Last fall, we were able to help two young people attend the Bridging Gender Divides conference through our BYTE Leadership Fund. After taking some time to reflect, one participant sat down with us to share some of their insights.

Q. In your opinion, what are gender roles and how do they affect us?

A. Gender is a social construct and it affects us all by enforcing imaginary rules about how we should act. Society and the media will try to only show two ends of the gender spectrum when really there is all this space in between that a lot of people try to ignore because it doesn’t fit into their perfect box.

Different cultures have different expectations of genders – there is no universal rule on how men and women should be. More “masculine” traits are associated with cis-men, such as closing off emotionally, being seen as breadwinners, protectors, etc. While being more “feminine” is associated with being more emotionally charged, more caring and more interested in raising their families and their appearances. Someone who doesn’t fit all these stereotypes may be bullied because their interests don’t conform to expectations.

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Q. What is some advice you would give a young person who is exploring their identity?

A. Take some time to find yourself! You’re not alone and there are plenty out there just like you trying to figure themselves out. No one can tell you how you feel and you should never apologize for it.

Q. How can we all step up and practice allyship for one another?

A. Personally, I find it extremely heartwarming whenever someone stands up for me and corrects pronouns. I find it exhausting correcting people all the time as an openly trans person, but I have a few people in my life who will step up for me. It’s one of the things I remember when I’m having a down day and it’ll make me smile. Another thing is to try to use “they” pronouns more often! It’s more inclusive!

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