Gender is generally defined by behavioral, cultural, or psychological traits. Although gender and sex have historically been equated, they are increasingly understood as being separate.[1] Gender is a complex combination of elements that are assigned certain meanings by society, such as an individual's identity, expression, and presentation, as well as the roles and norms associated with those genders. Definitions of gender vary among different cultures and among individuals. It has often been reduced to a binary of "male" and "female".[2]

Elements of gender[]

Gender identity[]

Gender identity is a person's internal, deeply held sense of their own gender (or lack thereof). Unlike gender expression, gender identity is not visible to others. An individual's gender identity may or may not align with their birth assignment.[3][4] Most people have a binary gender identity—male/man/boy or female/woman/girl—whether they are cisgender or transgender. For other people, their gender identity does not fit neatly into one of those two options, such as people who are non-binary or genderqueer.[3]

A person's gender identity usually develops when they are very young. Gender variance in exploring gender expressions and gender roles is an expected part of human development for children and teenagers. Most children and adolescents with variance in these behaviors have a gender identity that corresponds to their birth assignment, and this exploration does not necessarily indicate a gender-variant identity. A small percentage of children wish they were another gender instead of the gender assigned at birth.[5] An individual's realization that their gender identity differs from their birth assignment can occur as early as three years old, in childhood prior to the onset of puberty, or later in life.[6] This progression is similar to the awareness of same-sex attraction in childhood developing into using a specific sexual orientation term as a teenager.[5]

Gender expression[]

Gender expression is how someone chooses to outwardly express their gender in public.[7] Gender expression is external manifestations of gender,[3][8] while gender identity is internal. Expression includes a person's name, pronouns, body characteristics, voice, behavior, and aesthetic choices such as hair, clothing, and cosmetics. Various forms of expression are regarded as "masculine" or "feminine" within different cultures. Some transgender people seek to align their gender expression with their gender identity, rather than the cues associated with the sex they were assigned at birth.[3]

An individual's gender expression does not have to align with their gender identity. Clothes, pronouns, or any other form of gender expression do not determine someone's internal gender identity.[9]

Gender presentation[]

Gender presentation refers to how other people see and understand someone else's gender.[7] Gender expression is part of it, but presentation also includes how those forms of expression are perceived by another person. When one person perceives a second, the first person interprets how the second person's gender is presented. The first person may incorrectly guess the second person's gender because people are taught that certain types of hairstyles, clothing, body language, voice, and other cues are "masculine" or "feminine".[10]

Gender role[]

Gender roles, or gender norms, are the cultural expectations for how people of different genders—presumed to be only cisgender men or women—should or should not think and behave, and how other people should treat them. These roles are part of the gender binary and reflect gender essentialist beliefs. What people consider to be a "man's role" and a "woman's role" varies by culture.[11]

See also[]


  1. "Definition of gender" by Merriam-Webster Dictionary on <>(no backup information provided)
  2. "Gender" by The Trans Language Primer on The Trans Language Primer(Archived on 2021-11-02)
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 "Glossary of Terms - Transgender" by GLAAD on GLAAD Media Reference Guide - 11th Edition(Archived on 2024-04-09)
  4. "Gender Identity" by The Trans Language Primer on The Trans Language Primer(Archived on 2021-11-05)
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Childhood/Adolescence" by U.S. Institute of Medicine in The Health of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender People: Building a Foundation for Better Understanding. Published 2011 by National Academies Press. (web archive)
  6. Nonbinary Gender Identities: History, Culture, Resources by McNabb, Charlie. Published 2018 by Rowman & Littlefield.
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Understanding Gender Identities" by The Trevor Project on <>. Published 2021-08-23. (Archived on 2021-11-21)
  8. "Gender Expression" by The Trans Language Primer on The Trans Language Primer(Archived on 2021-11-02)
  9. "Gender Identity vs. Gender Expression: What's the Difference?" by O'Neill, Rachel on <>. Published 2021-10-25. (no backup information provided)
  10. "Gender Presentation" by The Trans Language Primer on The Trans Language Primer(Archived on 2021-12-05)
  11. "Gender Roles" by The Trans Language Primer on The Trans Language Primer(Archived on 2021-10-30)