Actor, singer, and dancer Alyson Stoner has taken to social media to discuss an important issue regarding gender representation in media and society. Not longer after writing a coming out essay, Alyson Stoner highlighted the difference between gender expression and identity. And everyone should take note of this distinction.
In her statement, she said that some media sources "found stereotypically 'masculine' outfits I've worn to affirm that I date women." Her recent statements followed her Teen Vogue essay from March 30 in which she explained that she is "attracted to men, women, and people who identify in other ways" and detailed a relationship with a woman. She went on to say on Twitter that she wasn't offended by what she says was happening, but took it as a way to teach everyone a bit about gender representation. Stoner said:
"I'm not offended, all versions are me, but gender expression and identity are different. I can wear this [a dress] and still like women. And men. And people who identify in other ways."
The actor is exactly right with her distinction between gender identity and expression. As Tolerance.org states, gender identity, which doesn't have to do with biological sex, has to do with whether one identifies as a male, female, or another gender. The source goes on to note that gender expression is indeed separate from identity. Gender expression relates back to how one presents their gender to the world using societal norms such as certain codes of dress.
It's flawed for anyone to conflate Stoner's gender expression with her sexuality, considering that the two are not directly related, as Tolerance.org and the Human Rights Campaign both describe.
On March 30, Stoner came out in her essay for Teen Vogue. In her account, she first related that she came to terms with her sexuality when she began to fall for a woman. She explained that during a dance workshop, she began to feel for the instructor of the class (who is unnamed in the piece). The actor said that during the workshop, she found herself experiencing feelings for the instructor that she hadn't felt for another woman before. She wrote:
After I dizzied myself from doing knee spins, she walked toward me to correct my form. My heart raced wildly and my body grew hot. Was I nervous to fail in front of an expert? Was I breathing heavily from being out of shape? Her smile was the most electrifying thing I’d ever seen. I left the workshop and texted my mother and best friend, saying, “I met a woman today, I’m not sure who she is or what I’m feeling, but I think she’s going to be in my life for a very long time."
The singer went on to say that the two began to hang out and text each other more and more. Eventually, the two started up a relationship with Stoner revealing, "OK, we were in a relationship. I fell in love with a woman." She said that she initially struggled to accept her sexuality and went therapy in order to try and understand herself and her sexual orientation. Stoner also related that her sexuality was hard to accept initially because of her religion, "My faith at that time played a large role in every aspect of my life, and my worldview neither supported nor accepted same-sex relationships. I prayed in turmoil nightly, begging to be healed from these desires."
Stoner eventually came to accept her sexuality, with the help of the woman she fell for, but did not put a label on her orientation in the piece. She wrote, "I, Alyson, am attracted to men, women, and people who identify in other ways. I can love people of every gender identity and expression. It is the soul that captivates me."
To tie into her emotional piece, Stoner recently released her latest single "When It's Right," which she revealed was inspired by her relationship with the woman she fell in love with. The song signifies Stoner coming to terms with her sexuality and serves as an anthem for others to accept themselves as well.
Stoner has been so open and honest about her sexuality, which has been inspiring. On top of that, through her recent Twitter statement, she's also highlighted an important distinction between gender expression and identity, which will undoubtedly help to enlighten and inform many.