Learn the basics of Gender and Gender Identity
Gender is the characteristics, feelings, and attitudes that society associates with perceived biological sex. This includes social and societal norms, roles, and characteristics assigned to a person's biological sex. Gender is at its core a social construct and social identity. Biological sex is often assigned at birth by a medical professional assigns to a person when they are born based on their external anatomy. Biological sex exists as male, female, and intersex. Gender and biological sex are not the same things, although they are often referred to as such.
Gender in Society
Gender plays a strong role in an individual's identity, and in our overall society. Gender in our society can be broken down into three categories: gender identity, gender attribution, and gender expression. These aspects of gender play a strong role in transgender, non-binary, and genderqueer individuals, and impact everyone in often unseen ways.
Gender identity is a person's internal understanding of their own gender. Each individual's relationship to their gender is unique, and each individual may or may not identify with their sex assigned at birth. Individuals whose gender identity is not exclusively male or female sometimes use the terms non-binary and genderqueer to describe themselves. Individuals whose sex assigned at birth does not align with their gender identity often use the term transgender to describe themselves.
Gender attribution is the gender that society assigns a person based on perceived gender. This perception can have an incredibly strong impact on an individual, from the clothes they expected to wear, to the social norms they are expected to follow. An individual can choose to influence their gender attribution through changing the way they express their gender. For transgender individuals, this may entail transitioning.
Gender expression is how a person externally expresses their gender identity. This includes the clothes a person wears, the way they style their hair, and their physical experience. While societal pressures exist for a person to express their gender in a specific way, gender expression is controllable by an individual. Gender expression can be attributed to being on a spectrum, from masculine and feminine on opposite ends, and androgenous in the middle
Gender pronouns are words used to refer to a specific person you are talking about. Some examples of widely used pronouns are He/Him, She/Her, They/Them. We use pronouns every day, and they are a core part of everyone's gender identity. Changing pronouns can be a very important part of a transgender person's journey through transition, and it can be equally as important for non-binary and genderqueer individuals.
If you are unsure of a person's preferred pronouns, don't be afraid to ask! Additionally, you can always use the neutral pronoun of they/them if you are unsure.
Gender Identity refers to a person's internal understanding of their own gender. For Transgender individuals, their gender identity conflicts with the sex they were assigned at birth. Many transgender individuals will go through social, legal, and medical processes in order to align their gender with their gender identity.
Cisgender refers to an individual whose gender identity aligns with their sex assigned at birth. Transgender refers to people whose gender identity conflicts with the sex they were assigned at birth. Many transgender people transition to align their gender expression with their gender identity. Learn More
Nonbinary | Gender Queer
Non-binary and genderqueer are both umbrella terms for a person whose gender identity is not exclusively defined as a man or woman. A nonbinary person may identify as both a man and a woman, somewhere in the middle, or completely outside the gender binary. It should be noted that just because an individual identifies as non-binary, it does not necessarily mean they are transgender. Just the same, a transgender is not immediately non-binary. Learn More
Intersex is an umbrella term for people born with reproductive anatomy, and/or chromosome abnormalities that cannot be classified as typical male or female. Intersex individuals often conflict within their sex assigned at birth, and often do not fit within the traditional male and female view on sex. Additionally, they may have conflicts with their gender, gender expression, and gender identity. Each intersex individual is different, and it's always best to respect whatever identity, gender, or pronouns they choose to use. It should be noted that an Intersex person is not necessarily transgender, nonbinary, or genderqueer.
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Last Reviewed: November 2023