Factors Used by Individuals to Determine Their Own Genders


I conducted this research in 2015 as an undergraduate student in a sociology program. I had come out as agender the year prior. After several years of thinking carefully about how other people feel and experience gender, I had come to the conclusion that I must not have any gender to feel, but I was still curious about what exactly people with genders were feeling.

“How do you know your own gender?” is an unusual question but one that I know from my own experience is worth asking. In my survey, I tried to break down the feeling of a gender into more specific potential feelings of gender, while still respecting that feelings of gender might not be fully explainable.

In addition to contributing to our collective knowledge of gender, the survey responses made me feel more confident in my own agender identity. Most of the write-in responses by people with genders were unrelatable to me, while some agender responses felt more familiar.  My own identity and experiences are woven into this paper because I believe that no research is truly objective and that one’s own positionality can be a valuable source of insight.

I received my B.A. and do not plan to continue my academic education in gender studies or continue this research in any institutional capacity, but I still believe my findings and methodology as a trans researcher can be important contributions to our body of knowledge. I thought about trying to get published through an undergraduate research journal to make this paper more “legitimate” and citable, but that’s a long, arduous process, and frankly I’d rather spend my limited time on my artistic writing. I hope that academics will still be able to find and learn from this paper, but it’s most important to me that the broader trans community can access it. On that note, the paper is written in academic language that may be difficult or inaccessible to people without a formal educational background in research or gender studies, but I want everyone to be able to understand it. Please contact me at kaylarosenzines@gmail.com if you have questions about the language or anything else.

One more thing about language: In the survey and throughout this paper, I used the term “gender identity,” a term that is controversial within the trans community. Cisgender (non-trans) people often use the phrase “gender identity” in ways that imply trans people’s genders are just “identities,” while cis people’s genders are somehow more real. I chose to use “gender identities” for the sake of including people like me, who may have identities in relation to gender that are not, themselves, genders. If I were to do this over, I would likely phrase things in terms of “gender” rather than “gender identity,” as that choice seems less harmful for the majority of trans people. However, I have preserved the language of “gender identity” in my paper because that is how the questions were phrased to participants and therefore what the findings address.

Thank you for reading.
Kayla Rosen (they/them)

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