Gender is different than sex. Although genetic factors typically define a person’s sex, gender refers to how they identify on the inside. Only the person themselves can determine what their gender identity is.
This article will discuss what gender identity is, some definitions of different gender identities, and where people can find support. It will also look at how gender exists on a spectrum.
The term gender identity refers to the personal sense of an individual’s own gender.
Because a person’s sex and gender identity do not have to be the same, it is important to know the difference between them.
A person’s gender is how they identify internally and how they express this externally. People may use clothing, appearances, and behaviors to express the gender that they identify with.
The World Health Organization (WHO) note that gender is a social construction that people typically describe in terms of femininity and masculinity. In Western cultures, people associate femininity with women and masculinity with men, but this social construction varies across cultures.
However, gender is not neatly divided along the binary lines of “man” and “woman.”
A person’s sex is typically based on certain biological factors, such as their reproductive organs, genes, and hormones.
Like gender, sex is not binary. A person may have the genes that people may associate with being male or female, but their reproductive organs, genitals, or both may look different.
This is called differences in sex development. People may also refer to differences in sex development as intersex.
People typically use the terms “male,” “female,” or “intersex” to refer to a person’s sex.
A person’s gender identity is not restricted to being either a man or a woman. Some people do not identify with any gender, while others identify with multiple genders.
According to The Trevor Project, a person’s gender can consist of the following.
This term refers to the personal sense of an individual’s own gender.
Some people identify as a man, while others identify as a woman. Others may identify as neither, both, or somewhere in-between.
Gender expression and presentation
This refers to how a person expresses themselves to others and how they want the world to see them.
A person may present themselves as wholly masculine or wholly feminine. Or, a person may present themselves as androgynous or nonbinary.
Gender expression and presentation involve aspects such as mannerisms, clothing styles, names, and pronoun choices, to name a few.
The following are some gender identities and their definitions.
A person who is agender does not identify with any particular gender, or they may have no gender at all.
Other terms for this may include:
- neutral gender
A person who identifies as androgyne has a gender that is either both masculine and feminine or between masculine and feminine.
A person who identifies as bigender has two genders.
People who are bigender often display cultural masculine and feminine roles.
Women, especially lesbians, tend to use this term to describe the way they express masculinity, or what society defines as masculinity.
However, the LGBTQIA Resource Center state that “butch” can also be a gender identity in itself.
A cisgender person identifies with the sex that they were assigned at birth.
For example, a cisgender woman is someone who still identifies with the sex — female, in this case — a doctor assigned them at birth.
The LGBTQIA Resource Center define gender expansive as an “umbrella term used for individuals who broaden their own culture’s commonly held definitions of gender, including expectations for its expression, identities, roles, and/or other perceived gender norms.”
Those who are gender expansive include people who are transgender and people whose gender broadens the surrounding society’s notion of what gender is.
A person who identifies as genderfluid has a gender identity and presentation that shifts between, or shifts outside of, society’s expectations of gender.
A person who identifies as a gender outlaw refuses to allow society’s definition of “male” or “female” to define them.
A person who identifies as genderqueer has a gender identity or expression that is not the same as society’s expectations for their assigned sex or assumed gender.
Genderqueer can also refer to a person who identifies outside of how society defines gender or someone who identifies with a combination of genders.
Masculine of center
A person who uses this term is usually a lesbian or a trans person who leans more toward masculine performances and experiences of gender.
A person who identifies as nonbinary does not experience gender within the gender binary.
People who are nonbinary may also experience overlap with different gender expressions, such as being gender non-conforming.
A person who identifies as omnigender experiences and possesses all genders.
Polygender and pangender
People who identify as polygender or pangender experience and display parts of multiple genders.
This is an umbrella term that encompasses all people who experience and identify with a different gender than that which their assigned sex at birth would suggest.
Although most people think of trans men and trans women when hearing the word transgender, this term also encompasses people who identify as a gender other than man or woman, including nonbinary and genderfluid.
Trans is a more inclusive term that covers those who identify as nonbinary and those who are genderless, according to the LGBTQIA Resource Center.
Two Spirit is an umbrella term that encompasses different sexualities and genders in Indigenous Native American communities.
There are many different definitions of Two Spirit, and Indigenous Native American people may or may not use this term to describe their experiences and feelings of masculinity and femininity.
This is a cultural term that is reserved for those who identify as an Indigenous Native American.
Not everyone is accepting of people with diverse gender identities, which can have a negative impact on a person’s mental health.
However, there are multiple websites and online communities that people can turn to for support. These include:
- The Trevor Project, which is an LGBT organization that provides education and support
- the National Center for Transgender Equality, which is an organization that provides education and support for transgender people
- PFLAG, which is an organization that provides support, education, and advocacy all over the United States, District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico
- Trans Youth Family Allies, which is a website that provides resources and education to family members, friends, and allies of transgender people
- TransLatina Coalition, which is an advocacy group for transgender Latin American people and communities
- Gender Spectrum, which is a resource and education site
- World Professional Association for Transgender Health, which is a website that provides a directory of healthcare providers and scholarship opportunities for transgender people
A person’s gender identity is not always the same as their biological sex, nor their assumed gender based on their assigned sex. It depends on how they identify as a person, and this can change over time.
People can identify as more masculine, more feminine, a combination of both, or neither. How a person expresses or describes their gender is personal to them.