Gender expression is how someone chooses to outwardly express their gender in public.[1] Gender expression is external manifestations of gender,[2][3] 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.[2]


The title one wishes to be referred to as is a part of one's gender expression. Common formal titles include "miss", "Mrs.", "Mr.", "Ms.", "sir", and "ma'am". As all of these titles hold gendered connotations, several neutral titles have been proposed in addition to professional neutral titles (such as "doctor" or "professor").

The title "Pn.", short for "person", was proposed as early as 1970, being published in Everywoman.[4]

The title "Mx.", pronounced "mix" or "mux", was proposed as early as 1982, for use by individuals who did not want to disclose their gender through their title due to sexism.[5] In 2013, "Mx." was approved for use on council forms in Sussex, England;[6] by 2015 the title was widely accepted by government agencies, charities, and public services in the UK.[7][8] It was added to the Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary in 2016.[9]

Examples of gender expressions


A proposed androgynous pride flag

Androgynous is a term used to describe individuals whose outward gender expression cannot be distinguished as feminine or masculine,[10][11] or combine traits that are considered masculine and feminine. It is sometimes a term related to gender identity.[10][12]


Butch is an identity within the LGBTQIA+ community of some people whose outward gender expression matches their culture's understanding of masculinity.[13][14] Most often, butches take on masculine roles and careers that are typically designated to men within their culture and time period.[14] Butch originally referred to a style and gender role performed by masculine lesbians,[15][16][17] and is still often associated with the lesbian community, but its usage and meaning have expanded and are not exclusive to lesbians.[13][12] In current usage, butch sometimes refers to a particular non-binary gender identity.[15]

Butch has similarities with boi, transmasculine, and other masculine of center identities. It is often understood on a spectrum of butch to femme.[12] One variation is "soft butch," a masculine expression that is closer to neutrality than extreme masculinity.[13]


Femme has many different meanings, and often refers to a person of queer gender expression that embraces, reclaims, or subverts their culture's understanding of what it means to be feminine.[18][19] Femme is often associated with the lesbian community, although it has also been used by bisexuals, gay men, and genderqueer people, among other groups.[18][20] It can describe gender presentation[21][12] on an occasion or be a term related to a person's gender identity. Some variations are "hard femme," an edgy or hard-rock expression of femininity, and "high femme", usually an extreme expression of the aesthetic aspects of femininity.[21]

Femme is often understood on a spectrum of butch to femme or stud to femme.[12]

Gender non-conforming

Gender non-conforming (GNC) people do not follow gender stereotypes;[12] they differ from their society's conventional binary expectations of masculine or feminine presentation.[22][2] Gender non-conformity can encompass many things, such as gender expression or gender roles. It is typically apparent in people whose gender identity is a binary gender such as male or female, whether they are cisgender or transgender; for instance, a feminine trans man and a feminine cis man are both non-conforming with expectations of masculinity.[22] The term is not equivalent to non-binary or trans, but some trans or non-binary people also identify as gender non-conforming.[22][2] It is sometimes seen as an umbrella term for non-binary genders, such as in the initialism "TGNC" (trans and gender non-conforming).[12]


  1. The Trevor Project: "Understanding Gender Identities" (2021-08-23). (Archived on November 21, 2021).
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 GLAAD: "Glossary of Terms - Transgender". GLAAD Media Reference Guide - 10th Edition. (Archived on October 22, 2021).
  3. The Trans Language Primer: "Gender Expression". The Trans Language Primer. (Archived on November 2, 2021).
  4. "Everywoman" (1970-05-29). "Why not use Pn. for person as in Pn. Richard Nixon and Pn. Pat Nixon. The title could also be extended to children [...] I see no reason why everyone, child and adult, male and female, can't use Pn. [...]"
  10. 10.0 10.1 The Trans Language Primer: "androgynous". The Trans Language Primer. (Archived on November 4, 2021).
  11. Pride Office: "LGBTQ definitions". University of Colorado Boulder. (Archived on November 5, 2021).
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 12.5 12.6 PFLAG: "National Glossary of Terms". (Archived on January 25, 2022).
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 The Trans Language Primer: "Butch". The Trans Language Primer. (Archived on November 4, 2021).
  14. 14.0 14.1 Yassine Senghor: "It's #ButchAppreciationDay, and this is what butch means to me" (2020-08-19). Stonewall UK. (Archived on January 25, 2022).
  15. 15.0 15.1 McNabb, Charlie. Nonbinary Gender Identities: History, Culture, Resources. Rowman & Littlefield, 2018. ISBN 9781442275522.
  16. Holleb, Morgan Lev Edward. The A-Z of Gender and Sexuality: From Ace to Ze. Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2019. ISBN 9781784506636.
  17. Davis, Chloe O.. The Queens' English: The LGBTQIA+ Dictionary of Lingo and Colloquial Phrases. Clarkson Potter/Publishers, 2021. ISBN 9780593135013.
  18. 18.0 18.1 Davis, Jamie Geneve: "The Evolution of Femme: The Case for Femme as a Multifaceted Queer Identity".
  19. Levitt, H.M.; Gerrish, E.A.; and Hiestand, K.R.. "The Misunderstood Gender: A Model of Modern Femme Identity". Sex Roles. 48, 99–113, 2003. (web archive)
  20. " GenderQueers".
  21. 21.0 21.1 The Trans Language Primer: "Femme". The Trans Language Primer. (Archived on December 9, 2021).
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 The Trans Language Primer: "Gender Non-Conforming (GNC)". The Trans Language Primer. (Archived on November 4, 2021).