LGBTQ: Gender Identity

Young women's version of this guide

As our world continues to grow and we begin to recognize the diversity of people in our communities, part of this has been understanding that gender is not just the male and female that we may have been taught when we were younger.

What is gender identity?

Gender identity is a person’s internal feelings of being a woman, man, both, neither or something else. Many people have a gender identity and/or gender expression (how a person shows their gender through their appearance or behavior) that matches their sex assigned at birth. However, some people have a gender identity or gender expression that is different from their sex assigned at birth; these people might use the term “transgender” or “gender nonconforming” to describe their gender identity.

What is gender dysphoria?

Dysphoria is when someone experiences great distress or general unhappiness associated with the mismatch between their body and their gender identity. Not all people who identify as trans experience gender dysphoria. Gender dysphoria may include emotions such as sadness or anger, but can also include feelings such as a desire to change the way their face, chest or genitals appear, for example.

Why are gender identity and sex different?

While sex is something you were assigned when you were born, gender is something you can choose or identify with. When people are first born, they are too young to express their gender identity independently, so people often presume their gender identity as the same as their sex. However, as a child grows they are able to make their own choices about how to express themselves. Some parents are raising their children with a non-binary gender identity. When these children grow up, they may choose a different gender when they are older.

What are different genders?

There are many different gender identities in our world today, even more than we have listed below! Gender is self-defined and impacted by a person’s culture and values. New genders are being discussed every day! Below are a few of the most common.

Below is a growing list of gender terms:

  • Girl/Woman
  • Boy/Man
  • Genderqueer
  • Agender
  • Bigender
  • Gender-fluid

How do people express their gender identity?

Gender can be expressed in many ways: through our clothes, speech, activities, hobbies, and our behaviors. It’s ok for any of these things to change at different times, or in different situations, depending on what feels comfortable. Not all people who share a gender identity express it in the same way. For example, someone can identify as male and wear dresses. Someone can identify as nonbinary and wear dresses. It’s always important to ask someone their pronouns. Some examples of pronouns may be,  “He/him/his, or she/her/hers or they/them/theirs.”

What’s the difference between gender identity and sexual orientation?

Many people confuse the two, but here is a simple way to understand the difference: gender identity is more about “who you are” (boy, girl, both, neither, or something else) and sexual orientation is about “who you have a crush on.”

What does transgender mean?

Transgender people have a gender identity that doesn’t match the sex they were assigned at birth (female or male or intersex). For example, a transgender person who is assigned female at birth may feel like a boy, or a transgender person who is assigned male at birth may feel like a girl. Transgender people may seek medical therapies such as hormones or surgical procedures to help change their body to better match their gender. However, some people express their gender through their appearance and/or behavior, without changing their body.

Transgender is also an umbrella term used to describe the whole community of people who identify as a gender different then their sex assigned at birth. So, for example a genderqueer person (someone who identifies as a gender that is not 100% male or female) may identify as part of  the transgender community. To try and make sure that everyone feels included, the community generally tries to broaden terms used to include  the “transgender and gender diverse” community or “transgender and gender nonconforming” community.”

Is it OK to be transgender?

Absolutely! As with LGBQ people, some people with traditional beliefs may feel uncomfortable with people who express these feelings, but professional medical, psychological, and psychiatric organizations agree that it is better to express who you are, even if it makes other people a little uncomfortable.

Can I be both transgender and LGBQ? What about transgender and straight?

Yes and yes. Being transgender is about gender identity, not sexual orientation. Everyone has a sexual orientation, regardless of what their gender identity is. Transgender people may be attracted to people of the same gender based on their own gender identity, attracted to people of a different gender based on their own gender identity, or they may be attracted to more than one gender.