An individual’s gender identity consists of their internalized sense of and their conscious construction of their gender. Although the gender binary of male and female is the most common in Western culture, there are many other gender identities that can be acknowledged (the genitals they were born with). This is the basis of the practice of gender assignment, which holds that a person’s genitalia indicate their true gender.
Gender, however, has nothing to do with biology and everything to do with how a person identifies themselves. One can identify as male, female, transgender, non-binary, agender, pangender, genderqueer, two-spirit, third-gender, or any combination of these.
We haven’t even scratched the surface of the diversity in gender expression. As our understanding of who we are expands, so do people’s conceptions of their gender and sexuality. It’s possible that several individuals will assign varying meanings to certain phrases. Some people may like to be referred to by specific labels, while others may choose to avoid using those labels altogether.
If you are at a loss for what to call someone, it is polite to inquire as to their preferred moniker. How we define ourselves and how we present ourselves in the world is always a matter of personal choice. No matter how you choose to define yourself, you should feel safe and accepted.
It’s possible for a person to identify as transgender if their internalized gender does not match the one they were assigned at birth. The terms “trans” and “transgender” are sometimes used interchangeably to describe people who identify as more than one gender. Nonetheless, it’s not a label everyone chooses to put on themselves. Don’t assume anything about someone’s gender identity; if you’re unsure, just ask.
When we say that something is predetermined for you at birth, what do we mean? What comes to mind when you hear the words “It’s a girl” or “It’s a boy”? Gender assignment occurs when it is assumed that a person’s genitalia are consistent with that supposition. This is not always the case, however, and we recognize that it is a personal choice for each of us to identify as the gender that best fits our experience. It might not fit neatly into the gender binary or correspond to our natural genitalia (male-female). Someone could be born with a vagina but identify as a man.
A contemporary English word that Indigenous people of Canada/Turtle Island/North America would recognize as having origins in their own traditional lore. It can refer to someone who identifies as 2STLGBQ+, someone who carries the strengths of both sexes, or someone who defies categorization by gender. Europeans brought homophobia, transphobia, and a general disrespect for the concept of being Two-Spirit to many Native American communities in North America. Numerous indigenous communities nowadays are rediscovering the belief that there are more than two genders.
A cisgender person is one whose gender identity is consistent with their assigned gender at birth. For instance, if a person is born with a vagina and has always identified as a woman, then they will be given the female pronoun at birth.
One who does not or cannot exclusively identify with either the male or female gender. It’s a catchall term for those who don’t strictly identify as male or female. This definition is intentionally vague so that it can cover a wide range of experiences and perspectives among those who identify as non-binary.
Genderqueer people are those who don’t identify as either male or female, who identify as anything in between or beyond genders, or who identify as more than one gender. As a result of or in opposition to the societal construction of gender, gender norms, and the binary system, this identification is not uncommon.
Expression of Gender
Gender expression refers to a person’s behavior and public persona. What about things like whether or not they use cosmetics? What kind of clothing do they typically wear? Do they only wear pants when they’re at home? Individuals’ gender expressions have nothing to do with their biological gender or sex, but rather with their own unique set of behaviors and interests. It’s possible that a cis male would wear nail polish, or that a trans woman would dislike dresses. It’s not always safe to express one’s gender in the ways one would like to. This is why you shouldn’t guess a person’s gender by their appearance; instead, you should ask them directly. Culture also plays a significant role in how gender is expressed. Distinct cultures have different norms for what constitutes a “male” or “female,” and what we in Euro-Canadian society consider to be “male” or “female” may be very different from those in other cultures.
Someone who identifies as gender fluid may experience gender transitions. An individual who views themselves as gender fluid may alternate between genders or express more than one gender at once. It’s possible that they’ll switch sexes at random or in response to external factors.