In Part 1 of this post, we looked at some of the conversations about gender that have played out in the media recently. It seems like a single, over-arching answer about whether gender exists in nature or in nurture might still elude us for now.

But perhaps one place you can get some answers about gender is much closer to home:

In you.

So perhaps it’s worth taking a minute and investigating what gender means for you, and how it impacts your life. How it colours who you are and maybe even who you might let yourself become.

To start with, how conscious are you of your gender?
How present is it in your mind?
When does it tend to be more at the forefront?
When does it recede?

And how much of your sense of identity would you say it forms?
Do you think of yourself as female or male or transgender or  intersex or androgynous almost before you think of yourself as a person?

Where do you place yourself on the spectrum of ‘masculinity’ and ‘femininity’? (And how do you define those qualities anyway?)

Do you feel your gender grants you power of any sort?
What kind?
Do you use that power, or do you shun it?
Are you proud of it, or sometimes ambivalent?
Are there any costs or vulnerabilities to this power?
Or perhaps other strengths you might like to develop that your gender might not easily ‘match’ with?

Does your gender sometimes box you in a bit? Do you feel the pinch of it? Or does it offer safety?
Perhaps you notice the weight of certain expectations and responsibilities you might not have chosen alone (from family, friends, your workmates, or maybe even from yourself).

Maybe it’s challenging to choose behaviours outside the script that society might prefer you to read from. Or maybe you’ve worked out a way to re-frame your gender so it’s more fluid for you.

What might you be like if you were a different gender?
How might that change your ways of being in the world?
Are there things you might be more likely to try? Or to let go of?
Perhaps qualities you’d find more accessible somehow?

Does your body feel like it reflects the gender in your mind?
(You can listen to this intimate radio portait of someone who felt ‘The sex of my body is female but the gender I feel is male,’ and their journey towards reconciling the two).

And, finally, what’s it like to think about all of this?

Existential psychotherapy would encourage us to explore our own meanings for the things in our lives a bit like this. Not to just ‘follow the crowd’ unquestioningly, but to investigate what we actually feel and think and want in light of all that. To challenge the ever-present ‘peer-pressure’ of the world’s wants and to incorporate what makes sense for us, too.

So maybe despite whatever science and society can (or can’t) tell us about who we are and what our gender means, maybe there’s another layer of stuff on top of that anyway. Maybe another important factor is the person inside all the statistics – you – and whatever makes sense for you in your life.


Photo: Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar

Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar (Grad Dip Counselling & Psychotherapy) is a Sydney psychotherapist in private practice at One Life Counselling & Psychotherapy. Gabrielle also co-facilitates telephone support groups for people who are living with cancer, for their carers, and for people who have been bereaved through a cancer experience. She is the editor of a journal on counselling and psychotherapy and she provides regular therapeutic updates on facebook and Twitter @OneLifeTherapy.