Spotlight on Gender Diversity. What does it have to do with you?

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What is gender diversity?

  1. It is more than the equality between women and men.
  2. It is providing recognition, respect, and equal opportunity for all, regardless of gender or gender identity.

Human Rights and gender identity

  1. Gender and gender identity are protected characteristics in the Manitoba Human Rights Code.
    (To learn about protected characteristics, read: What are human rights?)
  2. Gender and gender identity are distinct from each other.
  3. Gender is a system of classifying people based on their assigned sex.
  4. Gender identity is a person’s deeply felt internal and individual experience of gender.

Gender identity is not sexual orientation

  1. “A person’s sexual orientation refers to the potential for emotional, intellectual, spiritual, intimate, romantic, and/or sexual interest in other people, often based on their sex and/or gender.”
  2. “It is also known as attraction. It forms the basis for aspects of one’s identity (e.g. gay, lesbian, queer, asexual, heterosexual, etc.), and/or behavior.”

Why do you need to understand gender diversity?

  1. Understanding gender diversity is important. It is part of belonging to the Canadian society.
  2. You want to be accepted as a newcomer. You also need to accept and be tolerant of others.
  3. You can get in a situation where discrimination or harassment based on gender identity can happen.
    • It can be at work,
    • or when providing services.
  4. Not being gender sensitive can make you commit discriminatory actions. Examples:
    • It is discrimination if you refuse to provide service to a transgender person.
    • You are guilty of harassment if you call a transgender co-worker derogatory names or if you make inappropriate jokes.
  5. It can be hard to understand gender diversity.
    • Some newcomers come from countries where the accepted gender is only male or female.
    • Accepting gender diversity can challenge our beliefs.
  6. Keep an open mind. Practice empathy.

It’s all about respect

  1. Respect is at the center of gender sensitivity.
  2. Whatever your beliefs or understanding of gender diversity, who you are dealing with is a human person.
  3. Every person has human rights and deserves respect.

This article was reviewed by Muhammad Ahsan, Education Program Coordinator of Rainbow Resource Centre. With thanks to Muhammad and Mike Tutthill, Executive Director of Rainbow Resource for their assistance.


Ally – A person who supports the rights and gender equality of sexual and gender minorities.

Asexual – A sexual orientation where a person lacks sexual attraction or interest in engaging in sexual expressions.

Biological sex – A person’s combination of chromosomes, hormones, and gonads. It can be female, male, or intersex.

Bisexual – An individual who is attracted to males and females.

Cisgender – Means “not transgender”.

“Coming out”/Disclosure – It is a process of embracing and disclosing one’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

Gay – A male-identified person attracted to other male-identified individuals.

Gender – Socially constructed roles, behaviour, activities and attributes that a society considers appropriate for men and women. (World Health Organization, 2013).

Gender identity – The internal, deep-seated psychological sense of being a gendered person. This includes: man, male, masculine, woman, female, feminine, transgender, pan-gender, genderqueer, Two-Spirit, third gender and all, none or a combination of these and others.

Gender expression – How a person communicates their gender to others. For example, clothing and dress, hair styles, mannerisms, etc.

Gender queer – An individual who does not prescribe to any one particular gender or sexual orientation.

Heterosexism – A bias towards heterosexuality. It is the belief in the superiority of heterosexuality.

Homophobia/Biphobia/Lesbophobia/Transphobia – Negative attitudes and behaviour against individuals who identify or are perceived as being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, Two-Spirit, or queer. Harassment, bullying, violence, discrimination, isolation are some forms of such phobias.

Lesbian – A female-identified person who has an attraction to other female-identified individuals.

Pansexual – The capacity of attraction irrespective of gender.

Questioning – People who are uncertain about their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

Sexual orientation – A person’s emotional, physical, intimate, romantic and/or sexual attraction to others. Categories of sexual orientation include heterosexual/straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, and asexual.

Transgender/Trans– An umbrella term that represents many individuals that cross, challenge and transcend traditional definitions of male and female. These include transmen (FTM/trans male – transitioning from female to male), transwomen (MTF/trans female – transitioning from male to female), genderqueer people, Two-Spirit individuals, and transsexuals. A transgender individual’s sexual orientation varies and is not dependent on gender identity.

Two-Spirit – Describes the ancient teachings of First Nations people who embodied the spirits of male and female. Two-Spirit people were “looked upon as a third gender in many cases and in almost all cultures they were honored and revered. [Two-Spirit] people were often the visionaries, the healers and medicine people” (Two-Spirits flyer, 2006).

Please note that English is a fluid language in which terms, definitions and meanings change over time, culture, political climate, and geography. The following serve as working definitions that provide an initial foundation of understanding.

Sources: Manitoba Human Rights Commission. Accessed Nov. 16, 2017; and Rainbow Resource Centre, Feb. 2018.

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