Gingerbread cookies are a wintertime staple, but did you know your favorite holiday snack is also dispelling misconceptions of gender (and more)?
Genderbread Person (GBP) was born out of innovation & necessity. GBP has been around since at least 2005, having had at least two majorly inclusive redesigns. Sam Killermann is the individual cited with GBP’s birth & growth, and is a well known activist, writer & comedian:
Gender. Sexuality. Social justice. These themes shape the stories in all of my work — the books I write, the keynotes I deliver, the comedy shows I perform. I’m an activist. Education is my tool of choice. And the needle on my compass points toward a world where everyone is healthy, understood, educated, and safe -sK
Who is Genderbread Person? “The Genderbread Person is a cute, approachable model for understanding the social construction of gender, based on the input of thousands of voices over several decades” (Source). When it comes to gender explanation, history & society tends to be very binary. Binary language only accounts for two possible sides (boy & girl, gay & straight, Pepsi & Coke, dogs & cats), all while devaluing any other possibilities (transboy & cisgirl, bisexual & pansexual, Sierra Mist & Dr. Pepper, fish & birds). GBP offers an inclusive look into (not so) difficult to explain attributes.
V1 – Debuted on ItsPronouncedMetrosexual in January 2012
At first, GBP explained four attributes each with it’s own continua of being. Defining gender identity, gender expression, biological sex & sexual orientation independently allows us a better foundation for the fact that all four attributes exist within us independently.
As a freshman in college, GBP V1 didn’t teach me anything I hadn’t already considered. GBP did, however, provide me with the proper language and accurate structure to talk about gender, sex & sexuality. As we used GBP in Communicating Gender with Professor Daniel Strasser, we began to realize limitations, as did man others including Killermann.
V2 – The first redesign debuted in March 2012
Version 2 included much needed clarifications. My belief is that the first version was made without true consideration for the foundation that goes along with understanding & communicating gender, sex & sexuality. While presenting each attribute on a single continua was good way to show the binary language much of society is already used to, it can also be misleading. Some individuals may really only pull one way for each continua, but some may not. Basically V1 could be interpreted as each individual being forced to pull towards one of the two binaries that we’re trying to escape from. The redesign called for two “independent unidirectional linear continua” for each of the four attributes. In his own analogy, Sam explains:
Men are from Mars and women are from Venus is a funny expression, but it actually nails down the strength of this model. Two planets, not two poles of one planet. Placing man/masculine/male on one end … and woman/feminine/female on the other … creates and reinforces a fallacy central to gender misunderstanding: to be more of one, you need to be less of the other. That’s incorrect. You can have both. You can have your genderbread and eat it, too.
Additionally, Sam included examples for individuals with certain continua combinations to better explain commonly used labels, such as: man, femme, intersex & pansexual. Even still, GBP was missing something, or someone, in execution (not intention).
V3.3 – Second redesign debuted in March 2015
Version 3 included the first real expansion of one of the four attributes of GBP: attraction. Attraction is interesting because many believe it’s mutually exclusive with sexual orientation, but (at this point in our understanding) that’s just close minded — some individuals do not experience sexual attraction at all (asexual), but can experience romantic attraction. He specifically eliminated examples for the attraction attribute as we move away from much of the restrictive binary language that got us here in the first place — even producing a virtually word-less version (V3.2)
With that, you might think we have our bases fully covered, but that will just never be true… & that’s ok! It’s not that he’s making things up as he goes. GPB evolves with his understanding. The more individuals get invloved in GBP’s terms & continuum, the more well rounded GBP becomes.
V4 – Third redesign debuted in October 2018
Version 4 comes with what I believed to be unnecessary, but proved to be necessary explicit statements: Identity, Expression & Sex aren’t mutually exclusive. Gender & Sexual Orientation aren’t mutually exclusive. Furthermore, we’ve changed what we understood as “Biological” to “Anatomical” Sex & added a check box referring to sex assigned at birth. This comes on the heels of the Transgender Rights movement, an overdue progressive step in the right direction for human rights. What I’ve come to find is that much of the resistance to the Trans- community comes from significant misunderstanding. These misunderstandings can be clarified by GBP’s new slogans.
Let’s go in order here:
- “If you’re a man, you must appear masculine & act manly.” No, because: Identity, Expression & Sex aren’t mutually exclusive. Some Drag Queens are straight men.
- “If you transition from male to female, it’s because you like guys.” No, because: Gender & Sexual Orientation aren’t mutually exclusive. Trans- doesn’t mean you can’t be gay too.
- “You’re assigned sex at birth & that cannot change.” No, because Biological Sex & Anatomical Sex aren’t mutually exclusive. Chromosomes may never change, but hormones can & neither have to do with sex.
The final, and most subtle, change to the diagram was to the -Ness scales:
We now have two “lack of” symbols (i.e., empty sets, symbol used here for “nope” / none of this / a lack of what’s on the right) to the left of each arrow, instead of one… I also used an opacity gradient to help communicate the lack-of to the a-lot-of in a second way, simultaneously.
This is always a controversial change, and it’s one of those “can’t make everyone happy all the time” things. And here’s why: we’re trying to show a traditional data visualization (a 2-D space, X/Y axis plot) in a non-traditional way. So there’s no convention that we can follow that everyone will immediately get.
What’s important to understand is that Sam didn’t come up with these terms & concepts. He just arranged them in an infographic. As our understanding of the human condition expands, so does Sam’s & so GBP is ever evolving.
All versions of GenderBread Person are not copyrighted, meaning they’re free for all to use as desired. Each edition has a “poster” version. Version 3 & 4 are available by Sam Killermann in languages other than English, as well as in “standard” version. Version 4 is available by Sam Killermann in a “worksheet” version.
PLEASE NOTE: These aren’t opinions, these are matters of psychology & science. You may deny them all you want, but you’re just denying yourself a fuller understanding of life & love. Prejudice is always a matter of ignorance. Don’t segregate yourself based on your hang ups, life’s more fun with friends & the more the merrier. If you choose bigotry or homophobia, keep it to yourself & out of my comments section. Thank you.
Stay tuned in January for my LGBTIQA+ post series!