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Gender

Gender is a social and cultural concept that is used to describes certain roles, behaviours, expressions and identities (such as female, male, cisgender, transgender, etc). It is a separate concept from biological sex. Gender is not fixed and can change over time.

  • Gender identity is how a person sees themselves. It is their own internal sense and personal experience of gender. 
  • Gender expression includes all the ways a person communicates their gender based on societal factors such as gender norms and perceptions. 
  • Physical sex is the development and changes of a person’s body over their lifespan. 

Gender Identity

Gender identity is how a person sees themselves – their own internal sense and personal experience of gender. Only the individual can determine their own gender identity. Gender identity is different from sexual orientation. Sexual orientation is who a person is attracted to on the basis of gender. Some of the words used to describe sexual orientation include gay, bisexual, lesbian, heterosexual or straight.

Gender binary is the problematic assumption that there are only two genders (man/male, woman/female), and that they are distinct and unchanging. There is now more awareness of, and support for, the different ways that people identify outside of the gender binary (ie. Genderqueer / gender non-conforming / gender non-binary). People who do not identify as a man or a woman may identify as both genders, neither gender, between genders, or not gendered at all. Gender does not always match a person’s assigned sex at birth, and gender can change over time.

Some people whose biological sex does not match their gender identity may make physical and social changes to express their identified gender. This may involve using a different name, pronouns, clothing, hair or makeup style. It may also involve medical changes, such as taking hormones or getting gender-affirming surgery. This process is called transition.

Gender Expression

Gender expression is how a person outwardly shows their gender identity. It includes physical expressions such as person’s clothing, hairstyle, makeup, and social expressions such as name and pronoun choice. Some examples of gender expression are masculine, feminine, and androgynous.

Some people have the same gender expression all the time, while others may change their expression over time or based on circumstances. Some play with gender expression for theatrical purposes, or ‘drag’, and people can choose to express their gender identity in different ways at different times. It can be psychological distressing for some people who do not feel safe or comfortable expressing their gender identity.

Physical Sex

Physical sex is how a person’s body develops and changes over their lifespan. It can be affected by sex chromosones, hormones, reproductive organs, secondary sex characteristics, and related medical care.

Gender Glossary

A list of different terms related to gender and their definitions. Click a term to read its definition.

Having no obvious sex or sex organs. Asexual can also refer to a person who does not experience sexual attraction.

People who are declared to be female at birth based on how their genitals appear, and who are generally raised in a female gender role.

People who are declared to be male at birth based on how their genitals appear, and who are generally raised in a male gender role.

Identifying as having no gender.

Identifying as both male and female genders.

The physical characteristics – including chromosomes, hormones and anatomy – that categorize people as male, female or intersex.

Having a gender and gender identity that is the same as one’s assigned sex at birth; not transgender.

The roles, attributes and activities that society uses to define people. Gender is based on many factors including biology, socialization, cultural expectations and roles, and personal feelings.

A gender expression or identity that is not fixed, but changes across time or circumstances. Gender fluid people may sometimes present as men, sometimes as women, or sometimes as non-binary.

A gender-variant person whose gender identity does not conform to the gender binary of male or female. They may identify as neither male nor female, between or beyond genders, or some combination of genders.

Refers to a person who is born with chromosomes, reproductive or sexual anatomy that do not fit the usual definitions of female or male.

Having a gender that is different from a person’s assigned sex at birth; not cisgender.

A man who was assigned female at birth.

An umbrella term for people who were assigned female at birth, but who identify as trans and whose gender expression leans towards the masculine.

A woman who was assigned male at birth.

An umbrella term for people who were assigned male at birth, but who identify as trans and whose gender expression leans towards the feminine.

A holistic term used by some Indigenous communities to encompass sexual, gender, cultural and/or spiritual identities, including non-heterosexual and non-cisgender identities.

Meet the Genderbread Person

It can sometimes be hard to understand all the differences between gender identity, gender expression, and physical sex. This online resource offers visual guide. You can also use our gender glossary for definitions of different terms related to gender identity and expression.

Genderbread Person Diagram

Resources and Related Pages