How to Understand Gender Identity

For some people who don’t connect with the gender that has been assigned to them at birth, the daily struggle can be very profound. Gender fluidity is a term used to describe gender identity that is a dynamic mix of boy and girl, the two traditional genders.

Here is some helpful terminology to help you understand gender identity:

Biological Sex: Our biological sex is the physiological characteristics of one’s body--female, intersex or male. It describes our internal and external bodies, including our sexual and reproductive anatomy, our genetic makeup and our hormones.

Gender Identity: Gender Identity is a function of the brain, not a feeling. It describes the gender that you associate with, not the one to which you were born. Gender identity describes the internal sense of who you are. 

Gender Expression/Presentation: Gender expression or presentation is the way in which you express your gender—feminine, androgynous or masculine. Appearance, speech, behavior and other factors signal how we wish to be understood.

Gender Role: Gender role is the meaning that society attaches to one’s behavior—culturally defined female, androgynous or culturally defined male.

Sexual/Affectional Orientation: Sexual orientation describes the sex a person is drawn to romantically or sexually—females, trans-females, feminine, genderqueer, males, trans-males or masculine.

More and more people are challenging gender binary identification, which means identifying with one particular gender. Unfortunately, rates of depression and suicide among those confused about gender are very high. Educating yourself and making others aware of these differences is one way to start understanding the complexities of gender identity. With continued awareness, there will be more support for those who struggle with it.