Gender is a social construction. If something is a social construction, it must change over time and vary based on the society in question. For example, what it means to be a woman has changed since the birth of America. Being a woman used to strictly mean that you belonged to the domestic sphere, you were considered property, you couldn’t own property, and you couldn’t vote. Gendered ideals also vary according to culture. In India, for instance, they have three genders: men, women, and Hijras. Gendered concepts of what it means to be each gender differ based on the culture. Some societies have more egalitarian views of gender roles while others have more traditional views. Therefore, gender and ideas around gender roles are socially constructed by the society in which someone lives, because they alter with time and culture for centuries. Trans folks have always existed in society, it’s just that nowadays their existence is more publicized than covered up, as it used to be. There is not one type of trans person though; there are multiple identities that fall on the trans spectrum. Trans as a prefix just means “to move away from,” so anyone who does not identify with the sex they were assigned at birth is on the trans spectrum. However, not all folks who fall on the trans spectrum identify as trans.
An Ever-Changing Identity
Gender Fluid is an identity that falls on the trans spectrum. Gender fluidity, by definition, suggests a non-stagnant identity or an ever-changing identity. Some gender fluid folks go through years where they feel more masculine, feminine, or gender neutral, while other folks move fluidly between these in any given amount of time. Some gender fluid folks change their pronouns depending on their relationship to their gender, while others use one singular pronoun. Gendered pronouns are how you refer to someone when you are talking about them or to them.
Gendered pronouns can be a really important part of some trans folks’ identities and that is why it is really important to respect pronouns and use them correctly. It is also extremely important to not assume people’s pronouns because someone could be presenting masculine, feminine, or gender neutral, but that does not indicate anything about their identity or their pronouns. Gender presentation and gender identity are two different things. The way someone presents themselves does not indicate anything about their identity or their pronouns.
Widening the Lens of Representation
Advertising and brands generally don’t do a fair job representing trans folks; they rely on hegemonic masculinity and femininity to sell their products. They also rely on heteronormative, traditional gender roles to sell their products, which excludes trans and queer folks. When there is no trans and queer representation in advertising, it impacts people’s lives because they don’t see themselves in everyday life. When there is no representation, there is no normalization, which leads to higher rates of suicide and bullying because trans and queer folk are pushed to the margins of society.
The advertising industry needs to do a lot more to account for trans and queer folks. They can start by simply not gendering their products or by not relying on stereotypes of hyper masculinity and femininity to sell their products. They could use trans and queer folks as models to represent and normalize folks besides those that belong to the hegemonic definitions of masculinity and femininity. They could also make products that are gender neutral, and brand them as such. Really, there’s a lot they can do to cater to queer and trans folks, and they should get started. Because right now, they are doing nothing.