In the legislatures, this trend began in 2012 with Argentina passing the Gender Identity and Health Comprehensive Care for Transgender People Act , which provided gender recognition to trans people without psychiatric, medical, or judicial evaluation, and the right to access free and voluntary transitional healthcare [ 33 , 34 ]. In 2015, Malta passed the Gender Identity, Gender Expression and Sex Characteristics Act , which provides a self-determined, speedy, and accessible gender recognition process. The law protects against discrimination in the government and private sectors. It also de-pathologizes gender identity by stating that people “shall not be required to provide proof of a surgical procedure for total or partial genital reassignment, hormonal therapies or any other psychiatric, psychological or medical treatment.” It presumes the capacity of minors to exercise choice in opting for gender reassignment, while recognizing parental participation and the minor's best interests. It stipulates the establishment of a working group on trans healthcare to research international best practices [ 35 ]. Pursuant to its passing the Maltese Ministry of Education working with activists also developed policy guidelines to accommodate trans, gender variant, and intersex children in the educational system [ 36 ]. Other countries, such as the Republic of Ireland and Poland, have also passed gender identity and gender expression laws, albeit of varying substance but intended to recognize the right of trans people to personhood [ 37 , 38 ]. Denmark passed legislation that eliminated the coercive requirement for sterilization or surgery as a prerequisite to change legal gender identity [ 39 ].
Trans activists and allies have also used the judicial process to claim the right to gender recognition. In South Asia, claims to recognition of a gender beyond the male–female binary have been upheld – in 2007, the Supreme Court of Nepal directed the government to recognize a third gender in citizenship documents in order to vest rights that accrue from citizenship to metis [ 40 ]; in Pakistan, the Supreme Court directed the government to provide a third gender option in national identity cards for trans people to be able to vote [ 41 ]; in 2014, the Indian Supreme Court passed a judgement directing the government to officially recognize trans people as a third gender and to formulate special programmes to support their needs [ 42 ]. These developments in law, while hopeful, are too recent to yet discern any resultant trends in improvements in trans peoples’ lives, more broadly.
More localized innovative efforts have also been made by trans organizations to counter violence, stigma, and discrimination. For instance in South Africa, Gender DynamiX, a non-governmental organization worked with the police to change the South African Police Services’ standard operating procedures in 2013. The procedures are intended to ensure the safety, dignity, and respect of trans people who are in conflict with the law, and prescribe several trans-friendly safeguards – the search of trans people as per the sex on their identity documents, irrespective of genital surgery, and detention of trans people in separate facilities with the ability to report abuse, including removal of wigs and other gender-affirming prosthetics. Provision is made for implementation of the procedures through sensitization workshops with the police [ 43 ]. In Australia, the Transgender Anti-Violence Project was started as a collaboration between the Gender Centre in Sydney and the New South Wales Police Force, the City of Sydney and Inner City Legal Centre in 2011. It provides education, referrals, and advocacy in relation to violence based on gender identity, and support for trans people when reporting violence, assistance in organizing legal aid and appearances in court [ 44 ].
Measures have also been taken to tackle discrimination faced by trans people, in recognition of their human rights – in 2015, Japan's Ministry of Education ordered schools to accept trans students according to their preferred gender identity [ 45 ]; in 2014 in Quezon City, the Philippines the municipal council passed the “Gender Fair City” ordinance to ensure non-discrimination of LGBT people in education, the workplace, media depictions, and political life. This law prohibits bullying and requires gender-neutral bathrooms in public spaces and at work [ 46 ]; in Ecuador, Alfil Association worked on making healthcare accessible to trans people, including training and sensitization meetings for health workers and setting up a provincial health clinic for trans people in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, staffed by government physicians who had undergone the training; and Transbantu Zambia set up a small community house providing temporary shelter for trans people, assisting them in difficult times or while undergoing hormone therapy. Similar housing support has been provided by community organizations with limited resources in Jamaica and Indonesia. 2
Towards sustainable development: time for change
Although there are other examples of human rights progress for trans people, much of this change is isolated, non-systemic, and insufficient. Trans people continue to live in extremely hostile contexts. What is required is change and progress at scale. The international community's recent commitment towards Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) presents an opportunity to catalyze and expand positive interventions [ 3 ].
Preventing human rights violations and social exclusion is key to sustainable and equitable development. This is true for trans people as much as other human beings, just as the achievement of all 17 SDGs is of paramount importance to all people, including trans people. Of these SDGs, the underpinning support for trans people's health and human rights is contained in SDG 3 –“Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages,” SDG 10 – “Reduce inequality within and among countries,” and SDG 16 – “Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.”
The SDGs are guided by the UN Charter and grounded in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They envisage processes that are “people-centered, gender-sensitive, respect human rights and have a particular focus on the poorest, most vulnerable and those furthest behind” and a “just, equitable, tolerant, open and socially inclusive world in which the needs of the most vulnerable are met” [ 3 ]. They reiterate universal respect for human rights and dignity, justice and non-discrimination, and a world of equal opportunity permitting the full realization of human potential for all irrespective of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, disability, or other status . The relationship between the SDGs and trans people's concerns has been robustly articulated in the context of inclusive development [ 47 ].
UN Member States have unequivocally agreed to this new common agenda for the immediate future. The SDGs demand an unambiguous, farsighted, and inclusive demonstration of political will. Their language clearly reflects the most urgent needs of trans people, for whom freedom from violence and discrimination, the right to health and legal gender recognition are inextricably linked.
Specifically in regard to trans people, the SDGs are a call to immediate action on several fronts: governments need to engage with trans people to understand their concerns, unequivocally support the right of trans people to legal gender recognition, support the documentation of human rights violations against them, provide efficient and accountable processes whereby violations can be safely reported and action taken, guarantee the prevention of such violations, and ensure that the whole gamut of robust health and HIV services are made available to trans people. Only then can trans people begin to imagine a world that respects their core personhood, and a world in which dignity, equality, and wellbeing become realities in their lives.
Acknowledgements and funding
The authors are grateful for the work of courageous trans activists around the world who have overcome tremendous challenges and continue to battle disparities as they bring about positive change. Many encouraging examples cited in this manuscript would be impossible without their contribution. The authors also thank Jack Byrne, an expert on trans health and human rights, whose work on the UNDP Discussion Paper on Transgender Health and Human Rights (2013) served as an inspiration for this piece, and JoAnne Keatley's effort to provide writing, editorial comment, and oversight. UNDP staff and consultants, who contributed time to this manuscript, were supported by UNDP.
1 Cisgender people identify and present in a way that is congruent with their birth-assigned sex. Cisgender males are birth-assigned males who identify and present themselves as male.
2 These illustrations are based on information gathered in the process of developing a tool to operationalize the Consolidated Guidelines on HIV prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care for key populations (WHO, 2014), through interviews with and questionnaires sent to trans activists. See also reference 31.
The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.
The concept for this manuscript was a result of collaborative work between all four authors. VD provided key ideas for content and led the writing for the manuscript. CC provided thought leadership and contributed writing, particularly on the SDGs, while MS provided writing and editorial input, as well as other support. JK advised on content and provided writing and editorial input and guidance. All authors have read and approved the final version.
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Explore the concepts of sex and gender and the different ways people may experience them.
Want to better understand what it means to be transgender or gender diverse? Here's an overview of the basics, along with definitions of common terms used to describe gender identity.
The terms "transgender" and "gender diverse" cover a range of gender identities and gender expressions. These terms move past the idea that all people can be classified as only one of two genders — female or male. That idea is called the gender binary.
Gender identity is the internal sense of being male, female, neither or some combination of both. Gender expression typically involves how gender identity is shown to the outside world through the way a person looks or acts. Gender expression may include clothing, mannerisms, communication style and interests, among other things.
People who are transgender or gender diverse include:
- Those who have a gender identity that differs from the sex assigned to them at birth.
- Those whose gender expression doesn't follow society's norms for the sex assigned to them at birth.
- Those who identify and express their gender outside of the gender binary.
Gender identity and sexual orientation
Most people have a sense of physical, emotional and romantic attraction to others. Sexual orientation describes the group of people to whom this attraction is directed. For example, a person may be attracted to men, women, both or neither. Being transgender or gender diverse isn't linked to a specific sexual orientation. And sexual orientation can't be assumed based on gender identity or gender expression.
Understanding gender dysphoria
Gender dysphoria is a feeling of distress that can happen when a person's gender identity differs from their sex assigned at birth or from their sex-related physical characteristics. Some transgender and gender-diverse people experience gender dysphoria at some point in their lives. Other transgender and gender-diverse people feel at ease with their bodies and gender identities, and they don't have gender dysphoria.
A diagnosis for gender dysphoria is included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), a manual published by the American Psychiatric Association. This diagnosis was created to help people with gender dysphoria get access to the health care and treatment they need. It focuses on distress as the problem, not a person's gender identity.
Knowing helpful terms
Other terms that might come up in a discussion about being transgender or gender diverse include:
- Agender. A person who doesn't identify with any gender label or who doesn't use gender as part of their identity.
- Cisgender. An individual whose gender identity and gender expression align with the sex assigned at birth.
- Cross-dressing. Dressing as the other gender. Cross-dressing isn't necessarily a sign of a person's gender identity or sexual orientation. Cross-dressing also isn't a sign of gender dysphoria.
- Gender-fluid. Displaying flexibility in gender identity and expression. Gender-fluid people typically aren't limited by gender norms and expectations. They may identify and express themselves as masculine, feminine, some combination of both or neither.
- Gender role. The norms and expectations a society associates with a person's sex assigned at birth.
- Gender minority stress. Stress related to stigma, prejudice and discrimination toward individuals with diverse gender identity and expression.
- Nonbinary. A person whose gender identity is a combination of or goes beyond the gender binary of female and male.
- Sex. A person's physical characteristics that traditionally are labeled as male or female.
- Transgender man and transgender woman. Terms used to describe a transgender individual's gender identity or expression within the gender binary. For example, the term "transgender woman" may be used for someone whose sex at birth was assigned male and who identifies as a woman. Not all transgender and gender-diverse people use these terms to describe themselves.
For more information about transgender and gender-diverse topics, consider exploring resources offered through organizations such as the World Professional Association for Transgender Health and the Fenway Institute.
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- Feldman J, et al. Primary care of transgender individuals. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Jan. 3, 2023.
- AskMayoExpert. Health care for transgender and gender diverse people. Mayo Clinic; 2022.
- Erickson-Schroth L, ed. Sex and gender development. In: Trans Bodies, Trans Selves: A Resource by and for Transgender Communities. 2nd ed. Kindle edition. Oxford University Press; 2022. Accessed Jan. 4, 2023.
- Gender dysphoria. American Psychiatric Association. https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/gender-dysphoria/what-is-gender-dysphoria. Accessed Jan. 5. 2023.
- Keuroghlian AS, et al., eds. Gender identity: Terminology, demographics and epidemiology. In: Transgender and Gender Diverse Health Care: The Fenway Guide. McGraw Hill; 2022. https://accessmedicine.mhmedical.com. Accessed Jan. 5, 2023.
- Nippoldt TB (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic. Jan. 6, 2023.
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The Transgender Issue: An Introduction
GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies
TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly
Rüstem Ertuğ Altınay
NORA Nordic Journal of Women s Studies
Marshall (Kai M.) Green , Treva C Ellison
This section includes eighty-six short original essays commissioned for the inaugural issue of TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly. Written by emerging academics, community-based writers, and senior scholars, each essay in this special issue, “Postposttranssexual: Key Concepts for a Twenty-First-Century Transgender Studies,” revolves around a particular keyword or concept. Some contributions focus on a concept central to transgender studies; others describe a term of art from another discipline or interdisciplinary area and show how it might relate to transgender studies. While far from providing a complete picture of the field, these keywords begin to elucidate a conceptual vocabulary for transgender studies. Some of the submissions offer a deep and resilient resistance to the entire project of mapping the field terminologically; some reveal yet-unrealized critical potentials for the field; some take existing terms from canonical thinkers and develop the significance for transgender studies; some offer overviews of well-known methodologies and demonstrate their applicability within transgender studies; some suggest how transgender issues play out in various fields; and some map the productive tensions between trans studies and other interdisciplines.
Andrew Gabriel Anastasia
Voice is an apropos keyword for transgender studies, as the field rests on the demand that ‘‘the embodied experience of the speaking subject’’ subtend any analysis of transgender phenomena (Stryker 2006a: 12). Speech is propelled into the world through bodily actions, which is why a more metaphorical effort to ‘‘claim our voice’’ is synonymous with agential self-definition. ‘‘Voice,’’ used metaphorically, signifies multiple meanings at once: a sound that represents a person, the agency by which an opinion is expressed, and the expressed will of a people. This is why the keyword is frequently invoked to narrate the struggles of transgender studies’ formation as a field. For example, in one of multiple figurative uses of ‘‘voice’’ in the forward to the 2006 Transgender Studies Reader, Stephen Whittle (2006: xv) notes that trans scholars ‘‘have enabled the coherent voices of trans people to be heard throughout the academy.’’ This discursive coherence has been a necessary strategy to combat logics of pathologization, through which trans* voices have sounded like ‘‘confused ranting of a diseased mind’’ (Stryker 2006b: 249). In the struggle for coherence, however, metaphorical references to ‘‘voice’’ privilege its discursive connotations, which relegates the embodied voice to a service role of rendering audible the coherent thought
Feminism & Psychology
Heather Terrell , Julie Nagoshi
TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly 1.1-2 (May 2014): 82-83. "Postposttranssexual: Key Concepts for a 21st Century Transgender Studies"
Yetta [Y Howard] Howard
Leah DeVun , Zeb Tortorici
Transgender Studies Quarterly
Sociological Research Online
Cambridge Companion to Queer Studies
Cáel M Keegan
Transgender China, ed. Howard Chiang
Alvin K. Wong
Peter A Jackson
A. Ianto West, Psy.D. , Jessye Cohen-Filipic , Chris Heffner PhD PsyD , Dana Waters
Gender, Place & Culture
Wsq: Women's Studies Quarterly
Global Encyclopedia of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer History
Violence, victims, and justifications
The SAGE Handbook of Global Sexualities
Mikee N Inton-Campbell
Gay and Lesbian Issues and Psychology
David J Getsy
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Dredge Byung'chu Kang
Inter-Asia Cultural Studies
Annual Review of Critical Psychology
Atticus N Ranck
Patricia E Gherovici
Radical History Review
V Varun Chaudhry
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Introduction to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (lgbtq) history in the united states.
Photo by John K. Hillers, c. 1781-1896, for the Smithsonian Institution, Bureau of American Ethnology (National Archives and Records Administration ID: 523558).
LGBTQ history is an umbrella term that captures the stories of strength and struggle of diverse individuals, cultures, and communities that have been considered nonnormative. It is the story of movements for justice; of moments of triumph and tragedy that people we now understand as LGBTQ have faced—and often continue to face—in our daily lives and demands for the right to live, love, and thrive. In the modern era, sexual and gender identity and expression have been central to Americans’ understandings of themselves, even as they have been shaped by— and shaped—broader structures and attitudes toward race, ethnicity, class, gender, ability, and nation. Major institutions, governments, courts, churches, and the medical profession, have served as arbiters, constructing normative and deviant sexualities and providing criteria for defining the range within each. Therefore, the study of LGBTQ history is the study of cultural, social, and legal politics in the United States and who and what is considered part of the “national” narrative. The National Park Service LGBTQ Heritage Initiative is a testament to how America’s perception of who is seen as part of the nation has shifted over the years. Read more » [PDF 2.4 MB]
The views and conclusions contained in the essays are those of the authors and should not be interpreted as representing the opinions or policies of the U.S. Government. Mention of trade names or commercial products does not constitute their endorsement by the U.S. Government.
Part of a series of articles titled LGBTQ America: A Theme Study of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer History .
Previous: Introduction to the LGBTQ Heritage Initiative Theme Study
Next: The History of Queer History: One Hundred Years of the Search for a Shared Heritage
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Last updated: October 11, 2016
Writing help, paraphrasing tool, essay on transgender persons.
- Gender , Gender Equality , Gender Roles , Homosexuality , Human Rights , LGBT , Transgender
How it works
The Human Rights Campaign defines transgender as “an umbrella term that describes people whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from the sex they were assigned at birth” (HRC, 2018). Susan Stryker further explains stating that transgender refers “to people who move away from the gender they were assigned at birth, people who cross over (trans-) the boundaries constructed by their culture to define and contain that gender” (Stryker, 2017, p. 1); the meanings of trans, according to Stryker are still under construction (1). Transgender is not a new concept, but the growing spectrum of gender interrupts present cultural norms. However, gender diversity has existed for a long time throughout human history, from the two-spirit people of Native American culture to the hijras of India. For this assignment, I chose to focus on hijras in Pakistan. The historical identity of hijras in Pakistan presents an interesting global conversation about the concept of gender in the context of where gender diversity is today and where it is headed. In 1930, Sir Muhammad Iqbal, president of the All Indian Muslim League, proposed a free and independent Muslim state from British India of what would later be known as Pakistan (Ziring and Burki, 2019). By 1947, the British Parliament passed the Indian Independence Act separating India and Pakistan—millions of religious persecuted Muslims fled to East and West Pakistan, while Hindus fled to India. Although Pakistan gained independence, it retained the Indian Penal Code (now the Pakistan Penal Code), Section 377, which “categorizes homosexuality under unnatural offenses and criminalizes anal intercourse between men with imprisonment for life, or for any term of not less than 10 years” (Alizai, Doneys & Doane, 2016, p. 1235). Further, the Pakistan Penal Code “imposes sanctions against emasculation and describes that the destruction or permanent damage of the functional capacity of any organ of the body by another person is punished with imprisonment of up to 10 years” (Alizai et al, 2016). Despite the punishment, homosexuality and gender non-conformity continue today in Pakistani society in addition to new rights and social recognition. After some policemen reportedly tortured and raped a group of hijras, the Pakistan Supreme Court “ordered fair behavior with hijras and to create employment opportunities” (Jami and Kamal, 2015, p. 153). From 2009 – 2012, the Supreme Court officially recognized third gender persons, hijras, who, under the 1973 Constitution, are guaranteed protections entitled to every citizen.
Before British colonialism and its criminalization and influence on gender practices, and despite India’s current emphasis on binary gender constructions, Hinduism acknowledged different variations of gender, celebrating “the idea that the universe is boundlessly various, and…that all possibilities may exist without excluding each other” (Nanda, 2014, p. 28). Hijras were once celebrated and revered—they entertained at marriages, and birthing ceremonies, and in return, bridal couples would pay them in “money, sweets, and cloth” (28). Hijras adopt feminine names, wear women’s clothing, make-up, and accessories; they imitate women’s walk, gestures, facial expressions, language; and they seek “normal” men as sexual partners.
In Pakistan, the traditional role of a hijra included singing, dancing, and “seeking wadhais [alms] at the birth of male child and wedding ceremony for sons” (Jami and Kamal, 2015, p. 153). Muslim hijras date back to eunuchs and were common throughout the royal courts of Muslim rulers. They were highly valuable and occupied administrative roles and political advisors; they were courtesans, warriors and guardians of the harem” (Alizai, Doneys & Doane, 2016, p. 1215). The British, however, removed hijras from their stately positions by launching moral and political campaigns against them and were ultimately criminalized under the Criminal Tribes Act of 1871. Hijras from there out were considered “immoral and unworthy” which left them without fundamental human rights.
“Gender is governed to confirm a stereotypical form of patriarchy” that defines the margins for women and men (Saeed, Mughal & Farooq, 2017, p. 1054). The hijra community in Pakistan is evidence that gender is flexible, but conservative ideas and beliefs about gender are not simply so. Traditional gender practices in Pakistani society was disrupted through religious beliefs and moral values making it possible to ultimately marginalize hijras in it’s social and cultural structure. Religious members tend to hold fear of the unknown and concerns about their morality and therefore may consider sexual minorities as deviant. Dress and gender roles in Islam are strict, cross-dressing, “castration for abstaining from marrying,” sodomy, and homosexuality is strongly discouraged; additionally, because men in Pakistani society “undergo more sex-typed upbringing” they tend to stick to more traditional gender roles and are “more disturbed” when traditional gender roles are violated (Jami and Kamal, 2015, p. 154-5).
In 2013, hijras participated for the first time in politics as candidates and voters in general elections. Pakistan’s parliament, under the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, allows third gender persons have their chosen identities “recognized on official documents, including national IDs, passports, and driver’s licenses” (Ingber, 2018). Ingber further stated that gay and lesbian rights are not addressed in the bill, “nor are penalties for discrimination outlined in the act” (Ingber, 2018). Although hijras still face social difficulties, gradually, they are being woven back into the cultural fabric through attempts at “mainstreaming” them in television dramas and talk shows; efforts at normalizing hijras is proving to be difficult due to past and current values on gender.
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GSR is the department within the Center for Diversity and Inclusion at Johns Hopkins working to build an equitable and supportive Hopkins community for people of all sexual orientations and gender identities.
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- 12.2 Gender and Gender Inequality
- 1.1 What Is Sociology?
- 1.2 The History of Sociology
- 1.3 Theoretical Perspectives in Sociology
- 1.4 Why Study Sociology?
- Section Summary
- Section Quiz
- Short Answer
- Further Research
- 2.1 Approaches to Sociological Research
- 2.2 Research Methods
- 2.3 Ethical Concerns
- 3.1 What Is Culture?
- 3.2 Elements of Culture
- 3.3 High, Low, Pop, Sub, Counter-culture and Cultural Change
- 3.4 Theoretical Perspectives on Culture
- 4.1 Types of Societies
- 4.2 Theoretical Perspectives on Society
- 4.3 Social Constructions of Reality
- 5.1 Theories of Self-Development
- 5.2 Why Socialization Matters
- 5.3 Agents of Socialization
- 5.4 Socialization Across the Life Course
- 6.1 Types of Groups
- 6.2 Group Size and Structure
- 6.3 Formal Organizations
- 7.1 Deviance and Control
- 7.2 Theoretical Perspectives on Deviance and Crime
- 7.3 Crime and the Law
- 8.1 Technology Today
- 8.2 Media and Technology in Society
- 8.3 Global Implications of Media and Technology
- 8.4 Theoretical Perspectives on Media and Technology
- 9.1 What Is Social Stratification?
- 9.2 Social Stratification and Mobility in the United States
- 9.3 Global Stratification and Inequality
- 9.4 Theoretical Perspectives on Social Stratification
- 10.1 Global Stratification and Classification
- 10.2 Global Wealth and Poverty
- 10.3 Theoretical Perspectives on Global Stratification
- 11.1 Racial, Ethnic, and Minority Groups
- 11.2 Theoretical Perspectives on Race and Ethnicity
- 11.3 Prejudice, Discrimination, and Racism
- 11.4 Intergroup Relationships
- 11.5 Race and Ethnicity in the United States
- 12.1 Sex, Gender, Identity, and Expression
- 12.3 Sexuality
- 13.1 Who Are the Elderly? Aging in Society
- 13.2 The Process of Aging
- 13.3 Challenges Facing the Elderly
- 13.4 Theoretical Perspectives on Aging
- 14.1 What Is Marriage? What Is a Family?
- 14.2 Variations in Family Life
- 14.3 Challenges Families Face
- 15.1 The Sociological Approach to Religion
- 15.2 World Religions
- 15.3 Religion in the United States
- 16.1 Education around the World
- 16.2 Theoretical Perspectives on Education
- 16.3 Issues in Education
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- Introduction to Work and the Economy
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- Introduction to Social Movements and Social Change
- 21.1 Collective Behavior
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By the end of this section, you should be able to:
- Explain the influence of socialization on gender roles in the United States
- Explain the stratification of gender in major American institutions
- Provide examples of gender inequality in the United States
- Describe the rise of feminism in the United States
- Describe gender from the view of each sociological perspective
Gender and Socialization
The phrase “boys will be boys” is often used to justify behavior such as pushing, shoving, or other forms of aggression from young boys. The phrase implies that such behavior is unchangeable and something that is part of a boy’s nature. Aggressive behavior, when it does not inflict significant harm, is often accepted from boys and men because it is congruent with the cultural script for masculinity. The “script” written by society is in some ways similar to a script written by a playwright. Just as a playwright expects actors to adhere to a prescribed script, society expects women and men to behave according to the expectations of their respective gender roles. Scripts are generally learned through a process known as socialization, which teaches people to behave according to social norms.
Children learn at a young age that there are distinct expectations for boys and girls. Cross-cultural studies reveal that children are aware of gender roles by age two or three. At four or five, most children are firmly entrenched in culturally appropriate gender roles (Kane 1996). Children acquire these roles through socialization, a process in which people learn to behave in a particular way as dictated by societal values, beliefs, and attitudes. For example, society often views riding a motorcycle as a masculine activity and, therefore, considers it to be part of the male gender role. Attitudes such as this are typically based on stereotypes, oversimplified notions about members of a group. Gender stereotyping involves overgeneralizing about the attitudes, traits, or behavior patterns of women or men. For example, women may be thought of as too timid or weak to ride a motorcycle.
Gender stereotypes form the basis of sexism. Sexism refers to prejudiced beliefs that value one sex over another. It varies in its level of severity. In parts of the world where women are strongly undervalued, young girls may not be given the same access to nutrition, healthcare, and education as boys. Further, they will grow up believing they deserve to be treated differently from boys (UNICEF 2011; Thorne 1993). While it is illegal in the United States when practiced as discrimination, unequal treatment of women continues to pervade social life. It should be noted that discrimination based on sex occurs at both the micro- and macro-levels. Many sociologists focus on discrimination that is built into the social structure; this type of discrimination is known as institutional discrimination (Pincus 2008).
Gender socialization occurs through four major agents of socialization: family, education, peer groups, and mass media. Each agent reinforces gender roles by creating and maintaining normative expectations for gender-specific behavior. Exposure also occurs through secondary agents such as religion and the workplace. Repeated exposure to these agents over time leads men and women into a false sense that they are acting naturally rather than following a socially constructed role.
Family is the first agent of socialization. There is considerable evidence that parents socialize sons and daughters differently. Generally speaking, girls are given more latitude to step outside of their prescribed gender role (Coltrane and Adams 2004; Kimmel 2000; Raffaelli and Ontai 2004). However, differential socialization typically results in greater privileges afforded to sons. For instance, boys are allowed more autonomy and independence at an earlier age than daughters. They may be given fewer restrictions on appropriate clothing, dating habits, or curfew. Sons are also often free from performing domestic duties such as cleaning or cooking and other household tasks that are considered feminine. Daughters are limited by their expectation to be passive and nurturing, generally obedient, and to assume many of the domestic responsibilities.
Even when parents set gender equality as a goal, there may be underlying indications of inequality. For example, boys may be asked to take out the garbage or perform other tasks that require strength or toughness, while girls may be asked to fold laundry or perform duties that require neatness and care. It has been found that fathers are firmer in their expectations for gender conformity than are mothers, and their expectations are stronger for sons than they are for daughters (Kimmel 2000). This is true in many types of activities, including preference for toys, play styles, discipline, chores, and personal achievements. As a result, boys tend to be particularly attuned to their father’s disapproval when engaging in an activity that might be considered feminine, like dancing or singing (Coltraine and Adams 2008). Parental socialization and normative expectations also vary along lines of social class, race, and ethnicity. African American families, for instance, are more likely than Caucasians to model an egalitarian role structure for their children (Staples and Boulin Johnson 2004).
The reinforcement of gender roles and stereotypes continues once a child reaches school age. Until very recently, schools were rather explicit in their efforts to stratify boys and girls. The first step toward stratification was segregation. Girls were encouraged to take home economics or humanities courses and boys to take math and science.
Studies suggest that gender socialization still occurs in schools today, perhaps in less obvious forms (Lips 2004). Teachers may not even realize they are acting in ways that reproduce gender differentiated behavior patterns. Yet any time they ask students to arrange their seats or line up according to gender, teachers may be asserting that boys and girls should be treated differently (Thorne 1993).
Even in levels as low as kindergarten, schools subtly convey messages to girls indicating that they are less intelligent or less important than boys. For example, in a study of teacher responses to male and female students, data indicated that teachers praised male students far more than female students. Teachers interrupted girls more often and gave boys more opportunities to expand on their ideas (Sadker and Sadker 1994). Further, in social as well as academic situations, teachers have traditionally treated boys and girls in opposite ways, reinforcing a sense of competition rather than collaboration (Thorne 1993). Boys are also permitted a greater degree of freedom to break rules or commit minor acts of deviance, whereas girls are expected to follow rules carefully and adopt an obedient role (Ready 2001).
Mimicking the actions of significant others is the first step in the development of a separate sense of self (Mead 1934). Like adults, children become agents who actively facilitate and apply normative gender expectations to those around them. When children do not conform to the appropriate gender role, they may face negative sanctions such as being criticized or marginalized by their peers. Though many of these sanctions are informal, they can be quite severe. For example, a girl who wishes to take karate class instead of dance lessons may be called a “tomboy” and face difficulty gaining acceptance from both male and female peer groups (Ready 2001). Boys, especially, are subject to intense ridicule for gender nonconformity (Coltrane and Adams 2004; Kimmel 2000).
Mass media serves as another significant agent of gender socialization. In television and movies, women tend to have less significant roles and are often portrayed as wives or mothers. When women are given a lead role, it often falls into one of two extremes: a wholesome, saint-like figure or a malevolent, hypersexual figure (Etaugh and Bridges 2003). This same inequality is pervasive in children’s movies (Smith 2008). Research indicates that in the ten top-grossing G-rated movies released between 1991 and 2013, nine out of ten characters were male (Smith 2008).
Television commercials and other forms of advertising also reinforce inequality and gender-based stereotypes. Women are almost exclusively present in ads promoting cooking, cleaning, or childcare-related products (Davis 1993). Think about the last time you saw a man star in a dishwasher or laundry detergent commercial. In general, women are underrepresented in roles that involve leadership, intelligence, or a balanced psyche. Of particular concern is the depiction of women in ways that are dehumanizing, especially in music videos. Even in mainstream advertising, however, themes intermingling violence and sexuality are quite common (Kilbourne 2000).
Social Stratification and Inequality
Stratification refers to a system in which groups of people experience unequal access to basic, yet highly valuable, social resources. There is a long history of gender stratification in the United States. When looking to the past, it would appear that society has made great strides in terms of abolishing some of the most blatant forms of gender inequality (see timeline below) but underlying effects of male dominance still permeate many aspects of society.
- Before 1809—Women could not execute a will
- Before 1840—Women were not allowed to own or control property
- Before 1920—Women were not permitted to vote
- Before 1963—Employers could legally pay a woman less than a man for the same work
- Before 1973—Women did not have the right to a safe and legal abortion (Imbornoni 2009)
The Pay Gap
Despite making up nearly half (49.8 percent) of payroll employment, men vastly outnumber women in authoritative, powerful, and, therefore, high-earning jobs (U.S. Census Bureau 2010). Even when a woman’s employment status is equal to a man’s, she will generally make only 81 cents for every dollar made by her male counterpart (Payscale 2020). Women in the paid labor force also still do the majority of the unpaid work at home. On an average day, 84 percent of women (compared to 67 percent of men) spend time doing household management activities (U.S. Census Bureau 2011). This double duty keeps working women in a subordinate role in the family structure (Hochschild and Machung 1989).
Gender stratification through the division of labor is not exclusive to the United States. According to George Murdock’s classic work, Outline of World Cultures (1954), all societies classify work by gender. When a pattern appears in all societies, it is called a cultural universal. While the phenomenon of assigning work by gender is universal, its specifics are not. The same task is not assigned to either men or women worldwide. But the way each task’s associated gender is valued is notable. In Murdock’s examination of the division of labor among 324 societies around the world, he found that in nearly all cases the jobs assigned to men were given greater prestige (Murdock and White 1968). Even if the job types were very similar and the differences slight, men’s work was still considered more vital.
Part of the gender pay gap can be attributed to unique barriers faced by women regarding work experience and promotion opportunities. A mother of young children is more likely to drop out of the labor force for several years or work on a reduced schedule than is the father. As a result, women in their 30s and 40s are likely, on average, to have less job experience than men. This effect becomes more evident when considering the pay rates of two groups of women: those who did not leave the workforce and those who did: In the United States, childless women with the same education and experience levels as men are typically paid with closer (but not exact) parity to men. However, women with families and children are paid less: Mothers are recommended a 7.9 percent lower starting salary than non-mothers, which is 8.6 percent lower than men (Correll 2007).
This evidence points to levels of discrimination that go beyond behaviors by individual companies or organizations. As discussed earlier in the gender roles section, many of these gaps are rooted in America’s social patterns of discrimination, which involve the roles that different genders play in child-rearing, rather than individual discrimination by employers in hiring and salary decisions. On the other hand, legal and ethical practices demand that organizations do their part to promote more equity among all genders.
The Glass Ceiling
The idea that women are unable to reach the executive suite is known as the glass ceiling. It is an invisible barrier that women encounter when trying to win jobs in the highest level of business. At the beginning of 2021, for example, a record 41 of the world’s largest 500 companies were run by women. While a vast improvement over the number twenty years earlier – where only two of the companies were run by women – these 41 chief executives still only represent eight percent of those large companies (Newcomb 2020).
Why do women have a more difficult time reaching the top of a company? One idea is that there is still a stereotype in the United States that women aren’t aggressive enough to handle the boardroom or that they tend to seek jobs and work with other women (Reiners 2019). Other issues stem from the gender biases based on gender roles and motherhood discussed above.
Another idea is that women lack mentors, executives who take an interest and get them into the right meetings and introduce them to the right people to succeed (Murrell & Blake-Beard 2017).
Women in Politics
One of the most important places for women to help other women is in politics. Historically in the United States, like many other institutions, political representation has been mostly made up of White men. By not having women in government, their issues are being decided by people who don’t share their perspective. The number of women elected to serve in Congress has increased over the years, but does not yet accurately reflect the general population. For example, in 2018, the population of the United States was 49 percent male and 51 percent female, but the population of Congress was 78.8 percent male and 21.2 percent female (Manning 2018). Over the years, the number of women in the federal government has increased, but until it accurately reflects the population, there will be inequalities in our laws.
Movements for Change: Feminism
One of the underlying issues that continues to plague women in the United States is misogyny . This is the hatred of or, aversion to, or prejudice against women. Over the years misogyny has evolved as an ideology that men are superior to women in all aspects of life. There have been multiple movements to try and fight this prejudice.
In 1963, writer and feminist Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique in which she contested the post-World War II belief that it was women’s sole destiny to marry and bear children. Friedan’s book began to raise the consciousness of many women who agreed that homemaking in the suburbs sapped them of their individualism and left them unsatisfied. In 1966, the National Organization for Women (NOW) formed and proceeded to set an agenda for the feminist movement . Framed by a statement of purpose written by Friedan, the agenda began by proclaiming NOW’s goal to make possible women’s participation in all aspects of American life and to gain for them all the rights enjoyed by men.
Feminists engaged in protests and actions designed to bring awareness and change. For example, the New York Radical Women demonstrated at the 1968 Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City to bring attention to the contest’s—and society’s—exploitation of women. The protestors tossed instruments of women’s oppression, including high-heeled shoes, curlers, girdles, and bras, into a “freedom trash can.” News accounts incorrectly described the protest as a “bra burning,” which at the time was a way to demean and trivialize the issue of women’s rights (Gay 2018).
Other protests gave women a more significant voice in a male-dominated social, political, and entertainment climate. For decades, Ladies Home Journal had been a highly influential women’s magazine, managed and edited almost entirely by men. Men even wrote the advice columns and beauty articles. In 1970, protesters held a sit-in at the magazine’s offices, demanding that the company hire a woman editor-in-chief, add women and non-White writers at fair pay, and expand the publication’s focus.
Feminists were concerned with far more than protests, however. In the 1970s, they opened battered women’s shelters and successfully fought for protection from employment discrimination for pregnant women, reform of rape laws (such as the abolition of laws requiring a witness to corroborate a woman’s report of rape), criminalization of domestic violence, and funding for schools that sought to counter sexist stereotypes of women. In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade invalidated a number of state laws under which abortions obtained during the first three months of pregnancy were illegal. This made a nontherapeutic abortion a legal medical procedure nationwide.
Gloria Steinem had pushed through gender barriers to take on serious journalism subjects, and had emerged as a prominent advocate for women’s rights. Through her work, Steinem met Dorothy Pittman-Hughes, who had founded New York City’s first shelter for domestic violence victims as well as the city’s Agency for Child Development. Together they founded Ms . Magazine, which avoided articles on homemaking and fashion in favor of pieces on women’s rights and empowerment. Ms . showcased powerful and accomplished women such as Shirley Chisholm and Sissy Farenthold, and was among the first publications to bring domestic violence, sexual harassment, and body image issues to the national conversation (Pogrebrin 2011).
Many advances in women’s rights were the result of women’s greater engagement in politics. For example, Patsy Mink, the first Asian American woman elected to Congress, was the co-author of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, Title IX of which prohibits sex discrimination in education. Mink had been interested in fighting discrimination in education since her youth, when she opposed racial segregation in campus housing while a student at the University of Nebraska. She went to law school after being denied admission to medical school because of her gender. Like Mink, many other women sought and won political office, many with the help of the National Women’s Political Caucus (NWPC). In 1971, the NWPC was formed by Bella Abzug, Gloria Steinem, Shirley Chisholm, and other leading feminists to encourage women’s participation in political parties, elect women to office, and raise money for their campaign.
Shirley Chisholm personally took up the mantle of women’s involvement in politics. Born of immigrant parents, she earned degrees from Brooklyn College and Columbia University, and began a career in early childhood education and advocacy. In the 1950’s she joined various political action groups, worked on election campaigns, and pushed for housing and economic reforms. After leaving one organization over its refusal to involve women in the decision-making process, she sought to increase gender and racial diversity within political and activist organizations throughout New York City. In 1968, she became the first Black woman elected to Congress. Refusing to take the quiet role expected of new Representatives, she immediately began sponsoring bills and initiatives. She spoke out against the Vietnam War, and fought for programs such as Head Start and the national school lunch program, which was eventually signed into law after Chisholm led an effort to override a presidential veto. Chisholm would eventually undertake a groundbreaking presidential run in 1972, and is viewed as paving the way for other women, and especially women of color, achieving political and social prominence (Emmrich 2019).
Theoretical Perspectives on Gender
Sociological theories help sociologists to develop questions and interpret data. For example, a sociologist studying why middle-school girls are more likely than their male counterparts to fall behind grade-level expectations in math and science might use a feminist perspective to frame her research. Another scholar might proceed from the conflict perspective to investigate why women are underrepresented in political office, and an interactionist might examine how the symbols of femininity interact with symbols of political authority to affect how women in Congress are treated by their male counterparts in meetings.
Structural functionalism has provided one of the most important perspectives of sociological research in the twentieth century and has been a major influence on research in the social sciences, including gender studies. Viewing the family as the most integral component of society, assumptions about gender roles within marriage assume a prominent place in this perspective.
Functionalists argue that gender roles were established well before the pre-industrial era when men typically took care of responsibilities outside of the home, such as hunting, and women typically took care of the domestic responsibilities in or around the home. These roles were considered functional because women were often limited by the physical restraints of pregnancy and nursing and unable to leave the home for long periods of time. Once established, these roles were passed on to subsequent generations since they served as an effective means of keeping the family system functioning properly.
When changes occurred in the social and economic climate of the United States during World War II, changes in the family structure also occurred. Many women had to assume the role of breadwinner (or modern hunter-gatherer) alongside their domestic role in order to stabilize a rapidly changing society. When the men returned from war and wanted to reclaim their jobs, society fell back into a state of imbalance, as many women did not want to forfeit their wage-earning positions (Hawke 2007).
According to conflict theory, society is a struggle for dominance among social groups (like women versus men) that compete for scarce resources. When sociologists examine gender from this perspective, we can view men as the dominant group and women as the subordinate group. According to conflict theory, social problems are created when dominant groups exploit or oppress subordinate groups. Consider the Women’s Suffrage Movement or the debate over women’s “right to choose” their reproductive futures. It is difficult for women to rise above men, as dominant group members create the rules for success and opportunity in society (Farrington and Chertok 1993).
Friedrich Engels, a German sociologist, studied family structure and gender roles. Engels suggested that the same owner-worker relationship seen in the labor force is also seen in the household, with women assuming the role of the proletariat. This is due to women’s dependence on men for the attainment of wages, which is even worse for women who are entirely dependent upon their spouses for economic support. Contemporary conflict theorists suggest that when women become wage earners, they can gain power in the family structure and create more democratic arrangements in the home, although they may still carry the majority of the domestic burden, as noted earlier (Rismanand and Johnson-Sumerford 1998).
Feminist theory is a type of conflict theory that examines inequalities in gender-related issues. It uses the conflict approach to examine the maintenance of gender roles and inequalities. Radical feminism, in particular, considers the role of the family in perpetuating male dominance. In patriarchal societies, men’s contributions are seen as more valuable than those of women. Patriarchal perspectives and arrangements are widespread and taken for granted. As a result, women’s viewpoints tend to be silenced or marginalized to the point of being discredited or considered invalid.
Sanday’s study of the Indonesian Minangkabau (2004) revealed that in societies some consider to be matriarchies (where women comprise the dominant group), women and men tend to work cooperatively rather than competitively regardless of whether a job is considered feminine by U.S. standards. The men, however, do not experience the sense of bifurcated consciousness under this social structure that modern U.S. females encounter (Sanday 2004).
Symbolic interactionism aims to understand human behavior by analyzing the critical role of symbols in human interaction. This is certainly relevant to the discussion of masculinity and femininity. Imagine that you walk into a bank hoping to get a small loan for school, a home, or a small business venture. If you meet with a male loan officer, you may state your case logically by listing all the hard numbers that make you a qualified applicant as a means of appealing to the analytical characteristics associated with masculinity. If you meet with a female loan officer, you may make an emotional appeal by stating your good intentions as a means of appealing to the caring characteristics associated with femininity.
Because the meanings attached to symbols are socially created and not natural, and fluid, not static, we act and react to symbols based on the current assigned meaning. The word gay , for example, once meant “cheerful,” but by the 1960s it carried the primary meaning of “homosexual.” In transition, it was even known to mean “careless” or “bright and showing” (Oxford American Dictionary 2010). Furthermore, the word gay (as it refers to a person), carried a somewhat negative and unfavorable meaning fifty years ago, but it has since gained more neutral and even positive connotations. When people perform tasks or possess characteristics based on the gender role assigned to them, they are said to be doing gender . This notion is based on the work of West and Zimmerman (1987). Whether we are expressing our masculinity or femininity, West and Zimmerman argue, we are always "doing gender." Thus, gender is something we do or perform, not something we are.
In other words, both gender and sexuality are socially constructed. The social construction of sexuality refers to the way in which socially created definitions about the cultural appropriateness of sex-linked behavior shape the way people see and experience sexuality. This is in marked contrast to theories of sex, gender, and sexuality that link male and female behavior to biological determinism , or the belief that men and women behave differently due to differences in their biology.
Being male, being female, and being healthy.
In 1971, Broverman and Broverman conducted a groundbreaking study on the traits mental health workers ascribed to males and females. When asked to name the characteristics of a female, the list featured words such as unaggressive, gentle, emotional, tactful, less logical, not ambitious, dependent, passive, and neat. The list of male characteristics featured words such as aggressive, rough, unemotional, blunt, logical, direct, active, and sloppy (Seem and Clark 2006). Later, when asked to describe the characteristics of a healthy person (not gender specific), the list was nearly identical to that of a male.
This study uncovered the general assumption that being female is associated with being somewhat unhealthy or not of sound mind. This concept seems extremely dated, but in 2006, Seem and Clark replicated the study and found similar results. Again, the characteristics associated with a healthy male were very similar to that of a healthy (genderless) adult. The list of characteristics associated with being female broadened somewhat but did not show significant change from the original study (Seem and Clark 2006). This interpretation of feminine characteristic may help us one day better understand gender disparities in certain illnesses, such as why one in eight women can be expected to develop clinical depression in her lifetime (National Institute of Mental Health 1999). Perhaps these diagnoses are not just a reflection of women’s health, but also a reflection of society’s labeling of female characteristics, or the result of institutionalized sexism.
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98 Transgender Essay Topics & Research Paper Titles
Are you looking for the best transgender essay topics? On this page, you’ll find a perfect title for your essay or research paper about gender identity, LGBT rights, and other transgender-related issues. Read on to get inspired by research topics on transgender prepared by StudyCorgi!
🏆 Best Transgender Research Paper Topics
👍 good transgender research topics & essay examples, 🌶️ hot research topics about transgender, 📝 transgender argumentative essay topics, ✒️ more transgender topics for essay.
- Transgender Community’s Treatment in Healthcare This paper discusses the transgender community and the discrimination that affects them every day, especially in healthcare, and how we can help stop it.
- Transgender Discrimination in Health Care This paper investigates the discrimination that transgender persons are subjected to in the health care setting in more detail.
- Problems of Transgender Patients in Health Care A number of transgender patients admit cases of discrimination from the health care workers. From 30% to 60% of the representatives of this group face biased attitude.
- Transgender, Its History and Development Transgender is not a new concept and people have discussed the issues associated with it since the 19th century.
- Transgenders Discrimination from Healthcare Providers The transgender community reports that at the moment, it faces numerous barriers to care because of health workers` inability to consider their specific needs.
- Transgender People in Healthcare Facilities Gender nonconforming and transgender people face discrimination in almost every sphere of human activity. It has a negative impact on the access of these groups to primary care.
- Transgender and Problems with Healthcare Services Transgender individuals find it difficult to approach physicians because it is difficult for them to reach needed treatment.
- Transgender Disorders and Homosexuality There is a lot of evidence of both the genetic mechanisms’ and surroundings’ influence on people’s sexual preferences. However, the environment is more responsible for such choice.
- Viviane Namaste and Julia Serano’ Views on Transgenders First of all, it is important to note that both authors consider the theme of representation of transsexuals and transvestites.
- Transgender-Associated Stigma in Healthcare Transgender individuals are people who assume a gender definition of identity that differs from gender assigned to them at birth.
- Discrimination Faced by Transgender Patients Contemporary hospitals are not designed for transgender people, therefore, they can have many troubles there ranging from the unfriendly environment of a hospital and doctors.
- Challenges of Transgender Patients Transgender patients have to face a certain amount of resistance and discrimination in society regularly, this group of people has to deal with certain challenges in the health care arena.
- Transgender Issues in Cis- and Trans-Made Movies This paper discusses the implications of transgender and transsexual experience from the outside and from within, particularly how they are represented and how the public sees it.
- Challenges to Transgender Patients Despite the recent attention to the issues of transgender people, the level of discrimination against them is still incredibly high.
- Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender in Hospital The paper discusses the cultural competency concept since it appears to be of critical importance for the profound understanding of the problems of the LGBT community.
- Transgender Patients and Nursing Health Management There is a growing recognition today among health care providers and researchers that patients’ transgenderism may become a factor in their care.
- Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Patients’ Therapy The current quality of managing the needs of the representatives of the LGBT community needs a significant improvement.
- Transgender Patients and Challenges in Health Care The community remains predominantly marginalized, with policies and laws denying them recognition of their gender, making accessing health care very challenging.
- Healthcare Challenges of Transgender Patients Transgender individuals have health problems common for the whole population and frequently face challenges in healthcare settings related to inadequate healthcare.
- Transgender Patients: Challenges & Discrimination in Healthcare It is worth noting that the concept of transgenderism implies a state of internal imbalance between the real and desired gender of an individual.
- Transgender Healthcare Barriers in the United States This paper examines central barriers to high-quality health care and includes practices employed to address the issue and some recommendations.
- Transgender Care and Health Care Professionals Despite the adoption of policies aimed at limiting discrimination, transgender people still face daily challenges in the aspects of employment, education, and healthcare access.
- Transgender Patients and Health Care Challenges One of the challenges encountered by transgender patients refers to the lack of adequate access to healthcare services.
- Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Children This paper discusses the issues a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner should be aware of when interacting with transgender and gender non-conforming children and adolescents.
- Transgender Patients Problem and the Consequences of Discrimination Transgender patients come across different forms of harassment and do not have the same access to services as other people do.
- Healthcare System: Transgender Patients Discrimination According to the statistics, almost 1 million Americans identifies themselves as transgender, making it a numerous population subgroup that is likely to expand in the future.
- Transgender Community and Heterosexism in Language The term “transgender” became commonly used only by the end of the 20th century. Not all transgenders commenced using this and preferred to pass as a different gender.
- The Issue of Transgender Discrimination Despite numerous attempts to eliminate biased attitude, transgender people still face different challenges that deteriorate results of treatment.
- Transgender Women Athletes in Professional Sports The inclusivity and legal recognition suggest that transgender athletes are welcome to participate in competitive sport given they meet the established requirements.
- Transgender Children’s Issues in Society The topic of transgender children in society proves to be divisive and is widely discussed by parents, teachers, clinicians, and politicians.
- Transgender Bias in News Coverage In the context of increasing LGBTQ activism and recognition, transgenderism faces the greatest controversy and public backlash.
- Transgender People and Healthcare Barriers This essay aims to explain the barriers that prevent transgender people from receiving quality care and suggest improvements that can be implemented in current medical institutions.
- Transgender Care by Healthcare Professionals Transgender patients require healthcare professionals who are conversant with their experiences and who can treat them with utmost respect and dignity.
- Transgender People’s Challenges Within Healthcare This paper aims to discuss the challenges in healthcare that the transgender community faces and how the challenges affect their overall health outcome.
- Gender Non-Conforming or Transgender Children Care The purpose of this paper is to discuss the challenges to be aware of when working with gender non-conforming or transgender children and adolescents.
- Trump Administration and Transgender Discrimination The paper reviews one of the recent issues that caught the public eye and media attention is the Trump administration’s treatment of transgender people’s healthcare rights.
- Critical Thinking and Transgender Ethics Sexual orientation and preference is a debated and complex topic involving biological aspects, including hormones, which can alter and change people’s behavior and feelings.
- Transgender Care: Challenges, Implications In a healthcare setting not putting effort into ensuring diverse patient groups are treated with professional finesse with no regard for their differences is a timely issue.
- Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Activism This paper aims at exploring the background of LGBTQ activism, the oppression that its members experience, the measures they take, and the opposition that hinders their progress.
- The Problem of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth Suicidality Recently, there was a sharp increase in cases of suicides committed by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer youth.
- Conflict Between Transgender Theory, Ethics, and Scientific Community This essay aims to give answers to questions of ethics within the transgender topic and research fraud based on scholarly articles and presentations by Dr. Q Van Meter.
- Why We Shouldn’t Compare Transracial and Transgender Identities To compare transracial identity with transgender identity is to reduce both to a set of immutable rules, be it rules of biology or society – and this is a very wrong approach.
- Transgender Health Care in the USA: Then and Now The change of physical appearance or function through clothing, medical, surgical, or other means often becomes part of the personal gender experience of a transgender person.
- Transgender Offenders in the Criminal Justice System The transgender population who are incarcerated often faces various unique challenges which expose them to vulnerabilities both physical and mental.
- Transgender Women in Sports Female athletes might have to use every opportunity they have to protect their right to fair competition and revert the effects of the extreme plan proposed by the Democrats.
- Transgender Movement: Overview and Importance Ultimately, policies, guidelines, or steps ensure that the social change that the transgender movement is yearning for can be realized.
- Transgender Support Group Meeting and Its Importance The transgender support groups allow people to connect and talk about issues that they have faced in their lives.
- Media Coverage of Transgender Policy in Military This paper aims to provide an annotated bibliography for the ten articles related to the topic of media coverage of transgender policy in the military.
- Transgender Prisoners and How They Are Treated According to international studies, transgender persons are a particularly defenseless population in the correctional structure, with their most necessities often being withheld.
- Mental Healthcare Services for Transgender Individuals This research paper suggests a range of options to treat mental health and related illnesses among the non-binary populations.
- Transgender Health Disparities and Solutions People who identify as transgender, intersex, gender non-conforming, or gender diverse have exacerbated health disparities compared to other people.
- Transgender People: Prejudice and Discrimination Transgender remains a stereotyped sexual identity, and these individuals face prejudice from critics, religious leaders, and the vast majority of society.
- Transgender People in Prisons: Rights Violations There are many instances of how transgender rights are violated in jails: from misgendering from the staff and other prisoners to isolation and refusal to provide healthcare.
- Principles of Healthcare for Transgender Patients
- Characteristics of Interpersonal Relationships and the Transgender Community
- Improving Correctional Healthcare Providers’ Ability to Care For Transgender Patient
- Analyzing Transgender Communities Rights
- General Information About Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Rights Movement
- Transgender Equality and the Progression of the Employment Non-Discriminate
- Beyond Depression and Suicide: The Mental Health of Transgender College Students
- Violence Against Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, and Transgender
- Transgender Men and Women Have Been Around for Centuries
- Quality Healthcare for Transgender People
- Role of African American Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Men in Contemporary Society
- Public Bathroom Controversies Due to Transgender Issue in America
- Hate Crimes Against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender
- Empowering and Educating About the Transgender Sodality Through Social Media and Laws
- Transgender Youth Homelessness: Understanding Programmatic Barriers Through the Lens of Cisgenderism
- Policies and Best Practices for Transgender Hiring Organizations in India
- Transgender Rage: The Compton’s Cafeteria Riot of 1966
- The Pros and Cons of Transgender and Gender Nonconforming
- Proper Communication With the Transgender Community
- Gender Dysphoria and the Persecution of Transgender People
- Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender U.S. Legal Questions
- Informal Mentoring for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Students
- Transgender Rights Under Bigotry and Ignorance
- Differences Between Gender Feminism and Transgender Activism
- Transgender Rights and Surviving Hate Crimes in the Case of Cece McDonald
- Should transgender adolescents have access to gender-affirming treatments?
- Is transgender representation in media crucial for promoting transgender rights?
- Transgender athletes in competitive sports: equality or unfair advantage?
- Is religious freedom incompatible with protecting transgender rights?
- Transgender parenting rights: why do they deserve equal protection and recognition?
- Transgender people in prisons: how should they be placed and protected?
- Should puberty blockers be banned?
- Should transgender people be disqualified from military service?
- Is it ethical for homeless shelters to discriminate against transgender individuals?
- Should non-binary gender be legally recognized?
- The importance of inclusive terminology for protecting transgender rights.
- Mental health challenges faced by transgender youth.
- The role of transgender activists in driving social change.
- How can religious beliefs help and hinder transgender rights promotion?
- Challenges faced by transgender parents.
- Ways to support transgender youth in schools.
- The relationship between transgender identity and body positivity.
- Comparing transgender rights in different countries.
- Transgender identity and aging: unique challenges.
- The impact of corporate policies on transgender workplace inclusion.
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These essay examples and topics on Transgender were carefully selected by the StudyCorgi editorial team. They meet our highest standards in terms of grammar, punctuation, style, and fact accuracy. Please ensure you properly reference the materials if you’re using them to write your assignment.
The essay topic collection was published on December 21, 2021 . Last updated on November 8, 2023 .
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Introduction to 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence Calendar 2023
The calendar outlines a series of impactful events and initiatives organized as part of the "16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence" campaign.
The following calendar outlines a series of impactful events and initiatives organized as part of the "16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence" campaign. Spanning from November 22, 2023, to December 9, 2023, these activities are orchestrated by various governmental and non-governmental entities in Kosovo, with a united goal to raise awareness, promote dialogue, and address the pervasive issue of gender-based violence.
From informative talks on gender-based violence to interactive sessions, awareness campaigns, illuminations of prominent buildings, and cultural events, each activity plays a crucial role in fostering resilience, empowerment, and community engagement. Notably, the calendar includes collaborative efforts involving government bodies, international organizations, civil society, and the private sector.
Through a diverse range of events, the organizers aim to encourage societal reflection, advocate for policy changes, and ultimately contribute to the collective effort against gender-based violence. The calendar demonstrates a comprehensive approach, encompassing educational, artistic, and community-oriented activities, all geared towards fostering a safer and more inclusive environment for everyone.
As we navigate through these 16 days, let us join hands in solidarity, amplify the voices of survivors, and work towards a future where gender-based violence has no place in our communities.
UN entities involved in this initiative
Other entities involved in this initiative, goals we are supporting through this initiative.